Sonny Knight And The Lakers
Gig Seeker Pro

Sonny Knight And The Lakers

Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2014 | INDIE

Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States | INDIE
Established on Jan, 2014
Band R&B Soul

Calendar

This band hasn't logged any future gigs

Nov
14
Sonny Knight And The Lakers @ Tryon Fine Arts Center

Tryon, North Carolina, United States

Tryon, North Carolina, United States

Nov
13
Sonny Knight And The Lakers @ Carnegie Hall

Lewisburg, West Virginia, United States

Lewisburg, West Virginia, United States

Sep
30
Sonny Knight And The Lakers @ Dimitriou's Jazz Alley

Seattle, Washington, United States

Seattle, Washington, United States

Music

Press


Sonny Knight's new album with his band The Lakers is titled I'm Still Here, and "Here" has multiple meanings for Knight. It's Minneapolis, where he grew up and first started singing. "Here" also represents the soul music that he first started performing in his teens before life took him in different directions.

After his first taste of recording, Knight served in the Army, then sang with the Minneapolis band Haze. He became a truck driver, a career he maintained for decades. After again singing around the Twin Cities, the Secret Stash label got Sonny & The Lakers together. As you'll hear in this live session, that was a wise decision. - NPR


Check out the video!

http://www.mnoriginal.org/episode/512-childrens-theatre-company-julia-strand/secret-stash/ - MN Original (Twin Cities Public TV, PBS affiliate)


Seventeen-year-old “Little” Sonny Knight cut his first record in 1965. His dreams of becoming a big-time soul singer were put on hold with a three-year stint in the army, and a life full of twists and turns that took him away from the music business. But life is funny, and sometimes dreams do come true. Forty-nine years later, Knight is releasing his first full-length album to rave reviews. He performs selections from that album with his crack backup band The Lakers on Morning Shift. - WBEZ Chicago, Morning Shift


When we profiled him back in January, Sonny Knight said he was “ready to be doing not much of anything.” Instead, the once “lost” soul singer spent the year putting on 60-some high-energy, low-bottomed gigs with his young, funk-blasting band the Lakers, ending the year with four full-house shows at the Dakota last week that were recorded for a live album. Smart move.

Twin Cities critics also liked electro-sleaze musician Elliott Kozel’s hedonistic Tickle Torture shows and Grrrl Prty’s similarly rowdy if slightly less bawdy performances, plus the more wholesome and pure joy of seeing teenage bands in action (the Stand4rd, Hippo Campus, Stereo Confession).
1 Sonny Knight & the Lakers    (62 voter points)
2 Tickle Torture (35)
3 Grrrl Prty (19)
4 The Replacements (17)
5 Prince and 3rdEyeGirl (16)
6 (tie) Black Market Brass / The Stand4rd (15)
7 Hippo Campus (14)
8 Stereo Confession (11)
9 (tie) Shiro Dame / White Boyfriend (10) - Star Tribune


4/5 Stars
BY FRED MILLS

Minneapolis soulman Sonny Knight may have debuted with great promise in 1965, but for personal reasons he wound up retiring from music to be a truck driver, and the loss was the music world’s. Once in awhile, though, history finds a way to correct its wrongs, and thus we have this smokin’ long playing debut, decades late but of course… better late than never, eh? Hats off to soul/funk champions—of 2012 compilation Twin Cities Funk & Soul: Lost R&B Grooves From Minneapolis/St. Paul 1964-1979 fame—for making it all happen.

I’m Still Here serves as both a manifesto and a calling card for Knight, who has clearly studied what made The Hardest Working Man In Show Biz so legendary but additionally brings boatloads of his own charismatic personality—and silky/edgy vocal stylings—to the table. The album kicks off with the house party sounds of “Jucy Lucy” [sic], all bumping bass, surging organ and horn section accents, and a vintage-style appreciation of the, er, female form. “Whoah, there she go walking by right there!” the huge-lunged Knight marvels. “I jus’ wanna get my hands on her one time—I got to get me some of that Lucy! Hey man, bring that Lucy right back here!” From there we land squarely in the aforementioned James Brown territory (the staccato-riffed, rapid-fire funk of “Caveman” (as in, “let’s do the…”), the sleek, silky talking-blues soul of “I’m Still Here,” which in classic fashion is divided up into two parts with notably different tempos, and an extended workout aptly titled “Get Up and Dance” that finds Knight testifying to the healing properties of music and dance following a long, numbing week punching the time clock. There’s also an unexpected cover, of Rodriguez’ “Sugar Man,” which sounds nearly as timeless as the Detroit songwriter’s original.

It’s a retro-soul blowout of epic proportions that will no doubt please fans of Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kinds, Charles Bradley, Lee Fields et al. Throughout, Knight & Co. deploy their traditional-tilting, seventies-inspired soul/funk with the agility of wizened veterans, for Knight has clearly found young simpatico ears and uncanny talent to back him up. Somebody alert the neighbors, ‘cos this house party’s gonna stretch long into the night and everyone needs to prepare for some major noise ordinance violations…

Consumer note: initial copies of the vinyl version of the album are on gorgeous colored vinyl, so your path is, ahem, clear. - Blurt Magazine


Hanging out in a recording studio on a Friday night with white dudes half his age has apparently become routine for Sonny Knight, a retired truck driver and grandfather who said he was otherwise “ready to be doing not much of anything.”

“Now, I’m busier than ever,” Knight, 65, said with a go-figure laugh.

Seated on the other side of the glass at the Secret Stash recording studio on W. Lake Street last weekend — sipping a can of Miller High Life provided by one of his younger bandmates — Knight listened intently as his new backing group worked on a slow, swaying groove that would be one of the last tracks on an album due later this year.

“We’re calling this one ‘Ketchup & Mustard,’ ” the studio’s flaming-redheaded engineer, John Miller, told the bald but fit Knight, who had yet to lay down vocals for the sketch of a song.

“We’ll have to pair it with ‘Jucy Lucy’ then,” Knight cracked, naming another track he and the gang hashed out in a prior recording session. “It’s not really about hamburgers,” he admitted.

One of the “lost” stars from Secret Stash Records’ stable of 1960s-’70s soul singers, Knight wasn’t even featured on the Minneapolis reissue label’s warmly received 2012 double-album “Twin Cities Funk & Soul: Lost R&B Grooves From Minneapolis/St. Paul 1964-1979.” He did, however, sing at the revue-style concerts organized after the compilation’s release, including memorable appearances at last year’s 89.3 the Current birthday party and Summit brewery’s Backyard Bash.

Previously known from the bell-bottomed ’70s R&B group Haze, Knight made a big enough impression at those gigs to make him the star of the label’s new venture as a recording studio and maker of new/non-reissue funk and soul albums — in the vein of hip Brooklyn record companies Daptone and Truth & Soul.

