Given Name: Joseph Hewell
Instruments: Vocals
Date of Birth:
Place of Birth: Phenix City, Alabama

Benson was christened Jo Jo Benson by a record company who thought his birth name awkward.

He loved singing in church as a child, and at 14 he sneaked in the back door of a club and convinced the band to let him sing with them. They asked him back.

He went on to tour with Chuck Willis and met greats like B.B. King and Smokey Robinson but it was his meeting in 1968 with 17-year-old, Peggy Scott of Florida that would change the 27-year-old vocalist's life.

"Lover's Holiday" was their first recording together. It was done in one take, and went gold. In less than two years they would add two more gold singles - "Pickin' Wild Mountain Berries" and "Soulshake."

The duo stopped singing together in 1971 and a reunion album in 1984 received little fanfare.

All along, Benson toyed with the idea of going back into a studio. In 1999 he headed over to a Birmingham studio, where he crafted an album of spirited traditional soul that he called "Reminiscing in the Jam Zone." some of the songs are a cappella, and some have just piano accompaniment, but most are full-band arrangements with warm horns. On "Dark End of the Street," he sings again with Peggy Scott-Adams. The collection of soul and rhythm and blues standards has been placed "among the finest soul albums of the year - indeed, of the decade" by Living Blues magazine.

From article in
Columbus, GA
January 30, 2000
by Brad Barnes

Source: Alabama Music Hall of Fame

Hailing from Phenix City, AL, Jo Jo Benson (real name: Joseph Hewell) began singing in church as a child and, by the age of 14, was sneaking into clubs to sing on-stage with local bands. Although he toured with Chuck Willis and met such acclaimed artists as B.B. King and Smokey Robinson, it was a recording from 1968, "Lover's Holiday" (a duet with Peggy Scott), that resulted in Benson's first hit single, eventually going gold. The duo would release two more hit singles over the next few years: "Pickin' Wild Mountain Berries" and "Soulshake." The pair went their separate ways in 1971, but would eventually briefly reunite in the mid-'80s for a now-forgotten reunion album. Little was heard from Benson until 1999, when he laid down a few traditional soul tracks in a Birmingham studio, resulting in the release Reminiscing in the Jam Zone the same year. The album (which was praised as "among the finest soul albums of the year -- indeed, of the decade" by the Living Blues publication) combined a cappella songs with full-band arrangements with horns to a stark piano/vocal setting, and even included a duet with Scott, "Dark End of the Street." 2001 saw the release of Benson's follow-up, Everybody Loves to Cha Cha Cha. ~ Greg Prato, Rovi


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