OSKALOOSA — Max Bennett, 90, died Sept. 14, 2018 at his home in San Clemente, Cali.
According to his obituary, Bennett has been an in-demand performer for seven decades. He made music with the likes of Joni Mitchell, Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee, Aretha Franklin, Elvis Presley, Barbra Streisand, Frank Sinatra, Frank Zappa, The Beach Boys, Quincy Jones, Diana Ross, Marvin Gaye and the Temptations, Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, Stan Getz and Dizzy Gillespie.
In a 2008 interview with the Herald, Bennett, a 1946 Oskaloosa High School graduate, said he fell in love with the bass while he was playing guitar in a high school dance band at the city square.
"And a gentleman came up from behind me and said that he had just moved to town, he was a bass player, would we mind if he sat in,” Bennett said. “And we never had a bass in the band. He stood right behind me and played and I just went crazy over the sound.”
During that same interview, Bennett said he never doubted his decision to pursue a career in music.
“You hear some musicians say, ‘Well, I’m going to try music for two or three years and then if that doesn’t work out, I’ll try something else,’” Bennett said. “That never occurs to a real musician.”
While exploring Oskaloosa's musical legacy in 2017 presentation, C. L. Barnhouse Co. President Andy Clark said Bennett moved to Chicago, then New York City and ended up in California, thriving as a studio musician.
"He was the person that brought Peggy Lee the song Fever,” Clark said during his presentation. “That was her biggest record ever. It's mostly a bass solo; that's probably the reason he brought it to her. There's a wonderful video of Frank Sinatra and Peggy Lee sitting on a park bench, and Max is standing behind them playing the bass while those two are singing a song. It was on a Frank Sinatra special TV show.”
Bennett's obituary states he played on at least 11 gold and platinum albums, 3 multi-platinum albums, 7 gold albums, 1 Grammy Award-winning album and 3 Grammy-nominated albums.
A Korean War veteran, Bennett also recorded songs for movies, including The Trouble with Girls, Grease, The Exorcist, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, and Lady Sings the Blues as well as Dirty Harry and Bullitt. And that's not even counting television appearances.
In The Herald's 2008 interview, Bennett said he was in the thick of things and glad to be there.
"And working with the studios for about 30 years with the greatest musicians in the world, I think," he said. "And I loved it and I'm still doing it."
Bennett formed several bands, including Max Bennett and Private Reserve, with whom he performed with at George Daily Auditorium in 2008. Bennett was on electric bass, Rob Whitlock on keyboards, Gary Meek on saxophone, Mike Miller played guitar and Dave Hooper played drums. Amber Whitlock was guest vocalist. Dan Carlin and Friends also performed at that concert.
In October of 2016, Bennett was honored in The Alley, an event at which he performed.
Surviving Bennett are his wife, Teri McDermith-Bennett and son, Adam.