Just as Daptone did with Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings and Charles Bradley, Secret Stash has organized a new band around the hidden-gem singer. Dubbed the Lakers and made up of members of the Secret Stash Soul Revue, they had one of the standout cuts on last month’s “Minnesota Beatle Project, Vol. 5” charity album (a horn-blasted “Daytripper”) and have been steadily working their way through local clubs in recent months.

At a November gig opening for Truth & Soul Records’ star act Lee Fields at the Cedar Cultural Center, Knight got to ask Fields what it’s like launching a new music career in your 60s.

“You still gotta get up there and put on a high-energy show” was the dictum from Fields — advice that Knight already seemed to follow.


Offstage, the native of Jackson, Miss., is low-key and surprisingly soft-spoken. In fact, Knight’s laid-back personality was a big reason why Secret Stash co-founder Eric Foss picked him — of all the “TC Funk & Soul” singers — to build a new band and album around.

Knight lives in Uptown near the Secret Stash office/studio and often would stop by just to chat.

“Obviously, he’s a great singer and entertainer first and foremost,” said Foss, who is the Lakers’ drummer, “but he’s also very likable and easy to get along with. That’s important when it’s a long-term, full-fledged band.”

That ease factor plays into the music, too. As Foss explained it, “A lot of the [‘TC Funk & Soul’] singers are set in their ways, and rightfully so — they’ve been doing it a long time. Sonny is more open and adventurous, eager to try the sort of things we have in mind.”

Adventurous ideas such as cutting a song named “Jucy Lucy” that’s not about hamburgers. Or recording Rodriguez’s ’60s psychedelic-rock nugget “Sugar Man,” featured as a B-side to the new Knight & the Lakers original “Hey Girl” on a Secret Stash 7-inch single issued last summer. Or releasing a 7-inch single in the first place, a sign of the label’s cachet with hip, young record collectors.



Said Knight, “I figured at 65, what’s left to learn? But I’ve already learned a lot from these guys. This feels better than anything else I’ve done in my music career.”

Knight’s career has been an off-and-on affair. After moving to St. Paul at age 7, he started singing in his midteens with the R&B band the Blue Jays and cut a single with them in 1965 as Sonny Knight & the Cymbals, titled “Tears on My Pillow” (not to be confused with the Little Anthony hit of the same name). Facing the draft after high school, Knight joined the Army, serving in Korea and then Vietnam.

After three years of service, he wound up in Oakland, Calif., and sang there around truck-driving gigs. He moved back to the Twin Cities in time to join Haze.

A semi-psychedelic and eventually disco-ized R&B group with multiple singers, Haze landed a Billboard top 40 hit in 1975 with the organ-laden smooth groove “I Do Love My Lady” and was wooed for a label deal before a 1979 breakup. More recently, Haze was featured in a City Pages cover story and has a track on the exhaustive new two-CD compilation “Purple Snow: Forecasting the Minneapolis Sound,” from Chicago reissue label Numero Music Group.

Summing up Haze, Knight said, “It was just a really good band, with a lot of innovative ideas.”

In the ’90s, he joined the Bachelors, a vocal group featuring former singers from “TC Funk & Soul” standouts the Valdons. He wound up singing with the Valdons at the Secret Stash shows.

“It’s amazing — spooky, really — the roundabout way things added up to me being where I am now with these guys,” Knight said.

Meet the Lakers:

As the Lakers geared up for another go at “Ketchup & Mustard,” the studio engineer talked up their combined talent.

“These are guys who — whenever somebody says, ‘Oh, I know this really amazing keyboard player you probably don’t know,’ or, ‘You gotta hear this guitarist’ — they could all be any one of these guys,” Miller said.

Bassist Casey O’Brien is probably the best-known of the Lakers, having collaborated with late rap star Eyedea in Face Candy and gigged with No Bird Sing, Coloring Time and various jazz stalwarts. He actually wrote the music for “Ketchup & Mustard” (eventually retitled “If This Is All”). Other members are organist Sam Harvey-Carlson — who also wrote a ballad for the new record that is among Knight’s favorites — plus true discovery Blair Krivanek on guitar and horn players Brian Highhill, Cole Pulice and Tony Beaderstadt.

Knight and the newly formed Lakers started recording during a trip to a cabin over Labor Day weekend. In November, they stretched out and made a coming-out of sorts with a month’s worth of midweek gigs at the Eagles Club.

“Those were great because, you know, it’s the Eagles Club and you can basically do whatever you want, which we did,” Harvey-Carlson remembered.

Knight and the Lakers seem to have bonded like your average new band with big ambitions, despite their differences in age and backgrounds.

“We really had a blast playing Loring Pasta Bar on New Year’s Eve,” Knight said, recalling the reaction from the young audience.

“Some of them came up to me and said, ‘Wow, I’ve really been hearing a lot about you.’ ”

Marveling at the thought of being in one of the Twin Cities’ buzziest new bands, Knight said, “I’ve been here a long time, but I’ve never been here.”



Chris Riemenschneider • 612-673-4658 - The Star Tribune


Cualquiera que haya leido algun post de este humilde blog sabe que mi pasion es el Soul, y ahi le puedes añadir blues, blues-soul, rock, rock-soul, rock-blues, country-blues, etc.. pero siempre el Soul. No hace falta que sea la Motown o Stax, para mi Van Morrison es Soul, Keith Richards cantando Happy es Soul, David Bowie con five years es Soul. como dice el maestro Joserra " Soul is the answer ". ( que grande tu lista Spotify de las Soul woman songs ). Y Dan Penn por encima de todos.
Y hay otro maestro en la blogosfera de donde siempre aprendo y descubro cosas nuevas, Musicasoul. Y alli escuche por primera vez a Sonny Knight & the Lakers. Me costo hacerme con el disco, pero por fin lo tengo en mi poder. Señoras y Señores the Soul-Funk del Siglo XXI.
Si os ha gustado Charles Bradley o Lee Fields, tenemos uno nuevo a añadir a la lista, solo que el ademas de las baladas sudorosas , le añade mucho Funk, y lo hace de P.M.
Otro soulmen recuperado del olvido discografico de la industria, otra injusticia de la musica que nos devuelve gracias a un sello joven y con ganas . - Rafa Rock Soul


It seems more and more that when I am really drawn to a “new” song it’s because it sounds like a 1980's New Wave song or a 60's/70's era soul track. ”Hey Girl” by Sonny Knight and the Lakers of Minnesota’s Twin Cities fall into the later category. At some point I will find the new sound of the two-thousand-teens to fall in love with, but in the meantime I don’t mind grooving to this. - Panorama of the Mountains


