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He's been called "the Quincy Jones of Gospel," and besides being one of the best-selling instrumentalists in Christian music, keyboard player Ben Tankard has justified his tag, producing many stellar gospel projects as well as serving as an executive vice-president at Tribute Records, for which he has recorded extensively. Born in Florida to a minister father and a missionary mother, he began playing drums in church at the age of three. He later graduated to tuba and was offered several music scholarships to college, though he eventually accepted a basketball scholarship instead.
Tankard endured a rough period of depression and homelessness when a knee injury prevented him from turning professional (though he was drafted by the NBA). A visit to a revival service put him on the right track, an almost overnight, he became a very talented keyboard/organ player. Tankard began his witness in song with 1990's Keynote Speaker, recorded for Tribute Records. He continued recording and soon moved into production and arranging as well, calling on his reserves of early musical training to provide impeccable jobs for Yolanda Adams, the Alabama State Mass Choir and Michael Bruce. His albums were often light jazz works, offering soothing, reflective gospel instrumentals that were similar to mainstream efforts from George Benson and Kenny G. By 2002, he had released enough albums to put together a "best of" collection, highlighted by a cover of Stevie Wonder's "You Will Know" featuring Take 6.
Ben Tankard (born January 24, 1964) is a former professional basketball player and an American gospel, jazz keyboardist producer, recording artist, songwriter and author. Tankard and his wife Jewel donate their time as non-salary senior pastors of Destiny Center Church of Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Tankard is also a motivational speaker for the National Basketball Association D-League and a Reality TV co-star with the Bravo show - Thicker Than Water: The Tankards. The family show premiered November 10, 2013 and became highest rated new show for network with over 13 million viewers on the season. Season two is currently in production.
On August 21, 2013 Tankard was nominated for three Gospel Music Dove Awards. These nominations were for Tankard's most recent CD release, Full Tank, and the categories included: Contemporary Gospel/Urban Song of the Year, Contemporary Gospel/Urban Album of the Year, and Instrumental Album of the Year. His WOW Gospel 2006 Collaboration CD with Shirley Murdock, Kirk Franklin, Marvin Sapp, and others climbed to #1 Gospel and #20 on Billboard Top 200 and is certified Gold. His arrangement of the Lionel Richie song "Jesus Is Love " has been one of the most played songs on Sirius XM Radio gospel channel for eight years running. He has been called " The Godfather of GospelJazz".
After a brief stay in the Canadian and U.S. professional basketball arena as a 6'6" shooting guard, Tankard left the league with a knee injury and turned to his new love, music. He discovered his gift to play jazz piano in a church miracle service and immediately changed his life's course from sports to music. He considers his keyboard and producer talents gifts from God and has never taken music lessons.
In 1990 at just twenty five years old, Tankard discovered a third grade school teacher named Yolanda Adams, and signed her to his new independent record label, Tribute Records (Ben-Jamin' Universal Music). He produced several of her earlier works including: Through the Storm, Save the World, More Than A Melody, and Yolanda... Live in Washington. They collaborated on over 40 compositions. Tankard credits Yolanda Adams' voice for helping to bring his production style and keyboard playing to a large audience. Tankard has also recorded a series of well received instrumental solo albums and soundtracks, with music styles ranging from pop to R&B to smooth jazz. Tankard was the first artist to dedicate complete instrumental albums to a mixture of gospel and jazz, thus the term "GospelJazz".
Considered an industry trailblazer, Tankard has owned his own record label/production company for twenty five years . His musical accomplishments have earned him three Grammy nominations, eleven Dove Award nominations, and twelve Stellar Awards including 2010's "Best Instrumental Album" for his Mercy, Mercy, Mercy CD. This high charting release featured an instrumental remake of the Chris Tomlin Christian hit song, "How Great Is Our God". Though many of Tankard's releases have received heavy rotation on gospel and smooth jazz stations, The Weather Channel, XM Satellite Radio and cable TV's Music Choice, Mercy, Mercy, Mercy was the first CD in the history of Billboard Magazine to chart on the gospel, contemporary jazz, and jazz chart all at the same time.
With his ability to assemble talent for his recordings, Tankard has been also been called the "Quincy Jones of Gospel", and is the bestselling gospeljazz instrumentalist of all-time with 18 solo albums to his credit. In addition to his extensive work with Yolanda Adams, Tankard has produced and collaborated with several other Grammy Award winning, gold and platinum artists including, Take 6, Fred Hammond, Kelly Price, John P. Kee, Shirley Murdock, Twinkie Clark and Gerald Albright. He has earned 15 Gold and 6 Platinum records in his years in the music business.
