John Benitez (born November 7, 1957), also known as Jellybean, is an American drummer, guitarist, songwriter, DJ, remixer and music producer of Puerto Rican descent. He has produced and remixed artists such as Madonna, Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson and the Pointer Sisters. In December 2016, Billboard magazine ranked him as the 99th most successful dance artist of all-time.
Benitez's parents moved from Puerto Rico in the early 1950s to the South Bronx section of New York City. His mother raised Benitez and a younger sibling as a single mother. He grew up enjoying music, usually listening to his sister's record collection. His sister Debbie, nicknamed him Jellybean as his initials are J.B. and from the expression "Know what I mean, Jellybean?" Benitez attended De Witt Clinton and John F. Kennedy High Schools, but did not graduate.
He relocated to Manhattan in 1975, attending disco nightclubs, which sparked his interest in becoming a disc jockey (DJ). He worked at a nightclub called Experiment 4 & Electric Circus. In 1980 Benitez enrolled and attended Bronx Community College, where he studied Marketing and Sales Promotion. Benitez worked as a DJ at Electric Circus, Hurrah, Xenon, Paradise Garage and Studio 54. In 1981, he was hired as the resident DJ at Funhouse. He hosted a weekend dance radio show at WKTU.
Benitez started to remix singles, such as Jimmy Spicer's "The Bubble Bunch," Rocker's Revenge's "Walking on Sunshine," Afrika Bambaataa's "Planet Rock" and Stephen Bray of the group Breakfast Club. Benitez met Bray's bandmate at the time, Madonna. A two-year romance developed. Benitez became involved with remixing Madonna's self-titled debut album in 1983, including the singles "Everybody", "Borderline", and "Lucky Star." He also produced "Holiday."
Benitez produced Whitney Houston's Top ten hit "Love Will Save the Day" from her second album Whitney. He remixed songs for many other artists including Sting, Hall & Oates, George Benson, Shalamar, Jocelyn Brown, Patti Austin, Bobby O, Sheena Easton, Talking Heads, James Ingram, Billy Joel, Fleetwood Mac, Lindsey Buckingham, John Waite, The Pointer Sisters, Debbie Harry, a-ha, Michael Jackson, Huey Lewis and the News and Paul McCartney.
Benitez scored two 1980s US pop hits released under the Jellybean moniker: "Sidewalk Talk" (US #18), written by Madonna and featuring Catherine Buchanan; and "Who Found Who" (US #16), featuring Elisa Fiorillo. Nine recordings placed in the Top Ten of the U.S. Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart, including three number ones. Other vocalists who have performed on a Jellybean release include Adele Bertei, Richard Darbyshire and Niki Haris. His 1984 cover of Babe Ruth's "The Mexican" (for which he recruited original singer, Janita Haan) is regarded as a pivotal moment in the electro-hip hop underground scene, and was his first number-one single on the Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart.
He was successful in the United Kingdom as an artist in his own right. His hits there included:- "Sidewalk Talk" (UK #47, 1986) ; "The Real Thing" (UK #13, 1987) featuring Steven Dante; "Who Found Who" (UK #10, 1988) with Elisa Fiorillo; "Jingo" (UK #13, 1988) and "Just a Mirage" (UK #13, 1988) with vocals by Adele Bertei.
Benitez continues to deejay globally. He owns Jellybean Productions, Jellybean Soul and Jellybean Music Group. In 1995, he founded the now-defunct H.O.L.A. recording label (House of Latin Artists) which developed hip hop and R&B music by bilingual artists and released recordings in both English and Spanish. Voices of Theory signed with this label. On September 19, 2005, Benitez was inducted into the Dance Music Hall of Fame.
Benitez is now the executive producer of Studio 54 Radio, which is heard exclusively on SiriusXM Satellite Radio (Channel 54). Studio 54 Radio launched August 15, 2011. It features 1970s and 1980s classic dance from Jellybean's personal collection and the vaults and collections of Studio 54 insiders.