The spirit of Motown is alive and well in the groovings of Sonny Knight and the Lakers. Listen here to the title track ‘HEY GIRL’. - Heroic Times


There are lots of great reissue labels running right now, but one cool thing that locals Secret Stash have done with their Twin Cities Funk and Soul compilation is bring singers and artists out from anonymity to get them in front of a new and appreciative audience. So far, like most labels, this had meant digging up really great past material and bringing it to new audiences, but Secret Stash brought the band back together, literally, for their concerts billed as the Secret Stash Soul Revue. Anyone who has seen the Soul Revue knows how energetic and vibrant these shows, which feature the singers from the compilation backed by the Secret Stash house band The Lakers, are at not just serving as an act to rehash the past. They have done original material from the 60's and 70's, but also new music and more recent covers. Now the label is capturing some of that new material on wax. The first offering is the Sonny Knight and the Lakers 7? “Hey Girl,” which is a uptempo, funky track that captures the spirit of the compilation in a brand new song. The B-side to the release is a cover of the Rodriguez track “Sugerman,” which I have heard the band do live and is an excellent re-imagining of an already great track. Listen to the new track below and keep an eye on the Secret Stash website for when it goes on sale. - Reviler


If you have not been following the Minneapolis, MN record label Secret Stash, here’s a good time to start. Their previous releases have gone from Deep Funk to African Soul to Boogaloo and more. A solid label doing big things. Their latest, Sonny Knight and the Lakers, combines the best of the old with the best of the new. Knight was first on the Twin Cities bustling music scene in 1965 as a 15 year old recording in a basement on Lake Street. (not too far from the Secret Stash offices now). With his group Little Sonny Knight & The Cymbals, he released a much sought after 45 “Tear On My Pillow” and later was a part of a local group Haze, who’s records are sought after in collecting circles as well. For anyone other than Twin Cities diggers, that might not mean much. Hold tight though, because after you hear this side, it will mean something to you. Knight has linked up with the guys from Secret Stash Records to put out a belter of a 45. “Hey Girl” is Midwest Deep Funk at it’s finest. It sounds a bit like “Go For Yourself” by Soul Tornadoes mixed in with some Dyke and the Blazers and the showmanship of Johnny Otis. Starting off heavy on the drums, it cruises until the big drum break comes in. Sonny’s come hither vocals go right into some wailing sax and the tune finishes up large. And I mean large. Sonny knows how to work a crowd live, and he’s working every crowd for you hard on this record as soon as you put the needle down. Backed by an all star cast of present day Twin City musicians, this side is a smash. The flip side is a slowed down cover of the Rodriguez classic “Sugarman”, a win-win situation. “Hey Girl” is guaranteed to rock a party and turn your body out. Big choon as they say in the UK, brought to you by the good people at Secret Stash Records. Available on September 3rd. - Flea Market Funk


http://www.daytrotter.com/#!/concert/sonny-knight-and-the-lakers/21021404-37385909 - Daytrotter


Wow. It’s all I can say following my conversation with Sonny Knight. The Twin Cities-based musician will be playing AtwoodFest 2014 in Madison on Sunday, July 27th, and I have more than just circled the date. It’s not just the incredible talent of Knight and his band, but his enthusiasm won me over. And here’s what makes you want to support what’s happening with Knight—who tells ms he wakes up every morning, grateful for another day. Though agile, and young looking, Knight is 66 years old. Yup, 66 and just getting his first taste of what it’s like to find success in the music business. He took time to tell me more about what kept him connected to music all these years, and why he’s looking forward to playing his first Madison-area show. And it will be one you won’t want to miss.

Maximum Ink: You are getting a lot of attention for this current project, how does it feel to be recognized for your music?
Sonny: It feels great! I am hanging out, jammin’ with cats half my age, and I love it. I’m finally getting this chance to pursue my lifetime dream.

MI: So music has always been your goal?
Sonny: As a kid growing up in the South, it was always about Gospel. I was little but already on a big stage at church. And as I grew up I played with different bands; but was most interested in funk and soul. There was some success here and there, but nothing like this!

MI: Did you ever feel like giving up on your dream?
Sonny: Sure, and I did give up on a few things along the way. I started driving truck as a regular, steady job. But I never stopped singing. I sang with the radio, or a record obtuse stereo. And I’d find a karaoke bar in every town to just keep on singing.

MI: And you met your drummer, Eric Foss, almost by accident?
Sonny: This group has only been together a year and a half. We met through a regular Funk and Soul Show, and Eric asked about putting something together. He had a plan, and made me feel like I was an important part of his idea. He also helped create this big, new sound, which quickly led to writing and recording our debut album it came out just a few months ago. I’d recorded with others over the years, but this is different. It’s magical!

MI: Now you’re touring to support the new music. Have you ever played in Madison before?
Sonny: No, but sure looking forward to it. We just played a few venues in Milwaukee and Chicgo, and all I could think was how cool! As a trucker, I’d driven through so many off the places on our summer schedule. So it’s great to get this chance to come back, and to be on stage. We are headed to Europe for more new shows this fall.

MI: Isn’t there some belief, if you can make it to Europe, you’ll then become popular in the U.S.?
Sonny: (Laughing) I have heard that! But I guess for me it’s also about staying healthy. I pray for another day and just feel blessed to get it. Our album “I’m Still Here” is all about being present every day, and making the most of this special opportunity. Hopefully I can also be an inspiration for others—you just can’t give up!

MI: And it means no more truck driving?
Sonny: Yeah, and I don’t miss it, though I am thankful for all it gave me. But doing our music allows me to leave something behind for future generations to enjoy.

MI: And not just in the future! Your music is here and now..
Sonny: I guess if I do nothing else after this album and tour, in my heart I finally feel I’ve made it. I am with an outstanding group of talented musicians who show me so much respect, and I love them for it. But they probably don’t know I believe they are my heroes. They helped me make a 60-plus-year-old dream come true. We can’t wait to share it with you in Madison. - Maximum Ink


Sonny Knight cut his teeth as a teenager in the music business after releasing his first 45 in 1965. He went on to become a member of the band Haze, that developed a cult following, and whose records are highly sought after today. When the spotlight faded, so did Sonny. Out of the action for a decades, he jump started his career after a meeting with Secret Stash label founder Eric Foss, and the rest is history. Sonny Knight and the Lakers were born, and the resurrection of Knight’s music career has brought much joy from the Twin Cities in Minnesota to the far corners of the world. With a new record out on Secret Stash entitled I’m Still Here, Knight sat down with Flea Market Funk to talk about his four decade career and how it feels to make music again in 2014. He is not going anywhere, and neither is his music. Both are here to stay.