Now based in Murfreesboro (near Nashville), Tankard is an avid aviator and instrument rated pilot. He flies to most of his concerts on his own fleet of airplanes. His favorite aircraft are the Pilatus PC-12 and Cessna 208 Caravan and he flies the Cessna Skyrocket 337C and Piper Pathfinder 235. He makes over 100 special appearances and concerts each year including for jazz festivals, gospel explosions, and corporations. He shares the joy of flight with young children through his Urban Eagles outreach program. Since 2012 he has worked with the National Basketball Association (NBA) on special projects as a musician and speaker. He provides support for the New York-based NBA League office player development division and his role allows him to share his success stories and show the players "how to have a life outside of basketball". In his motivational sessions with the younger D-League players, Ben often plays a smoothjazz mini-concert from the piano as the players write out their goals and plans.
Tankard married Jewel LaGreen on January 27, 2000. They have a blended family of five children (Marcus, Brooklyn, Britney, Benji, and Cyrene), two daughter-in-laws (Latisha and Shanira) and one grandchild (Diamond). Having both been divorces, the Tankards often speak on TV and at national conferences on marriage and the blended family. In 2002, The Tankards launched the Destiny Center Church in Murfreesboro, which is also the national headquarters for Tribute Records/Ben-Jamin'. Destiny Center is one of the fastest growing churches in the Mid-State.
On July 16, 2011 Tankard was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award for Musical Excellence as an artist, producer, and songwriter by the Atlanta Gospel-fest. Ben Tankard is also a noted speaker and has spoken at major venues and events for the NBA, Joel Osteen, and Bishop T.D. Jakes amongst others.
Tankard's eighteenth studio album, Ben Tankard/Full Tank, was released on June 5, 2012 on his revamped Tribute Records (Ben-Jamin' Universal Music & Film) label. It features music from producer-songwriters, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, and guest appearances by Mark Kibble/Take 6, and Gerald Albright. The lead single from this release, "Sunday Vibes" featuring Tim Bowman on guitar, was released on May 20 and quickly became the #1 most played song on Watercolors (Sirius XM). The CD debuted its first week on the Billboard and Amazon.com top sellers charts in three categories: Jazz, Gospel and Southern Gospel, a first for Tankard in that genre.
In September 2012, Ben Tankard/ Full Tank was nominated by the Soul Train Music Awards for Best Contemporary Jazz Artist and the Stellar Awards for Best Urban Contemporary Performance.
In October 2012, Ben Tankard/Full Tank appeared on the Grammy Award ballot for six Grammy Awards. They included: Pop Instrumental Album, Improvised Jazz Solo, Instrumental Composition, Instrumental Arrangement, and Instrumental Arrangement for vocal and Engineered Album.
This was also a first for Tankard and a major accomplishment for his independent record label to have so many appearances on the Grammy ballot at one time. On March 1, 2013, Ben's new single (title cut) "Full Tank" hit the top five Smoothjazz charts and Billboard harts. He was also nominated for a "BlueMic" award and won it for Best Instrumental Artist on July 12, 2013 at the Gospel BlueMic Awards in Chesapeake, Virginia.
On April 3, 2013, Bravo cable network announced that Ben Tankard and family had been cast for Thicker Than Water: The Tankards, a new reality show that showcases Tankard's family life, music career, business ventures, passion for aviation, and his role as a motivational speaker with the National Basketball Association (NBA) and his true passion: ministry. When asked about he reality show, Tankard responded: "With a wonderful blended family this big, there is sure to be much excitement going on all the time at the Tankard Palace. I call it a comedic cross between Bill Cosby and the Brady Bunch with a twist.... Watch what happens." The International Black Film Festival presented a screening of the first episode "Family Ties" to a standing room only crowd on November 2, 2013 at Nashville's Country Music Hall Of Fame. The show's first season premiered on November 10, 2013 with over 1.5 million viewers and the finale episode aired on January 5, 2014 with over 2.2 million viewers making it Bravo/NBC Universal's highest rated freshmen reality show. The show was renewed and is in production for season two.
On November 5, 2013 Tankard released an instrumental jazz single called "Thicker Than Water (the church picnic)" from his forthcoming new CD Full Tank Volume 2. The song rode the smoothjazz.com and Billboard contemporary jazz charts November 2013-March 2014. Tankard is on his Full Tank Music Tour and the full CD will be released late 2014 as will his Full Tank Big & Tall Clothing Line, and a new self-help motivational book entitled The Full Tank Life.Mercy Mercy Mercy: The Ben Tankard Story. Ben-Jamin' Publishing. 2010. p. 40. DAVIS, Doug (May 18, 2007). "Meet 'The Godfather of Gospel Jazz'". The Daily News Journal. Retrieved 26 August 2011. "25th Annual Stellar Award Results (2010)". 25th Annual Stellar Award Results (2010). "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy - Ben Tankard". Retrieved 26 August 2011. "Verity Gospel Music Group Releases New Music from Ben Tankard". Verity Gospel Music Group Releases New Music from Ben Tankard. Widran, Jonathan. "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy". Mercy, Mercy, Mercy. Retrieved 26 August 2011. "VOTE// Soul Train Awards 2012 Viewers Choice Awards".