Born Benjamin Franklin Peay in Lugoff, South Carolina, in 1931, Benton – the son of a Methodist preacher – began singing in his father’s church, later performing with gospel quartets before joining R&B act, The Sandmen.
Having acquired a record deal with limited success, the company (Okeh records) decided to push Peay as a solo artist, changing his name to Brook Benton.
In 1959, Benton signed as a singer with Mercury. He cracked the US Top 40 five times that year, with It’s Just A Matter Of Time, Endlessly, So Close, Thank You Pretty Baby and So Many Ways.
Two duets with Dinah Washington – Baby (You’ve Got What It Takes) and A Rockin’ Good Way (To Mess Around and Fall In Love) – brought Benton Top 10 hits in 1960, and in the following year he released The Boll Weevil Song, one of his best-known and most successful tracks.
His last appearance on the charts came in 1970, with his version of swamp-rocker Tony Joe White’s big soul ballad Rainy Night In Georgia, which has been called “one of the most lonesome songs ever to grace the Top Ten”.
Benton died in New York City of pneumonia on 9 April 1988. He was 56.