FMF:Tell me a bit about your music history Mr. Sonny Knight. What was the motivation for you to get behind the microphone and make music back then, and what is your motivation to make music now?
SK:I just liked the feel of music. It probably started going to church with my Grandma. Just growing up with the sound of the singers in the church and trying to mess around with that. I’d say it was that and the stereo at home. The turntable and the radio. As far as making music now, I do it ‘cause it’s still fun. It’s my favorite pastime. The fun of still doing it! I just love to sing.

FMF: You first put out a record at 17 with Little Sonny Knight & the Cymbals, was the music business something you wanted to do full time back then? Where did you expect to go after making that first record?
SK: Yeah, I didn’t know where it would take me or what it was really about. But, yeah, it was something I always wanted to do. I remember going to a Temptations concert with Ike and Tina on the same bill. I saw that and said, man this is really cool! I didn’t know how far I could go, but I knew I wanted to do it. I had no idea where things would go after that first record. I think the dream back then was something like going to American Band Stand. I was just going along with what the manager said. We made a record and played some gigs over in Saint Paul.

FMF: Your music career was interrupted by some military service. While you served your military duty, did you continue to play music throughout your time away (let’s say if you had free time), or was it put on the back burner?
SK: Well it was put on the back burner. I sang “Sittin’ On the Dock of the Bay” at a church over there. Aside from that, me and a few of the guys in the barracks would sing some doo-wop every now and then. But mostly, I’d say it was on the back burner.

FMF: Who were/ are your musical influences? Did you have a mentor that showed you the ropes, and have you mentored any other artists over the years?
SK: It’s a broad range of people. When I was a kid, it was Sam Cooke for sure. The Mighty Clouds of Joy and other Gospel groups like that. I got way into the Temptations. Moving to Minnesota when I was kid totally changed things for me. I started to get into Country a bit. I understood Country when I was in the South, but up here I got into it a bit more.
I really never had a mentor in the singing biz. I just jumped in and went for what I knew. I mean, once I started singing with other cats, they’d sort of tell me what they wanted me to do. But no, I never had a mentor. I think I’ve always had a pretty good ear for picking up on stuff. I wouldn’t say I’ve mentored anyone. Some people have told me they’re inspired by what I do, but that’s about the extent of it.

Sonny-Knight-in-Haze

FMF: What did you do in between your late 1970’s/ 80’s work with Haze and when you got into The Bachelors?
SK: I drove a truck. That was my basis of making a living. Even when the Bachelors started, I was on the road working. I’d come back in town for gigs when they had stuff booked.

FMF: How did you meet Eric Foss and get involved with Secret Stash Records?
SK: It started with Eric getting in touch with the Valodons. A couple of them were in the Bachelors. One of the Valdons couldn’t perform, so they asked me to do it. Secret Stash put together this big Soul revue show and I sang with the Valdons. Then one of the guys from Prophets of Peace couldn’t perform, so I sang their tunes during the revue as well. I started making a habit of stopping by Secret Stash on my way home from the gym. I’d just come down and hang out with Eric and the guys. Next thing you know, Sonny Knight & The Lakers started.

At a point in time, I probably thought it was just black folks’ music. But I don’t really see it that way anymore. It’s really just about what comes out of whoever is performing it.” – Sonny Knight on what Soul is.

FMF: What are your thoughts on sampling in the music industry, and would you let your music be sampled?
SK: I think sampling is being kind of lazy. I’ve never given it a whole bunch of thought. But, would I like for my music to be started? I guess-if they got a shit load of money. But I think sampling is kind of cheating. If you’re just sampling shit, you’re not putting in a whole lot. It’s almost like going up and doing karaoke and then deciding you’re going to cut a record. It’s not like writing it and pulling it out of your head. I don’t mean any disrespect to hip-hop, but it’s not like you’re using your brain to put stuff into it. I guess it just shows how strong music was back in the day. For me I just like the creative part of putting something together from scratch.

Sonny-Knight-Lee-Fields

FMF: How do you feel about being compared to artists of your generation that made comebacks such as Charles Bradley and Lee Fields?
SK: I feel great about it. Just the fact that I have a chance to make a comeback or be heard by people period, it means a lot to me. We opened for Lee Fields last year at The Cedar in Minneapolis. When I saw Lee Fields, I was very excited to learn what he knew, to see how he’s been doing stuff out there. It felt good to see him on the stage and it felt good to hang with him and compare how he is doing things to how I am doing things. That was a good meeting for me.

FMF: How does it make you feel to see a whole new population of people being exposed to Sonny Knight’s music?
SK: Man, I’m kind of like in awe that people are interested or that I have something that they’re interested in. It’s a very good feeling. But I don’t feel that it’s just me. I feel great to be in that generation of people who have made something that is standing the test of time.

FMF: What kind of music do you listen to on your own time?
SK: A bunch of different things: Gospel, Country, Jazz, Blues, all of it.

FMF:What’s your definition of Soul music?
SK: Hmmm. I think the definition of Soul music for me would be what you feel and how you present it when you sing it or perform it. It’s the soul that comes from within you. Some people think it’s like James Brown, right? But that’s something that comes out of your soul. I think a lot of people have a screwed up idea of what Soul music is. But for me, I just think it’s what I can get out of me. I mean, it’s rhythm and blues for sure, but it’s just as much about what’s coming out of the performer. At a point in time, I probably thought it was just black folks’ music. But I don’t really see it that way anymore. It’s really just about what comes out of whoever is performing it. Look at Stax and Atlantic Records. Everyone was thinking they’re black cats, but a bunch of those dudes were white! Even when I listen to Country, I can hear Soul in that. It’s just about bringing that feeling out.

FMF: Describe your most favorite music career memory.
SK: Well, I would say playing at First Ave for 89.3 the Current’s Birthday Party in early 2013. It was the first time I found myself playing in front of such a large audience. I felt really good that night. Everything was just popping. That was a good time. The hype of going out and playing with Haze in Lake Tahoe was cool too. It was cool, yet it was a disaster at the same time. At least that’s how I remember it now. One time in San Francisco I wound up on stage with Pharoah Sanders and Freddie Hubbard. That was cool. Good times.

FMF: Do you collect records, and if you do, do you still have any of your own releases?
SK: No I don’t collect. CDs and tapes happened, but over the years I lost a lot of my vinyl records. I still have a copy of that first 45 I cut, though. It’s in a frame with a picture of the group.

Sonny-Knight-color1

Photo by Nick Kozel

FMF: Please give some parting words of wisdom to your fans.
SK: Always believe in your dreams, no matter what you’re feeling. Look at life and take it one step at a time. Don’t be getting in the way of yourself.

A very special thanks to Eric Foss for making this interview possible.

Get the new Sonny Knight and the Lakers record I’m Still Here on the Secret Stash site.

