Benny Benjamin

Benny Benjamin

William "Benny" Benjamin (July 25 1925 - April 20 1969), nicknamed Papa Zita, was an American musician, most notable as the main drummer for the Motown studio band known as The Funk Brothers. He was a native of Birmingham, Alabama.

Motown's first studio drummer, Benny Benjamin was noted for his dynamic style. Several Motown record producers, including Berry Gordy, refused to work on sessions unless Benjamin was the drummer and James Jamerson was the bassist. [] . Among the Motown songs Benjamin performed the drum tracks for are early hits such as "Money (That's What I Want)" by Barrett Strong, "Shop Around" by The Miracles, and "Do You Love Me" by The Contours; as well as later hits such as "Get Ready" by The Temptations, "Uptight (Everything's Alright)" by Stevie Wonder, "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" by Gladys Knight & the Pips and "Going To A Go-Go" by The Miracles.

Benjamin was notorious for being late to work, and also for creating highly fabricated and humorous stories for "why" he was late. Once caught sleeping at his drumkit by a Motown producer, Benjamin snapped awake and began drumming and calling out "Papa-zita, papa-zita, papa-zita," which is how he earned his nickname.

Benjamin was influenced by the work of drummers Buddy Rich and Tito Puente. He recorded with a studio set comprised of Ludwig, Slingerland, Rogers and Gretsch components.

By the late-1960s, Benjamin struggled with drug and alcohol addiction, and fellow Funk Brothers Uriel Jones and Richard “Pistol” Allen performed more of the drum tracks for the studio's releases. Benjamin died on April 20, 1969 of a stroke at the age of 43, and was inducted into the "Sidemen" category of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2003.


*cite visual | director=Justman, Paul | date=2002 | url= | title=Standing in the Shadows of Motown | medium=Motion picture | location=New York | distributor=Artisan Entertainment

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