A few weeks ago I ran an oft-covered Leiber & Stoller classic — so let’s run another one! They co-wrote “On Broadway” with Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, and it went on to become a #9 hit for The Drifters in 1963. After that, artists ranging from Buddy Rich (Buddy Rich??? I must find that!) to Tito Puente (I’ve been listening to him for years, and I think he’s fabulous) have covered it.
But the version that burns in my ears is George Benson’s live performance of it from his 1977 concert album, Weekend In L.A.. By the summer of ’78, that track was everywhere. It was on the weird FM stations, it was playing on the staid AM stations, the grocery store had it piped in through the Muzak system. It’s hard to believe it peaked only at #7, given how dang much it played.
Benson won a Grammy the next year for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance. But how about a Grammy for Best Jazz Guitar? Best Scat Performance? Best Hardest Rocking Band? I mean, this song has got everything. Especially that bridge, where Benson scat/harmonizes along with his own guitar solo — knocks me out, every time.
I was going to play the album version tonight, but accidentally came across a ’90s (I think) performance from some TV show or other. Benson’s voice might not be quite as supple as it was in ’77, but he’d picked up a few new guitar licks.
Great stuff, and if anyone can name the guy on piano, I’d sure appreciate it.