Keep Diggin’! - Flea Market Funk


Minneapolis label Secret Stash Records was originally set up in 2009 as a vinyl reissue label, covering funk, soul, afro beat, etc. Following the release of a compilation of rare sides from the local scene on a compilation entitled “Twin Cities Funk & Soul”, label owner Eric Foss saw the opportunity to put on a revue style show featuring artists from the compilation who were still on the scene. The show was a big success and created further demand. One of the artists on the revue, Sonny Knight, released his first 45 in 1965 and later joined local band “Haze” after a 3 year call of duty in Vietnam. After six months on the road with the revue, Foss discussed his intention to put a new band together and record some brand new material with Knight’s grit and enthusiasm right up front. Before Foss could fully finish, Knight had already accepted and Sonny Knight & The Lakers were born.
The Lakers back Knight in a pleasing, heavy funk style for the most part – and they certainly go for it with gusto, matching Knight’s infectious enthusiasm and a tangible sense of fun working together as they tell simple stories and reach a feel-good groove. There are a couple of terrific dance step numbers – “Sonny’s Boogaloo” and the frantic funk throw-down “Caveman”, offering up a dance Jimmy Castor would be proud of, its break featuring caveman grunts and musings. Also on the heavy side, the pounding “Hey Girl” drops a funk bomb, launching into a furious break half way through as Knight calls up band members for a spotlight. Along with the fun, there are thoughtful moments too, as on the two-part title track which nicely segues back to back. The first part documenting the fear and harder times Knight experienced returning from Vietnam to a world that had rapidly changed, backed by the band ‘King Heroin’ style. Part two, then launches into the bright antidote as Knight proclaims “I’m still here, you can’t keep me down”, while the atmosphere in the track builds terrifically. And long may he stay.
From the opening funk of “Juicy Lucy” to Knight’s closing urge that “Everyone get up and dance – that’s what you came here for”, this album ticks a whole lot of boxes with great writing, playing, arrangements and production that benefits from a band recording live in the studio with a mix of vintage and new equipment and techniques – a fantastic first studio album from Secret Stash, who already have some impressive reissues for sale. And with the promise of more good stuff to come, The Lakers essentially in place as the house band are already working on the next album project – definitely one to watch out for. - Funkalicious


A crackling soul and funk ensemble. - WNYC Soundcheck


While other record labels are pushing to re-release classic records, Secret Stash Records is working on revitalizing tunes. Thus is the case of Sonny Knight & The Lakers most recent release, I’m Still Here.

The Secret Stash Records house band The Lakers backs the record, a collection of songs with R&B veteran vocalist Sonny Knight. What comes of this combination is a slow-burn of soul on some tracks, more punctuated horns on others, and some fantastic chugging guitars that ebb and flow on the waves of wah-wah pedals. In addition, the organs are prominent on a majority of the songs and the rhythm section is tight as well.

The record ventures from “I’m Still Here Part 1” and “When Your Gone,” highlighting those mesmerizing organ tones, with sharp horns to tracks like “Hey Girl,” “Juicy Lucy,” and “Caveman” which produce party-inducing funk. That said, with all the crisp instrumentation going on, there is not a bad track on this record, and part of it has to do with Sonny Knight. Knight is a 65-year-old veteran to the music scene whose voice is powerful and clearer than half of the vocalists his age.

Ultimately, a large slab of the record is fun and irreverent party jams, like “Sonny’s Boogaloo” & “Baby, Baby, Baby,” but the album also takes serious turns on songs like their killer cover of the Rodriguez classic “Sugarman.” The album is a good mix of fun and serious, each done with skill and charisma that causes it to shine above all other records.

Absolutely amazing rhythm & blues record with a sound that is missing in modern pop music.
With music like this, there is a certain point where songs can be played correctly, but if there isn’t any passion behind the music, it doesn’t sound authentic. Fortunately, The Lakers provide a funkified canvass, and Knight’s voice stirs up love, pain, knowledge and experience and with this, the group has distilled a sound that soars out of the speakers. In a world of fakes and imitators, Sonny Knight & The Lakers shine as the real deal. - Audio Hammock


Conductor de camiones ya jubilado, dada por acabada hace lustros su carrera artística seguro que más bien estaba preparado para no hacer nada en particular el resto de su vida, excepto quizás ejercer su papel como abuelo. Ni siquiera figuraba en el estupendo recopilatorio Twin Cities (2012), que permitió resucitar temas e intérpretes olvidados para la historia, ya referido recientemente en este espacio, aunque él era también uno de esos "soulman" perdidos para la causa cuando abandonara su carrera artística en los años 90, tras tres décadas dedicándose al mundo de la música.

Sin embargo, si fue invitado a participar en una serie de shows organizados para apoyar el lanzamiento del recopilatorio. Sus memorables actuaciones impresionaron lo suficiente a la casa discográfica como para apoyar el lanzamiento de su aventura en torno a su figura. Ahora confiesa que nunca había estado tan ocupado, actuaciones en directo en clubes locales, entrevistas y la grabación de un nuevo disco. Apoyado en The Lakers, una banda creada ex profeso para él, integrada por sólidos músicos de estudio del sello, de otra generación y con la mitad de años que él, acaba de editar I'm Still Here, como no podía ser de otra manera bajo el sello Secret Stash. Así como Daptone o Truth & Soul Records han elevado a los altares del deepfunk/soul a artistas olvidados para la causa como Sharon Jones, Charles Bradley o Lee Fields, el sello de Minneapolis también aspira íntimamente a que Sonny pueda conseguir un impacto similar entre el público, convertirse en una alternativa digna a la dictadura impuesta en los últimos años por esas excelsas figuras en el reino del deepfunk y el soul. Desde luego cualidades vocales no le faltan al bueno de Sonny, pero a diferencia de las estrellas anteriormente citadas que se muestran poco partidarias de salirse del guión marcado por el libro de estilo, Sonny se muestra más abierto y aventurero, dispuesto en definitiva a probar nuevas cosas. A sus 66 años, hoy mismo sale a la venta su disco de debut en solitario, bien podríamos decir aquello de que más vale tarde que nunca. Un gran disco imprescindible para los amantes del género ¿Te lo vas a perder? - MusicaSoul


I’d never heard of Secret Stash Records before the ever-indispensable Heavy Soul Brutha hipped me to the existence of Sonny Knight and the Lakers’ new I’m Still Here LP, but based on the aforementioned evidence, I’m convinced that the Minneapolis label is doing the Lord’s work.

