Sean Benjamin was one of the kindest, most gentle souls I was ever blessed to meet and become friends with. He was also one of the most musically talented. When our common friend Mike “Pinky” Semrad sent me a message in the middle of the week that Sean had died, I just felt numb all over. It seems like the passings of my musical friends have been coming in waves over the past few years, and this was one of the hardest to take. Sean lived in Lincoln, Nebraska, which is quite a haul from Spartanburg, SC, and I had not seen him since 2001, although I did talk to him on the phone a couple of years ago. We were going at it like crazy, talking about our lives, the music we had recorded together, and the music world in general. The last thing we spoke about was “getting the band back together,” and doing another memorial jam for our buddy Bobby Lowell, the conduit who brought all of us together to start with.
The “band” we were speaking of was a one-off called The Rockabilly Hall of Fame Blues Band, the same outfit that recorded my Midwest Carolina Blues CD. Along with Corn Husker pickers Sean, Pinky, drummer Dave Robel, piano picker Jim "Little Jimmy Valentine" Cidlik, singer Toni Baustian, and sax man Jim Jenkins, there was Rockabilly Hall of Fame founder Bob Timmers on guitar and myself. We recorded at Cowboy Bob’s Jam Palace Studio, and it was all because of Bobby Lowell, “Nebraska’s first rockabilly star,” and a friend to all of us, who had died of cancer.
Sean put his heart into the project. Everybody did, but Sean left a little of his heart on that magnetic tape when he played piano and sang one of Lowell’s songs, “It’s Been So Long.”
I visited Lincoln three times, and Sean was a big part of each visit. I had not heard a better guitar player. He was truly gifted.
I still have three letters that Sean sent me over the years. One of them is a staggering 15 pages long. (This was before e-mail was such a common thing, and truth is, Sean would probably rather write on paper anyway. He was like me in that way.)
Sean had quite a life of music, and was performing all the way up until his death, still jamming out at Lincoln’s famed Zoo Bar last weekend. I only wish we could have all gotten together one more time. Perhaps we can do it in the afterlife. I’ll be looking for you my brother. Godspeed. I’ll see you in the light.
Your Friend, Michael
• Sean's Bio at Talent On Display
• Midwest Carolina Blues Page