Sonny Fulks
Sonny Fulks
Managing Editor

Sonny Fulks is a graduate of Ohio State University and pitched four varsity seasons for the Buckeye baseball team from 1971 through 1974.  He furthered his baseball experience as a minor league league umpire for seven years, working in the Florida State League (A), the Southern League (AA), and the American Association (AAA).  He has written for numerous websites and outdoor publications, and for the past ten years has served as a regular columnist and photo editor for Gettysburg Magazine, published by the University of Nebraska Press.  Widely knowledgeable on that period of American History, Fulks is a frequent speaker on the Civil War at local roundtables throughout the Midwest. He and wife Mindy have two grown children and live in Covington, Ohio.

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If you appreciated our recollection of singer Tammy Wynette last week (or not), maybe you’ll look with more favor on another of America’s great voices who died on this date, long before his time.

In response to the blog that I posted last week on the anniversary of country singer Tammy Wynette’s death, someone wrote to ask, “Is Press Pros the place to post crap about hillbilly singers?”

Well the answer is, of course…yes.  I own the site, so humor me when I occasionally take time from sports to remember the memorable “artists” and performers of our time.  They deserve it for the sake of the arts because outside of nostalgia we do very little to support the “arts” anymore.  So yes, take time to remember, because there will never again be voices the likes of Red Sovine, Patsy Cline, Ray Charles, Dusty Springfield, and oh, yes…Brook Benton, who died on this date 29 years ago.

Another sad anniversary today, April 9, 2017, and I’m bound to enlighten you on another great voice, an under-appreciated blues artist, who died far too soon before his time.

To make the statement more poignantly, I like music.  Not noise…not rap…not hip-hop…but music.  I like lyricists, whether it be popular, blues, country, or classic.  Their songs remind me of good times growing up.  Of guys I hung out with and old girl friends that I still pine for occasionally and wonder about their whereabouts.  Long car trips during my years in minor league baseball…and songs that just made you feel better about the times and people you once loved and miss.

And for the sake of “pure” sound, there were few the likes of Benjamin Franklin Peay, aka Brook Benton, born in Camden, South Carolina in 1931.  His trademark was a satin-smooth baritone voice that he delivered with a stylish and mellifluent manner.  Take moment and listen here for yourself.  People that heard him once never forgot the voice, even if they forgot his name.  Click below and listen as you read more.

Like many other blues singers from that era, Benton grew up singing gospel music, but quickly hit his stride in the late 50s with hits like Just A Matter Of Time, Endlessly, and a whimsical country blues hit entitled The Boll Weevil Song.  But when he recorded his legacy song, Rainy Night In Georgia, in 1970, Brook Benton became recognized as that one artist, and perhaps the only artist, who could do the song justice.

It became a national hit.  Benton became a popular touring artist, insisting on performing in small clubs as a tribute to his modest beginnings in music and the fans who had supported him during his struggling years.

He became successful as a song writer, collaborating on numerous hits for other artists of the day.

But strangely, as quickly as he hit his zenith with Rainy Night In Georgia, the late 70s and early 80s brought hard times.  Prior to his death in 1988, the popular question in music circles became, “Whatever happened to Brook Benton?”

He contracted spinal meningitis in 1986 and succumbed to pneumonia and other complications two years later…on this date.  He was just 56.

Remember, and enjoy the great music and the great artists of our time…while you can.  The songs will make you reflect, as I do.  And remember…it’s just a matter of time!

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