Soldier turned showman.
Sonny Knight is a man on a mission: He wants you to know he's alive and kickin' at age 66. When the singer and his band, the Lakers, perform at the Frequency on Nov. 8, they won't hold back even a drop of sweat. With raw emotion coming from voices and instruments alike, this group are the musical definition of living in the moment.
"It's show time. All the ills and pains and whatever may be bugging you before it's show time have to cease," Knight says. "I've been fortunate to have the energy to go up and sing and bounce off the walls."
Sonny Knight & the Lakers released their debut album, I'm Still Here, earlier this year. The project grew out of Knight's contributions to a Secret Stash Records compilation. With the new release, Knight is finally realizing his musical dreams after numerous detours.
The album's title holds lots of personal meaning for Knight.
"[The title] means that it's a blessing I'm still here to do the things I like to do musically," he says. "I've reached an age of maturity... I respect life more. To still be able to sing means a lot to me."
Knight's love of music has taken him around the world. He was born in Mississippi and later moved to Minnesota. Along the way, he played in bands and drove a truck to make ends meet.
"To move up here broadened my sense of life around me and things I could do," he says, noting how different race relations were in the North and the South.
He got his first glimpse of fame at 17, when he and his band, the Cymbals, released a 45 on New Teenage Records. When that project didn't take off, he joined the military for three years. But he didn't forget about music.
Knight embraces a variety of musical styles, including R&B, country-western, gospel and pop. He shifts from one to the next spontaneously, settling on what feels good to him at the moment. I'm Still Here has a '60s soul feel.
Though Knight takes center stage, he's quick to point out the talent of his band, especially that of Eric Foss, who also owns Secret Stash.
"Being with the Lakers and Eric, they pushed [the music] to another height [by] finding different things to bring out," he says. "It takes all of us to make it work."
I'm Still Here is shaping up to be a commercial success, but Knight's not taking that for granted.
"You have your ups and downs, and sometimes it makes you want to scream and holler and cry and shout. But you have to stay grounded. With the attention happening to me right now, I'm grateful... I'm doing what I'm supposed to do."