Bluntly put, this is some fine, fine stuff — sweet, authoritative soul, impeccably captured in its fullest, sweat-drenched bloom. It’s truly a group effort, too — Knight is a gifted belter, and that’s his name in big print on the record, but he’s persuasively aided and abetted by his band: drummer Eric Foss, guitarist Blair Krivanek, bassist Casey O’Brien, keys man Sam Harvey-Carlson, and a three-piece horn section consisting of trombonist Tony Beadersadt, trumpet player Bryan “Lumpy” Highhill, and saxophonist Cole Pulice.

In fact, although it’s Knight’s barrelhouse roar that shines brightest in the spotlight, it’s Foss who’s the record’s secret weapon — like any great soul singer, Sonny Knight’s only as good as his drummer, and Foss runs such a tight ship that the cover photo might as well depict Knight sitting comfortably in a pocket. In addition, Foss co-produced with John Miller — and as the co-founder the label, he was also the guy signing the checks. (In other words, it’s a really god thing Foss is so good at what he does, because it isn’t like anyone could have stopped him.)

This is a point I’ve harped on repeatedly over the years, but it’s relevant here, so I’ll say it again: Cutting great-sounding soul records in the 21st century is a lot harder than it seems like it ought to be. This is a music that thrives on simplicity, but sound is so malleable now that it’s stupidly easy to go overboard in any one of a hundred directions, and what you’re often left with are recordings that don’t seem to trust the performances to carry the songs — or the listener to absorb the mojo without gimmicks and signposts.

All of which is to say that I’m Still Here‘s greatest gift might be that it simply is. It doesn’t sound like 2014, or 1965, or anywhere in between; like all the best records, it simply sounds like people making music together in a room, right now. If this album doesn’t make you want to peruse Knight’s concert listings to see if he’s coming to your town, you might be a shut-in; if it doesn’t make you swivel your hips and shake your ass even a little bit, you might be a corpse. There’s nothing flashy or profound about it, it’s simply the kind of record made for putting on when you want to feel good, and can we ever have too many of those? I’m telling you, we cannot.

One final comment, regarding I’m Still Here‘s defiant title: Like Leo “Bud Welch, the 65-year-old Knight is making his big solo splash at an unusually advanced age. As with Welch, that has no real bearing on the music; it’s simply an inspirational side note, and one more reason to smile when Sonny Knight starts to holler. - Listening Is Everything


Sonny Knight & The Lakers
with The Honeydogs and Southside Desire
First Avenue, Minneapolis
Saturday, May 3, 2014

While it's hard to believe it now, only a few short years ago, interest in locally made soul and R&B music was mostly relegated to few particularly dedicated record collectors and DJs around town. Groups like Dave Brady & the Stars or the Valdons may have popped up on mix tapes from crate-digging collectives like Hotpants/Hipshaker, but the vast majority of Twin Cities music fans were still in the dark.

Secret Stash Records changed all that in 2012 with the release of their Twin Cities Funk & Soul compilation, sparking enough interest to bring pioneers like Sonny Knight and his contemporaries out of retirement for a series of shows. For other entertainers, that brief return to the stage could have been the end of it. But for Knight, it was just the beginning.

See also:
Slideshow: Sonny Knight & the Lakers at First Avenue

Twin Cities Funk & Soul was a runaway success, and before long Secret Stash began devising ways to bring more locally grown grooves to the burgeoning niche their compilation had created. Rather than reissuing more vintage material, the label took a bold step into writing and recording their own compositions. Sonny's strength as an entertainer and drive to continue performing made him the perfect catalyst for the formation of a Secret Stash house band, a crack team of instrumentalists dubbed "The Lakers," and his undeniable talent gave that combo the star frontman they needed.

Fast forward to 2014, and Sonny Knight & the Lakers have already become well-loved performers on the local circuit, opening for touring Daptone acts and rocking festivals to enthusiastic receptions. Once again, Sonny had a choice to remain at this plateau, but at 66 years old, the Vietnam veteran with 50 years in the industry decided to record an album and celebrate its release in the Mainroom. The results were truly spectacular, and a testament to both the drive of Secret Stash, and to the heroic abilities of the man himself.

SonnyKnight32.jpg
Mark Kartarik
Beginning with an old school voice-over introduction, the curtain lifted on an expanded version of The Lakers, specially picked for this show only. Guests for the evening included Pavielle French and Sarah Witte, two immensly gifted background singers, as well as percussionist Tony Schreiner and even two go-go dancers. Clad in dashing new suits, the men of the Lakers sounded tighter than they ever have on their instrumental intro vamp, before trumpet player Bryan Highhill gave an adorably goofy take on the classic soul-man call up to bring Sonny to the stage. Seamlessly transitioning into their funky smash "Jucy Lucy," the band kicked the energy into high gear and the show was underway.

From the get-go, Knight's enthusiasm for playing in front of a packed house in the mailroom was evident. "Damn am I glad to see all of y'all in the house tonight" The singer shouted, grinning ear to ear, "My whole family is here!"

SonnyKnight30.jpg
Mark Kartarik
The beginning of the set leaned heavily on Knight's locomotive funky material like "Get up and Dance" and "Sonny's Boogaloo." During the former, the singer employed a well-worn trick from JB's playbook, calling out each one his musicians to build a piece of the song's trademark lick, one-by-one. In any other hands, the technique could have come off as cliche, but Knight and his band know exactly how to sell such maneuvers, namely by relying on whip-tight execution from the band and Sonny's winning charisma.

During the smoky "Through With You" and "Where Did You Sleep Last Night," Sonny ran a warm and funny bit of play-acting with his backing ladies before letting them take some time to shine with a lead vocal run for each. French and Witte really made the most of the opportunity, wowing the crowd into cheers and hollers with a couple of diva-level vocal runs. Not to be outdone, Knight dug down into the pain of both songs, belting out lines like "I tried to please her" with a heart-rending tear that would have made Otis jealous.

SonnyKnight28.jpg
Mark Kartarik
As the show rolled on, it became apparent just how well the band and their leader had prepared for this event. Every single song was effortlessly sewn together with an impressive flurry of hits from drummer and label head Eric Foss, or horn stings from Highhill and his partners in crime Cole Pulice and Tony Beaderstadt. Spot-on reinterpretations of songs like "Daytripper" and "Sugarman," were precisely arranged, right down to the footwork between guitarist Blair Krivanek and bassist Casey O'Brien, but despite the obvious preparation that was involved, the performance still felt joyful and spontaneous, largely thanks to Knight's beaming personality. Even after dancing all around the stage in a very dapper (and warm looking) three-piece suit, the frontman's vocal stamina never flagged, showing tender restraint on more mellow sweet-soul material like "It's You for Me" and "When You're Gone."
The set's centerpiece came in the form of a cover of another TC soul hero's biggest hit, "Sock-a-poo-poo" by Maurice McKinnies, which the Laker's raved up into a full on good-foot drum breakdown. As the audience shook it to the best of their abilities, Sonny, Sarah and Pavielle played "stump the band" by thinking up increasingly tricky sequences of stings. After the relatively simple four-count and seven-count failed to trip up the musicians, Sonny called for two slow hits followed by a lightning-fast 16, and the Lakers brushed off the challenge as if it was child's play.

