A Wednesday morning phone call woke me with news that one of my best childhood friends, Benson Krause, had died.
It had been more than 10 years since my last letter went unanswered. It was harder to keep in touch after he moved back to Chicago when we were 15 years old. I’m left with a deep sense of loss; I always hoped we’d reunite one day, reminiscing about the good old days and share where our lives had taken us.
The Krause family drove from Chicago to San Diego in the early ’90s. Benson’s father preached at the 7th & Orange Church of Christ in Escondido. One evening, a group from the church came over to my parents’ house. Benson and I sat in my room to avoid the crowd, learning about each others musical tastes. He picked up my keyboard and began teaching me the chords to “One” by U2. I played and he sang. We may have stumbled through it like an awkward first dance, but it changed my relationship with music forever.
One night, we stared at the ceiling in sleeping bags on the livingroom floor of his parents’ house. We threw out ideas for naming our new band. We had the concept down pretty quickly — something that embodied the idea of being out of place, just a step outside the circle. We settled that night on The Third Half.
Benson wrote the music and lyrics, I played along and generally followed his lead. Kenrick Buchanan joined the mix and we recorded some tracks. Soon after we released our first album “Thirsty,” which we sold for $5 at church.
One Sunday morning, his father Jim was preaching. He spoke about being corrupted by the world and used his youngest son Timothy’s innocence as an example. He said Tim was sitting in the pew making gestures with his hands and wound up being fascinated with his middle finger. Jim explained how it meant nothing outside the context of the world’s negative influence. What he did next is something no one in the audience that day will forget. He rested both wrists on the pulpit with two middle fingers extended upward. “Does this offend you?” he asked. I applaud the man’s courage, but needless to say it caused controversy. Not long after, the family returned to Chicago.
A year later, I boarded a plane at age 16 for my first flight alone. I brought the keyboard and an electric guitar that Kenrick had been teaching me to play. Benson and I recorded sessions that become “Water Compan and the Go-Go-Gadget Arms” and “Join the Family.”
The group in California kept practicing, adding Javier Ortiz and my cousin Josh Gibbs. Meanwhile, Benson sent a solo tape called “Wit’s End.” Through the following year, we recorded music and sent it to Benson to add vocals and mixing. He sent us a tape with the album title “Satisfied: The Final Reunion (version one and two).” It had become harder to stay in touch at a distance and somehow we knew the title was appropriate.
Later that year, I made another trip to Chicago for his sister’s wedding, though we hadn’t spoken in months. Seeing him again, it was clear we were growing older and apart. We recorded a couple of tracks but there was no album coming in the mail.
A year or two later, I got news that Benson’s mother Benja was killed in a car accident. The yearly updates that followed included a lot of ups and downs. The last letter I sent included a Delirious? album “Live & In The Can.” I told him I loved him and tried to send a message of hope. I never heard back and feared it ended up in a box, dismissed as an overly spiritual message.
Music was an ever-present part of his life. In the years since we lost touch he continued to make music as as the vocalist for the band Ophur. Their website allowed me to follow him a bit closer, watching live performances and listening to their latest recordings.
The Benson I knew was a passionate friend, a talented musician, and a loving son and brother. He inspired me creatively and played a crucial role in my adolescence. I wouldn’t be the same without his influence and he will always be a part of me.
[ temporary note: I'm going to update this post in the coming week as I reconstruct some details, upload more images, and add audio from the albums ]