His first name is Benny, but the world has always known him by his surname, Latimore.
The Tennessee native, who’s lived in Hillsborough County for a few years now, is a legendary rhythm ‘n’ blues singer, songwriter and piano player – both on studio sessions and for an impressive list of chart hits under his own name, including the No. 1 “Let’s Straighten It Out” (1974) and the Top Five “Keep the Home Fire Burnin’” (1975).
Other indelible titles included “I Get Lifted,” “Somethin’ ‘Bout Cha” and “Sunshine Lady.”
He appears in a special interview and performance event, Friday night at the Palladium Theater. It’s called An Intimate Evening With Latimore.
“His success has been more sustained and less dramatic commercially, but Latimore could be seen as a bluesier, grittier and less hefty Barry White,” Tampa author John Capoya wrote in his book Florida Soul.
“Everyone sings about love, but in his singing and writing Latimore created and maintained a distinct persona, that of a love man who combines the romantic and the overtly sexual in just the right combination or alterations, and that’s won him a loyal female following.”
Rev. Billy C. Wirtz, no slouch himself when it comes to blues and soul piano, will be conducting the interview segment with Latimore.
“We did a panel discussion when we were on a Blues Cruise, and Latimore of all the guests was extremely well-spoken and he had some great stories,” Wirtz explains.
“He’s kind of gone the whole route. He starts in the ‘50s as a sideman for a guy called Joe Henderson, who did ‘Snap Your Fingers,’ and he comes of age, like so many musicians, out there on the Chitlin’ Circuit.”
A loosely-organized series of Southern bars, barns, clubs and roadhouse beer joints, the Chitlin’ Circuit, in the 1940s and ‘50s, was the primary source of income for Black musicians who could not get work in the “white” establishments.
“Here you have a guy who can tell you first-hand stories about playing the Harlem Square Club in Miami, where Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson had the house band,” Wirtz says. “On the show, Latimore is with Joe Henderson, Ben E. King and Sam Cooke, all on the same show. It makes you shiver to even think of it.”
Lattimore’s cool cachet, Wirtz reports, comes from the fact that “he has all of that, plus he’s a very good blues singer, a good lyricist and all of the above.
“And I think it makes for an interesting evening, as well as an evening of really good music – the people get to hear him unplugged. When they asked me if I wanted to do it, I jumped at the chance.”
Details and tickets here.