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Me as "Sarah Dash" in Patti LaBelle Special on NBC
THE PATTI LABELLE SHOW, NBC 1985
We spent a month in LA working on her special. Between make up, hair, costumes, lighting, sets, music, we spent almost an entire day on this scene. Less than 60 seconds made it to the final edit... and I was "working" that cape too! HA! The guests were Luther Vandross, Cyndi Lauper and Amy Grant. Cyndi was the most regular. She thought I'd look bee-u-tee-full with a violet henna rinse! She was so cute!
“The Most Recorded Female Vocalist”
CARLA L. BENSON holds the singular distinction of being the MOST Recorded vocalist in the history of the Record Business. She Loves Smooth Jazz, Pop, the Standards she grew up with, Motown, Broadway, and a bit of hard, straight up Funk. After decades largely in the background, she’s now “front and center”, receiving rave reviews wherever she appears.
Carla began her professional career singing with her first cousin, Barbara Ingram and best friend, Evette L. Benton. These three Camden natives became the in-house background recording vocalists for Philadelphia International Records. Producers from all over the world came to Philadelphia to record at the famous Sigma Sound Studios for that special Philly Sound throughout the 1970’s and early 80’s. Carla, Barbara and Evette were part of that sound. When asked what the name of the group was, the ladies steadfastly resisted a group name. "We're just Carla, Barbara ans Evette!" It is these women’s voices you sing along with when you hum along with Billy Paul on “Me and Mrs. Jones” and The Spinners “I’ll Be Around”, The Stylistics “Break up to Make Up”, McFadden and Whitehead’s “Ain’t No Stopping Us Now”, Patti Labelle’s “New Attitude”, “If Only You Knew” and “On My Own” to name a very few. Indeed, if you are a fan of ‘Old School’ and Philadelphia International Records artists like Teddy Pendergrass, Jean Carne, MFSB, Dexter Wansel, Lou Rawls, and others, then you have been listening to and enjoying their vocal talents for decades. Carla Benson, Barbara Ingram and Evette Benton were listed among the Top 40 Women in the Music Business in the late 70’s. Named “The Sweeties” for the “sweet, angelic sound” these ladies produced by legendary powerhouse vocalist Patti Labelle, The Sweeties were sought after by producer’s worldwide.
Miss LaBelle was looking for new background singers for her upcoming tour in the mid-80's. The ladies were offered an audition. They toured and recorded exclusively with one artist for the first time in their careers. Carla had been an avid fan of Miss LaBelle from the first moment she heard the first notes in "Down the Aisle " as a child. It was a dream come true for her and she cherishes the years she spent with touring with the inimitable Patti LaBelle. Years later, after Carla left the group, in an interview, Ms. LaBelle, always the gracious Lady, fondly referred to Carla as "Sweetie Number One".
Carla developed a Love of the Theater as a girl traveling to New York with her mother to see “Purlie”, starring Melba Moore, “Hello Dolly” starring Pearl Bailey, Raisin”, with Debby Allen, “The Wiz” starring Stephanie Mills, “Dreamgirls” starring Jennifer Holliday”, and “Ain’t Misbehavin’” with Nell Carter. This love of acting led to lead roles in several off-Broadway productions including “Dreamgirls” and “Ain’t Misbehavin”. She wrote and directed an ensemble cast; produced and performed in her creation she called “Rhapsody in Black”©. There was standing room only and Carla received 5 curtain calls. For three consecutive years, Miss Benson appeared as a featured performer in the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington DC’s annual production of “The Black Nativity”.
Carla formed her own band and began performing in local venues. Carla opened in the main room of The Claridge Hotel and Casino. The show was a massive success and Miss Benson was hired to perform for special events at The Trump Casino for two years as well as featured spots in the Claridge Casino lounge.
She performs the title song for jazz saxophonist Michael Pedicin’s “Because of Love” CD as well as a few other leads and featured vocals .
Carla is a “Featured Performer” in the award-winning documentary, “Standing in the Shadows of Motown”, written by Allan Slutsky, which went on to win three Grammy Awards. She toured the world with the infamous Funk Brothers, who were the studio musicians of Motown, for three years. This pairing added many additional artists such as Chaka Khan, Ronald Isley, Heart, and Ruben Studdard to Miss Benson’s already extensive list of artists she’s worked with. The project turned into an award winning documentary.
John A. Jackson’s book, “A House on Fire”, the Rise and Fall of Philadelphia Soul was released in 2005. Miss Benson is credited with the opening quote and is quoted extensively throughout this successful rendering, in book from, of life at PIR.
Carla Benson can be heard on jazz guitarist Larry Carlton’s recent CD, “Larry Carlton Plays The Sound of Philadelphia”.
She has recorded a solo project apply named “You Should Be Here” which was listed among the “Top Ten CD’s” of 2015 in several European countries, in addition to a smashing single entitled, “Welcome In”. Carla Benson receives rave reviews wherever she appears.
What sets her apart is her love for and command of several musical styles, and her ability to incorporate many of them into her sets. One writer in the Washington Post described as her “delivery with aplomb”! Unlike many artists, Carla Benson began vocal training at age 12 and is a trained Classical Vocalist. In her home she was exposed to classic jazz standards delivered by the likes of Sarah Vaughn, Arthur Prysock, Nancy Wilson and Aretha Franklin- The Columbia years, Musicals from Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers to West Side Story. The Beatles to Wes Montgomery, The Mamas and The Poppas to Patti Labelle. An evening with Carla Benson is an experience in all of these styles woven and meshed together in an extraordinary tapestry of Vocal Excellence!