SonnyKnight34.jpg
Mark Kartarik
For the encore, the special nature of the evening became even more apparent. A tuxedo-clad string quartet were the first to appear, plucking up the stately intro to Sonny's most personal song "I'm Still Here." As the rest of the band joined in, the soul man told a bit of his story to the elated audience. Beginning with a rumination on the stagnation of his life prior to returning to music, Knight detailed a bit of history.

"After 12 months of service in Vietnam, I caught a red-tail plane back to Twin Cities. Since I'm from Saint Paul, they dropped me right back on Selby Avenue. When I got back, I couldn't believe how much things had changed since I'd been gone. Some of my folks ended up in Stillwater, some of them even died. I didn't want that, so I packed my bags and split. But I found out that all roads lead back here. I'm not running anymore! I found peace within me. I hope you all find peace within. That's all there is!"

With a heartfelt shoutout to his friends and family assembled in the enraptured crowd, Knight brought it home. "We're all still here!" he cried, clasping hands with the front row as the Lakers played him off one final time, "I'm still here!"

SonnyKnight24.jpg
Mark Kartarik
Set List:

Lion of Lyndale (instrumental intro)
Jucy Lucy
Get up and Dance
Sonny's Boogaloo
Through With You
Where Did You Sleep Last Night
Day Tripper (The Beatles)
Baby Baby
It's You for Me
Sock a Poo Poo
Sugar Man (Rodriguez)
Hey Girl
When You're Gone
Cave Man

--Encore--
I'm Still Here Pt. 1 and 2 - City Pages


Sonny Knight and the Lakers most definitely have musical prowess. - The Current


One of the Twin Cities’ own unsung music vets, R&B/funk singer Sonny Knight – who probably couldn’t have even landed an Entry gig this time a year ago -- was visibly moved as he took the stage in front of a more than three-quarters-full crowd at First Avenue later on Saturday night. In less than a year, the 65-year-old showman fell in with the Secret Stash Records crew, started collaborating with their house band and hit the club scene running as Sonny Knight & the Lakers. He and his young cohorts graduated to First Ave to celebrate the release of their debut album, “I’m Still Here,” songs from which sounded tailor-made to the flashy, revue-style performance they gave Saturday on the big stage.

After opening with the album’s saucy kick-off track, “Jucy Lucy,” the band stuck to some of their funkiest cuts early on, including the horn-driven workout “Sonny’s Boogaloo.” The show came to something of a stunning halt about 25 minutes in, though, as Knight & Co. built up a stormy, slow-burning cover of Kurt Cobain’s favorite Leadbelly song, “Where Did You Sleep Last Night?,” with added backup singers Pavielle French and Sarah Witte helping bring a “Gimme Shelter” vibe to the music. The dark mood rebounded into one of the brightest and bounciest jams of the night, the Beatles’ “Daytripper,” which Knight and the Lakers originally recorded for the “Minnesota Beatle Project, Vol. 5.”

Things got even heavier during the encore, when Knight recollected returning from service in Vietnam and struggling to find his way, all while a string quartet – brought out just for the one song – added to the drama behind him. This was the slow build up to the album’s title track and the show’s symbolic finale. Lest there remained any doubt Knight is “still here” -- and still very able able to sing his ass off -- the closing tune also proved a man his age has plenty sing about, too. - VitaMN


"We are here to turn the Current out!"

This world isn't fair, but every once in a while, good things happen to good people — and that's definitely the case with Sonny Knight, the Minnesota soul music veteran who's reaching a new career peak in his mid-60s.

Immigrating up the Big River to Minnesota from Mississippi in the 1960s, Knight cut some sweet sides before being sidetracked by a tour of duty in the Army. He's been an intermittent presence on the music scene since then, including stints in seminal local groups Haze and the Valdons, but it had been a quiet couple of decades for Knight when he was rediscovered by Secret Stash Records.

I'm Still Here, Knight's comeback album with his crack new band the Lakers, is out now on Secret Stash, and Knight is finally being showered with all the attention and adulation he's long deserved. As the band warmed up for their May 3 record release show at First Avenue, Sonny Knight and the Lakers stopped by our studios to play some of their signature soul sounds and to talk with host David Campbell about their past, present, and future.

Songs performed:
"Juicy Lucy"
"When You're Gone"
"Hey Girl"

Engineer: Michael DeMark
Producer: David Campbell - 89.3 The Current (MPR)


a couple notable quotes from the program:
"Now into his sixties, Sonny Knight is a powerhouse vocalist"
"His debut album in his mid-sixities sounds like a live recording. It sounds like it was done in the moment. It has that sort of vibrancy to it, and Sonny Knight is the goods with his vocal power." - WBEZ Sound opinions


Born in Mississippi and raised in Minnesota, Sonny Knight cut his first single in 1965 with his group Little Sonny Knight & the Cymbols, when he was just 17 years old. Knight's career in music took a few detours as he spent some time in the military, settled in California for a while, and returned to Minneapolis to work with the group Haze before quitting music in the '80s and landing a job as a truck driver. Most folks would never guess Knight's back story from listening to I'm Still Here, the first album from him and his new group, the Lakers; judging from the strength of his performance and the clarity and control of his instrument, it's hard to believe this band is fronted by a man who's 65 years old. the Lakers are comprised of younger soul fans who kick up an impressive amount of rhythm behind Knight, ranging from cool, Northern Soul tracks like the title tune to raucous dance numbers like "Do the Caveman" and tough proto-funk like "I'm Through with You," with drummer Eric Foss and horn men Tony Beaderstadt, Bryan "Lumpy" Highhill, and Cole Pulice more than earning their keep on these sessions. But Knight is clearly the star of this show, and he certainly deserves the spotlight; he not only has a great voice, he works well with a band, and he's an outstanding performer who brings these songs to life with plenty of joyous ferocity, whether he's encouraging the crowd to boogie on "Get Up and Dance" or delivering the streetwise anti-addiction message of Rodriguez's "Sugar Man." Sounding like it was recorded in a sweaty club on a Saturday night, I'm Still Here demonstrates Sonny Knight is one of the best and most powerful vocalists to emerge on the retro-soul scene, and this is old-school R&B that grooves hard and sweet. Whatever Sonny Knight is doing, it's working well for him, and this album is a treat for fans of classic R&B sounds.

