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Thomas Baker Knight Jr. (July 4, 1933 – October 12, 2005) was an American songwriter and musician. He fronted Baker Knight and the Knightmares, who recorded "Bring My Cadillac Back". His songs have been recorded by Ricky Nelson, Paul McCartney, Dean Martin, Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Perry Como, Mickey Gilley, Sammy Davis Jr. and Jerry Lee Lewis.
Life and career
He was born in Birmingham, Alabama, to Thomas Baker Knight Sr. and his wife Mary (Obear) Knight. His father died in 1939 at the age of 32, and because of his mother's poor health Knight was raised mainly by relatives. He learned to play guitar while serving in the Air Force, and after his discharge entered the University of Alabama, where he wrote music in his spare time. In 1956 he founded a rockabilly group, Baker Knight and the Knightmares. Their debut single, "Bop Boogie to the Blues", was released on Kit Records that year. The next release, "Bring My Cadillac Back", was a local hit and was picked up for national distribution by Decca Records, but radio stations refused to play it as it served as unpaid advertising for Cadillac cars. Decca held on to Knight and had him release three solo records featuring arrangements by Ray Ellis: "Reelin' and Rockin' (Bippin' and Boppin' Over You)", "Just a Little Bit More", and "Love-A, Love-A, Love-A". None sold well, and Decca dropped his contract soon afterwards.
Knight moved to Hollywood in 1958 in hopes of pursuing a career in acting, but was unsuccessful. He became friends with Eddie Cochran and Cochran's girlfriend, songwriter Sharon Sheeley, who had written "Poor Little Fool" for Ricky Nelson, and who helped him find work as a songwriter. Knight wrote "Lonesome Town", which became a hit for Nelson in 1958, as did the B-side, Knight's "I Got a Feeling". Nelson continued to record Knight's songs, many of which became hits, including "Never Be Anyone Else But You" , "Sweeter Than You", and "I Wanna Be Loved". However, he refused to let Nelson record his tune "Just Relax", which he instead released it himself as a solo single in 1959, with Cochran on guitar, for Coral Records. Neither this nor the next, "Pretty Little Girl", sold well and Coral dropped his contract.
Knight then wrote "The Wonder of You" for Perry Como, but Ray Peterson recorded it instead at the behest of Como's arranger Dick Pierce, and the song became a hit in both the U.S. and UK. Elvis Presley later recorded it with even greater success. Knight continued to record solo with RCA, Chess, Reprise, and Challenge, but never with much luck. He pursued his movie career, but he only appeared on screen once, in the 1966 B-movie, Swamp Country. He had a small part as a strolling minstrel and sang several of his own songs.
In 1966, Dean Martin picked up "Somewhere There's a Someone", one of eleven of Knight's songs he would cover. Frank Sinatra recorded a handful of Knight tunes, including "Anytime at All". Knight also wrote psychedelic music for the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band in the late 1960s.
Knight turned to country music in the 1970s, writing songs for Ernest Ashworth, Hank Williams, Jr., Jerry Lee Lewis, Dave & Sugar, and Mickey Gilley, whose No. 1 hit "Don't the Girls All Get Prettier at Closing Time" won Knight the Academy of Country Music's Song of the Year in 1976. Knight's last solo release was "If Only", on Warner Bros. in 1977.
In 1985, Knight returned to Birmingham, suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome and agoraphobia, and his output decreased considerably. In the 1990s he set up his own home studio and self-released several solo albums through his website, including The Way I Hear It, Music Is My Woman, and Music for Romantic Dreamers, the last one all instrumental. Knight published a memoir entitled A Piece of the Big-Time just before his death.
Thomas Baker Knight Jr. died peacefully from natural causes at his home in Birmingham, Alabama, in 2005 at the age of 72. He was survived by his daughter, singer-actress Tuesday Knight, and his son, Dr. Thomas Baker Knight III.
|1956||"Bob Boogie To The Blues" / "Little Heart"||Kit Records|
|"Bring My Cadillac Back" / "I Cried"||Kit Records|
|"Bring My Cadillac Back" / "I Cried"||Decca|
|1957||"Reelin’ and Rockin’" / "When The World Gets Around"||Decca|
|"Just A Little Bit More" / "The Value Of Love"||Decca|
|"Love-A-Love-A-Love-A" / "High School Days"||Decca|
|1958||"Ain't Nothin' But Love" / "My Heart Cries for You"||Jubilee|
|"I Never Get To Kiss You Anymore" / "Wishing"||Jubilee|
|1959||"Just Relax" / "Takin’ A Chance"||Coral|
|"Pretty Little Girl" / "Tag Along Blues"||Coral|
|1960||"I Can Tell" / "The Beginning Of The End"||RCA|
|1961||"Dum Dum Diggley Dum" / "Any Time At All"||RCA|
|"Peek-A-Boo" / "Theme From The Devil’s Island"||Chess|
|1962||"Whose Little Baby Are You?" / "Bring It On Home To Me"||Kit Records|
|"Hungry For Love" / "House Next Door"||Checker|
|1963||"Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me" / "My Memories Of You"||Challenge|
|"Big City Girls" / "Look In The Mirror"||Everest|
|1964||"Surrender To Me" / "When Somebody Mentions Your Name"||Challenge|
|"Apple Daddy" / "Good Evening Mr. Heartache"||Challenge|
|1965||"Girl Like That" / "Hello Mama"||Challenge|
|"I’m The Wolf Man" / "Sit and Dance" (als "Round Robin")||Domain Records|
|1966||"Man With A Plan" / "I Woke Up On The Wrong Side Of The World"||Reprise|
|"It Goes Deeper Than That" / "From A Distance"||Reprise|
|"Would You Believe It" / "Tomorrows Good Time Girl"||Reprise|
|"Would You Believe It" / "Tomorrows Good Time Girl" (UK-Veröffentlichung)||Reprise|
|"I Want What You Got" / "Sorry ‘Bout That"||Reprise|
|1967||"I Feel Sick About The Whole Thing" / "Hallucinatuions"||Reprise|
|"Things Are Looking Good" / "Stick-To-It-Ivity"||Reprise|
|1968||"Verge Of Success" / "Are You Satisfied Now?"||Reprise|
|1970||"Lady Hamilton" / "Man Who Never Made It"||Happy Tiger|
|1975||"A Legend On The Stage" / "A Legend On The Stage"||unknown|
|1977||"If Only" / "Physical Thing"||Warner Bros.|