In person, Sonny Knight defies his 65 years of age, with a smile and gestures that radiate youthful energy. Nearly fifty years after releasing his first recording, Mr. Knight remains a popular performer with a versatile repertoire, and a talented band supporting his exuberant, energetic vocals. Saratoga Performing Arts Center welcomes Sonny Knight & The Lakers to perform on Sunday, June 28, 2015 at the 38th annual Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival.
Mr. Knight was born in Jackson, Mississippi in 1948, moved to St. Paul as a youngster, and took to music. Little Sonny Knight & The Cymbals recorded their debut 45 for New Teenage Records in 1965, when he was 17. After a three-year stint in the Army, Sonny continued performing in the Bay Area for a time before returning to Minnesota in the mid-1970s and joining the band Haze. Musical opportunities dried up in the 1980s, during which Sonny worked full time as a truck driver, but came again in the 1990s when former Valdons vocalists Monroe Wright and Maurice Young extended an invitation to join their new group, The Bachelors. The Valdons were featured on the 2012 Secret Stash Records compilation album Twin Cities Funk and Soul, spawning multiple concerts which reunited musicians and singers from the era to perform for new generations. After six months of working together in soul revue shows, Sonny and Secret Stash's Eric Foss formed the group Sonny Knight & The Lakers.
In the spring of 2013, Sonny and The Lakers hit the ground running – playing gigs a few short weeks after their first rehearsal. A weekend stay in a Northern Minnesota cabin helped the band develop a similar vocabulary and refine its 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, virtually no breaks interrupted or slowed down their live sets. Non-stop rehearsals and live performances helped The Lakers tighten up their sound. That, coupled with the inspiration found during the cabin trip, laid the ground work for recording the group’s April 2014 debut album, I’m Still Here, covering a wide range of tempos and soul forms. The band's 2014 world tour included engagements in France, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Spain, as well as more than 50 stops across the United States.