(4 stars) - All Music


[Do It Live] provides ample evidence of Knight's aptitude for vocalizing and showmanship; behind him the Lakers are tight and relentless sonic machine. - The Vinyl District


...some of the best and funkiest tunes outside of Motown thanks to the Twin Cities' premier crooner and his badass backing band... - Thrillist


...an impeccable album filled with soulful gems on par with anything Charles Bradley or Sharon Jones have ever done...

Perhaps the best part of the retro soul movement lies less in the new bands reviving vintage soul but rather in the revelation that some of these old-school soul singers are far from gone. A few, like Sharon Jones and Charles Bradley, have shown they have more than enough in the tank to put out some fresh songs and ligitimize a whole new generation of retro-soul bands and artists. Minneapolis' Secret Stash Records, is the latest to "discover" a buried gem in Sonny Knight... And on April 29th, 2014, some nearly 50 years after recording his first single, they debuted the first album from Sonny Knight & The Lakers, I’m Still Here. For Sonny Knight, the story started in '65 when he recorded his first 45 (as Little Sonny Knight & The Cymbols) in 1965 at the tender age of 17. Shortly thereafter, music took a back seat to a three-year stint in the army. A few more years in the Bay Area followed, before he returned to Minnesota in the mid-1970s and joined the now-cult favorite funk group Haze. By the early ‘80s, Haze had broken up and Sonny walked away from music for a full time job as a truck driver. In the meantime, that lone 7” record he cut as a teenager (“Tears On My Pillow” B/W “Rain Dance”) become a digger's delight, the rare single that is even more precious for its scarcity, and an ace up the sleeve for DJ's whose style is defined by obscure funk relics such as these. In the 1990s, vocalists Monroe Wright and Maurice Young (formerly of Minneapolis soul legends the Valdons) extended him an invitation to join their new group, The Bachelors. When the Valdons were revived in 2012 in celebration of Secret Stash Records’ Twin Cities Funk & Soul compilation, Wright and Young tapped Knight as a new member. After six months of working together on shows promoting Twin Cities Funk & Soul, Sonny and Secret Stash founder / in-house funky drummer Eric Foss went on to form Sonny Knight and The Lakers. The Lakers is a fitting name for a band capturing essential sounds that were thought to be forgotten as the NBA's Lakers had their start in the Land of Lakes; Sonny's re-birth as soul singer is a fulfillment of forgotten dreams and an impecccable album filled with soulful gems on par with anything Charles Bradley or Sharon Jones have ever done. It's out now, and if you're a fan of vintage soul, I wouldn't pass on this one. Grade: A- - See more at: http://www.radiomilwaukee.org/dont-sleep/move-over-charles-bradley-theres-new-old-soul-slinger-sonny-knight-and-lakers#sthash.YAFfTHln.dpuf - Radio Milwaukee


Sonny Knight & the Lakers' new album I'm Still Here on the Secret Stash label proves to groove! - KCRW


Discography

"Hey Girl" B/W "Sugar Man" 45 RPM single on Secret Stash Records (November, 2013)

"I'm Still Here" LP/CD (April, 2014)

"I'm Still Here" LP/CD -Europe (Sept, 2014)

"Do It Live" CD (June, 2015)

Photos

Bio

On April 29th, 2014, the debut album from Sonny Knight & The Lakers, I’m Still Here, was released in the US by Secret Stash Records on LP, CD, and digitally. For Knight, the making of his debut album nearly 50 years after recording his first single has effectively pushed the reset button on a long and interrupted career.  He and his new backing band, the Lakers, recorded I’m Still Here in a subterranean Minneapolis studio a scant seven blocks away from the basement studio beneath a long shuttered record store where he recorded his first 45 (as Little Sonny Knight & The Cymbols) in 1965 at age 17. 

 

Shortly thereafter, music took a back seat to a three-year stint in the army. A few more years in the Bay Area followed, before he returned to Minnesota in the mid-1970s and joined the now-cult favorite funk group Haze. By the early ‘80s, Haze had broken up and Sonny walked away from music for a full time job as a truck driver.

 

Unbeknownst to Sonny, that lone 7” record he cut as a teenager (“Tears On My Pillow” B/W “Rain Dance”) had become a prized item in R&B collector circles in the ensuing decades and his powerful voice had not been forgotten. In the 1990s, vocalists Monroe Wright and Maurice Young, formerly of Minneapolis soul legends the Valdons, extended him an invitation to join their new group, The Bachelors. When the Valdons were revived in 2012 in celebration of Secret Stash Records’ Twin Cities Funk & Soul compilation, Wright and Young tapped Knight as a new member.

 

After six months of working together on shows promoting Twin Cities Funk & Soul, Sonny and Secret Stash founder / in-house funky drummer Eric Foss formed Sonny Knight and The Lakers. They hit the ground running in the spring of 2013, playing gigs just a few weeks after their first rehearsal. In the fall, Sonny and the guys spent a long weekend at a cabin in Northern Minnesota and it became a defining moment. Staying up late, listening to old 45s, learning gospel songs, and wood shedding tunes was a way for the band to develop a similar vocabulary and refine their direction. When they returned home, they set up a string of performances and residencies in Minneapolis and St. Paul. By the end of their residency at the Eagles club in South Minneapolis in late 2013, they had crafted a seamless high energy show reminiscent of the great soul revue shows of the 1960s. Immediately following the Eagle’s club residency the group hit the studio to record I’m Still Here

 

Recorded live in one room straight to tape, the album covers a wide range of tempos and soul forms ranging from upbeat booglaoos to beautiful ballads. Since the Lakers formation was spearheaded by a reissue label focused on obscure music, the record encompasses more than just Motown and Stax inspired sounds. Sonny’s exuberance and energy enforced by the hard-soul grooves of the Lakers are what grab the listener. 

 

Days after the April 29th release of I’m Still Here Sonny and company packed Minneapolis’ legendary First Avenue night club for their release party.  The following months saw the guys playing club dates and festivals throughout the Midwest.  In mid-September they embarked on a tour of Spain, France, Belgium, and The Netherlands in Support of the September 22nd European release of I’m Still Here (again, via Secret Stash Records).  Three days after their return to the states they loaded into their converted shuttle bus and headed out for a tour of the East Coast. 

 

After the East Coast tour Sonny And The Lakers will return to a steady flow of regional runs which will include headlining Radio Milwaukee’s Annual Halloween Party at Turner Hall.  The holiday season will see the band retreating once again to the woodshed.  Before the year’s end the group will finish a new album slated for release in late April, 2015. 

 

Nearly 50 years have passed since his first recording, but for the first time he’s gaining international attention as the center of attention. He says, “Sometimes I wonder, why me? Why are all these great things happening now? All I can say is thanks. These are dreams that I had forgotten. Only now that they are starting to come true do I remember that I had them at all.”

Band Members