Photos by Scott Preston
@ Taft Theatre
Tuesday, May 12th, 2015
317 East 5th Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202
8:30pm / $11 / All Ages
with The Almighty Get Down
For Sonny Knight and the Lakers, 2014 was equal parts unexpected and deserved. The creation of their debut album, I’m Still Here, nearly 50 years after a young Sonny recorded his first single, began a tidal wave of accomplishments that includes a successful international tour, critical attention from NPR’s World Café and WBEZ’s Sound Opinions, and plenty of love from their hometown of Minneapolis. Sonny Knight and the Lakers are heading to Cincinnati, Ohio for a show at Taft Theatre. The group gears up for the release of their first live album, Sonny Knight & The Lakers Do It Live (due out June, 2015), recorded straight-to-2 track tape late in late 2014. The live album will be released via Secret Stash Records and will be available in double lp and cd packages. Sonny Knight doesn’t show any signs of slowing down as he and his soul collective, The Lakers, announce tours this year in Europe, the US, and Canada and begin work on their next studio album.
These hard-soul powerhouses have quickly gained ground in their hometown, from being named one of “The Best New Minnesota Musicians of 2014” via the City Pages “Picked to Click” poll, to topping the Minneapolis Star Tribune poll “Twin Cities Critic’s Tally” as the best live act of 2014 due to their “high-energy..funk-blasting” shows. Soul connoisseurs to novice music listeners alike can find common ground in Sonny Knight and the Lakers irrefutable showmanship and exuberance on stage.
Speaking about Do It Live, Secret Stash Records Founder and Lakers’ drummer Eric Foss says, “The exciting thing about doing this live recording is that we have performed the show around the world for the last year, and it has slowly developed into something that can’t be contained in a studio recording.” Keeping with the band’s aesthetic, the label recorded the shows straight to ¼” 2 track tape, meaning it was mixed live.
The story of Sonny Knight is an unexpected narrative. While most people’s careers are wrapping up by the time they hit Sonny’s age, this 66 year old has only just begun his reinvention. Sonny recorded his first single at the age of 17, only to find his chance at success halted by a stint in the army and later, a steady, 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. The opportunity to push the reset button on a long and interrupted career arrived in the form of an invitation to join the reformed Valdons as part of Secret Stash’s Twin Cities Funk & Soul release party in late 2012.
After six months of performing to promote the compilation, Eric and Sonny decided to form Sonny Knight and the Lakers. Months of gaining ground in their hometown and touring regionally was followed by preparations for their debut record. I’m Still Here is the product of many hours of collaborative thought and crate digging for and listening to forgotten ‘60s and early ‘70s soul and funk records that clearly permeate all the album’s tracks. The album covers a wide range of tempos and soul forms ranging from upbeat booglaoos to beautiful ballads. NPR’s World Café called the album “wonderful” and noted that “it captures the singer sounding as vital as ever,” while WBEZ’s Sound Opinions proclaimed that Sonny Knight is “a vocal powerhouse.” Sonny’s exuberance and energy, supported by the hard-soul grooves of the Lakers—are what grab the listener; there’s never any doubt about what feelings he wants to convey.
Nearly 50 years have passed since his first recording, but for the first time he feels like 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.”