b. Arthur Leaner, 30 June 1908, Jackson, Mississippi, USA, d. 6 September 1978, Berrien Springs, Michigan, USA. By the age of seven, Benson was tap-dancing with his father’s jazz band, and he went on to work in minstrel shows and to produce musicals. His restless energy led to a number of widely varying jobs, including Chief of Recreation for Jackson’s black schools, a railroad cook, probation officer and storefront preacher. His radio career began on Chicago’s WGES with a religious programme and then an R&B show that lasted until 1962. In the late 40s and early 50s he started a number of record labels, Old Swingmaster (one of his radio tags), Parrot and Blue Lake, recording such artists as J.B. Lenoir, Sunnyland Slim, Albert King, Willie Mabon and Little Willie Foster. Crash and The Blues each had a brief life during the 60s, releasing material by Magic Sam, Shakey Jake, Johnny ‘Big Moose’ Walker and others. Benson’s flamboyant and self-willed character eventually undermined his status in the black community, although he was active in the civil rights movement, once hiring a plane to drop 5, 000 copies of the US Constitution over Mississippi. In later years, he owned a record store in Michigan City before losing both legs due to ill health, which also eventually led to his death from heart failure.
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