Club Symply Fargone at Viva Bene, 144 Commercial St., Worcester, MA, US
Sonny Knight and the Lakers
On April 29, 2014, the debut album from Sonny Knight & The Lakers, I’m Still Here, will be released by Secret Stash Records on LP, CD, and digitally. In person, Sonny Knight defies his 66 years of age. When he talks, his low gravely voice betrays the roundness of his singing. His smile and gestures radiate youthful energy with the reassuring confidence of a captain or pilot; they bring a sense of ease rather than being brash. He is a natural performer, even on a cold Thursday night in Secret Stash’s basement recording studio. Standing in a rehearsal room, framed by old guitar amps, instruments, and blanket covered walls, Sonny stands up to the mic to lay down the vocal track for “I’m Still Here (Pt. 2).” Despite his drab surroundings, eyes closed, he performs for an invisible audience. His body moves in rhythm, arms jabbing like a boxer before a fight. As the horns hit, he jerks his head in time then begins delivering each line. His face physically expresses the emotion of every word and as he reaches the crescendo of the chorus, knees bent, head tilted toward the ceiling, his mouth buckles to unleash the exclamation, “I’M STILL HERE!”
In reference to “I’m Still Here,” Sonny relates, “That song is me giving my thoughts and ideas about what my life is about. People are trying to live too much in the future, or are stuck in the past. The idea is to focus on right now.” In part one of the song, he describes the worries and doubts he experienced upon returning from Vietnam. The world was a confusing place, and he discovered childhood friends had grown up and gotten in trouble. Its message is about not losing sight of yourself while getting through difficult times. Part two stresses how paramount it is to live in the present. Knight recounts, you “never know when life’s ride will come to an end. I’m still here. I know one thing’s for sure, can’t start it again. I’m still here.” For Sonny Knight, making the album I’m Still Here was like pressing the reset button on his music career. The synthesizers of the 1980s and the four on the floor disco flourishes of the 1970’s have been replaced by classic arrangements and production values commonplace when his career was just beginning.
He was born in Jackson, Mississippi in 1948, moved to St. Paul as a youngster, and took to music. Little Sonny Knight & The Cymbols recorded their debut 45 for New Teenage Records in 1965, when he was 17. Then music took a backseat to a three year call of duty in the army. A few more years in the Bay Area followed before Sonny returned to Minnesota in the mid-1970s and joined the band Haze. Like many other groups, opportunities dried up in the 1980s and Sonny found a full time job as a truck driver. Musical work came again in the 1990s when former Valdons vocalists Monroe Wright and Maurice Young extended an invitation to join their new group, The Bachelors. In 2012, The Valdons were featured in Secret Stash Records’ compilation Twin Cities Funk & Soul. The record spawned multiple concerts which reunited musicians and singers from the era to perform for new generations; it also revived The Valdons, for which Wright and Young tapped Knight as a new member. After six months of working together in soul revue shows, Sonny and Secret Stash’s Eric Foss formed the group Sonny Knight & The Lakers.