For local singer/songwriter Dewayne Chandler, being chosen as the opening act for legendary entertainer and Hill District native George Benson is a passing of the baton of sorts.
“I’m extremely excited to be opening for George Benson. I’ve been a big fan of his for years,” explained Chandler who grew up in Braddock, but currently resides in Penn Hills.
“I learned how to sing and do Jazz phrasing from listening to George Benson songs. ‘Mood For Love’ gave me the blue print on how to be a singer. He was so smooth about it and laid back. He straddled the fence of R & B and Jazz. He gave me a look into both worlds.”
Chandler was introduced to his first instrument, the trombone, by his third grade music teacher. He switched to bass guitar “because it was much cooler” and played in local bands—in every musical genre including R&B, jazz, funk and Rock&Roll—in the early ‘70s and ‘80s.
Chandler started singing in his early 20s after hearing his older sister sing. He even spent time as lead vocalist for legendary drummer Roger Humphries Big Band before toiling in different business ventures including hair salon owner, mortgage broker and concert promoter.
“I was working as a musician until 1987-1988.I stopped to focus on my kids,” he said.
“About five years ago I started to create a catalogue and wrote songs that showed up in soap operas like ‘The Young and the Restless’ and in commercials,” Chandler said with pride.
Three years ago Chandler did a workshop in Florida with gospel great Dorinda Clarke Cole, which gave him some traction in the gospel community. He also worked with the Clarke Sisters and Rance Allen.
He released his first album, “Teach Me Lord,” in 2013 and has enjoyed international success.
“I have had a lot of success with the CD in Europe. I am on 18 or 19 stations in the UK and I have a good following in Brazil. I’m getting lots of CD sales in Australia,” he said.
Riding on that international momentum, Chandler released “Welcome to the Good Life” earlier this year.
Both discs are receiving nominal national airplay in on southern radio stations in Georgia and Florida. But he is virtually unknown in Pittsburgh.
“People don’t play your music here in the States. There’s a formula to choosing the songs that go on the radio. It’s all about the numbers,” he said. “I think of myself as one of the best kept secrets in Pittsburgh. I’m the most famous person you’ve never heard of.”
Chandler hopes his opening for Benson will change all of that.
“I won’t be performing with a whole band, but I’ll have the chance to showcase my vocal ability by doing some Donny Hathaway, Lou Rawls and the Beatles. I will be skirting across different genres. It’s going to be a Las Vegas lounge style show that will fit in with George Benson. I’m going to leave it all out there on the stage.” he said.
Presented by Rich Engler, tickets for George Benson’s “Greatest Hits Tour” are $45, $55, $65 with limited gold circle seating available. They can be purchased by calling 412-456-6666 or visiting www.trustarts.org.
Following his performance this weekend, Chandler will be performing at the Kingsley Association’s annual fundraiser, the “All Star Jazz Explosion,” on May 30 at 7 p.m.
“I’ll be performing with a full band of local guys who have all had some national exposure,” Chandler said.
(For more information on Dewayne Chandler and his music, visit his website www.iammisterchandler.com.)
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