Growing up on the “mean streets” of Enid, a small Oklahoma town surrounded by vast wheat fields and known for its huge grain elevators and a boom and bust oil economy, the middle son of the town urologist, Ben Blankenship may seem an unlikely person to feel the call of the troubadour. There was always music in the air, though no one in his immediate family was a musician. In the music he plays today you can still hear the influence of his parents vinyl record collection, consisting of large doses of Ray Price, Jim Reeves, Charlie Rich, Willie Nelson, and Waylon Jennings, the intense love of Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash that he absorbed from his uncles, the diverse sounds of Neil Young, Bob Marley, the Beach Boys, Frank Zappa, the Velvet Underground, Bob Dylan, the Grateful Dead, and the Beatles through his highly musical childhood friends, and his mother Carolynne's singing Patsy Cline and Hank Williams songs around the house, songs she learned from her father. At the age of 10 he was given a Fender dreadnought acoustic guitar and began what has become a lifelong musical odyssey.
Ben attended the University of Oklahoma in Norman, graduating with a B.A. in Letters in 1988. While there he played guitar for a locally popular reggae band, Streetpeople, eventually moving with the band to San Francisco in a valiant but ultimately unsuccessful attempt to transplant Okie reggae to the Golden Gate. In his short time living in Frisco, he learned valuable lessons playing on the streets of Chinatown with the Sharp Cats, a band led by Lee Keskela, who had been a player in the Haight Ashbury music and art scene since the 1950's.
Upon moving back to Norman in 1989, Ben helped found the country rock band the Silver-Tongued Devils. The Devils' rough blend of classic country and blues, irony-infused, intelligent lyrics, with front man Doyle Primm's gravelly voice demanding all listeners to drink and drink plenty were a hit with fans and bar owners from the very first gig until their eventual break-up in 1993. Over the band's four years together, besides their regular central Oklahoma haunts, they played to packed clubs in Denver, Dallas, and Kansas City, capped by an appearance at La Zona Rosa in Austin at the South By Southwest Music Festival. Ben continued to play with members of the Silver-Tongued Devils after the band's break-up, recording and releasing his first solo CD, Black Lipstick, in 1997 with their help.
Leaving Norman in 1998, Ben took six months to travel throughout continental Europe, busking and playing clubs nearly everywhere he went, experiencing particularly memorable musical adventures in the German college town of Goertingen, as well as Prague and Amsterdam. When he returned to the States, he settled in New York City, taking a job as an English teacher in a Bronx high school and continuing to play the bars, coffee houses, and sometimes the subways of the city. He recorded his second solo album, Solitaire, in his apartment in West Harlem with a four track recorder bought with money from his teaching job.
After three exciting but difficult years of teaching and playing in New York, Ben felt it was time for another move, this time to Nashville, to play with the best and be pushed to write better songs. In Nashville he has continued to write, play, and teach English. He co-founded the rock and roll band the Double Intenders with the help of fellow songwriter Tony Garcia. Ben loves playing with the DI's at various Nashville venues but in recent years he has felt drawn back to the challenge of getting a song across with only his voice and a guitar. While he likes to weave in the occasional cover song to help listeners place his own music in context, these solo shows primarily feature the ever expanding catalog of original songs he has composed over the last twenty-five years. “This is how the old troubadours did it, so all I'm doing is replacing their lute with my Martin D-18. If the songs are good enough, folks will listen.”
The Double Intenders
The Silver-Tongued Devils
Make That A Double! (The Double Intenders--2011)
Armed With Decoder Ring (2010)
Black Lipstick (1998)
Low Profile (The Silver-Tongued Devils--1992)