Curtis Knight (real name Curtis McNear aka Curtis McNair)1 was already a music business veteran when he met Jimi Hendrix. Since Curtis used at least three different names during his career a lot of the recordings he made are less than well known. Here are the ones I currently know about, there might well be more.
The group consisted of servicemen from the Tachikawa US Air Force Base in Japan and performed in 1955-1956 in and around Tokyo. The line-up of the band was Curtis McNair (vocals), Eddie Jones (vocals), Buddy Holt (vocals), Lee Ivory (vocals), Lester Culver (vocals), Bill Homans (guitar). See this YouTube channel for 7 songs by the group (recorded by Japanese radio?): www.youtube.com/user/anniehomans/videos
According to Kathy Knight-McConnell Curtis Knight also sang with the Love Notes.2 There could have been a misunderstanding here as according to Marv Golberg 5 Buddy Holt of The Statesmen was an ex-member of the Love Notes, the Statesmen in turn was a group that Curtis WAS a member of and they also performed Love Notes material.
Between 1957-1960 Curtis recorded as a member of the The Titans. The band appeared in the 1957 film "Bop Girl Goes Calypso", a clip from this film with the band performing "So Hard To Laugh, So Easy To Cry" is available on YouTube (in the film Curtis Knight is 2nd from the right).
The following Titans discography has mostly been taken from the website
"MARV GOLDBERG'S R&B NOTEBOOKS".
The discography notes the lead vocalist on each track as follows:
CW = Charles Wright
CM = Curtis McNair (aka Curtis McNear aka Curtis Knight)
SB = Sam Barnett
LG = Larry Greene
DD = The Titans, backing Don & Dewey
Vita Records, 1484 N Fair Oaks Avenue, Pasadena, California
Specialty Records, Inc., 8508 Sunset Boulevard, Hollywood, California
Fidelity Records (note that Fidelity was another label owned by Speciality owner Art Rupe)
"So Hard To Laugh, So Easy To Cry (CW) / Rhythm And Blues (CM)"
(Vita Records 148) released January 1957
"G'wan Home Calypso (CM) / Look What You're Doing Baby (CM)"
(Vita Records 158) released April 1957
"Sweet Peach (CM) / Free And Easy (SB)"
(Specialty 614) released October 1957
"Just A Little Lovin' (DD) / When The Sun Has Begun To Shine (DD)"
Don And Dewey (with the Titans backing)
(Specialty 617) released November 1957
"Don't You Just Know It (SB/LG) / Can It Be (CM)"
(Specialty 625) released January 1958
"Arlene (SB) / Love Is A Wonderful Thing (SB)"
(Specialty 632) released April 1958
The Titans - unreleased Specialty session:
"April In Paris"
"I Swear By All The Stars"
"No Time (CM) / The Tootin' Tutor (ALL)
(Class 244) released January 1959
Listen to "No Time" on YouTube
Listen to "The Tootin` Tutor" on YouTube
"Everybody Happy (CM) / What Have I Done (CW)"
(Fidelity Records 3016) released January 1960
The Titans with Roy and Sonny: "Lonesome Mood (??) / Blues For Dee (??)"
(World Pacific Records X-818) released 1960
"Roy and Sonny" are Roy Porter on drums and Sonny Kenner on guitar, the band also features Bob West on bass and Joe Sample on piano. 14
Listen to "Lonesome Mood" on YouTube.
Library Of Congress copyright registration for the B-side 11:
BLUES FOR DEE; w Curtis McNear, m
Clarence M. Kenner. © Har-Bock Music
Publ.; 5May60; EU623546.
Thank you Marv Goldberg for the label scans.
Charles Fuqua's The Ink Spots
Circa 1960-62 Curtis was a member of the Ink Spots (calling himself Curtis McNair). This line-up of the group apparently released only one 45:
"Careless Love / Hawaiian Wedding Song"
7" (Ford Records 115) released 196?
It's not possible (at least not for me) to tell Knight's vocal apart from the others but he does appear in publicity pictures so he definitely did sing in the group at some point. Hear "Hawaiian Wedding Song" & see a slide show of promo pictures on YouTube.
Solo (with Sampson Horton)
Curtis released 4 solo singles co-written by Sampson Horton (who is also credited with producing two of the records) and co-wrote at least one track with Horton for other artists.
Curtis Knight: "Baby That's Where It's At / You Don't Have To Tell Me"
Band Direction Of Sampson Horton, Vocal by Curtis Knight
7" (Horton Records 45-0001) released 19??
This may be the earliest Curtis Knight "solo" recording released, amazingly I had no idea it even existed until Dave Jones kindly supplied me with a copy in February 2015. One online discography lists the release date as 1963 but I haven't found anything to back that up. The label name & catalog number suggest that this was the first release on a label launched by Sampson Horton and possibly the only one since I haven't found any other releases.
So the only source of information that I have at the moment is the record itself. The composer credit is for "McNear". Curtis McNear was the name that Curtis used prior to taking the stage name Curtis Knight so this disc with the composing credited to Curtis McNear and a "vocal by Curtis Knight" might be the first "Curtis Knight" -record and perhaps predates the other singles done with Sampson Horton (which have no "McNear" -credits)?
Curtis Knight: "Voodoo Woman / That's Why"
7" (Gulf 45-031) released August 1961
"Voodoo Woman" was reviewed in Billboard magazine August 28, 1961 issue: "Blues-oriented and folkish is this novelty. Chanter sings the lyric with extreme voice breaks and gimmicks." It also shows up as a first entry at 65. on the 22 August 1961 survey of New York radio station WABC.
Listen to "Voodoo Woman" on YouTube.
Listen to "That's Why" on YouTube.
Library Of Congress copyright registrations for the tracks 6:
VOODOO WOMAN; w & m Sampson Horton &
Curtis Knight. © Saxon Music Corp.;
THAT'S WHY; w & m Sampson Horton &
Curtis Knight. © Saxon Music Corp.;
Bobby Keene: "Angel Or Devil / Gotta Go To School"
Vocal With Chorus And Orchestra Directed by Henry Jerome
7" (Coral 62290) released in late September / early October 1961
Listen to "Angel Or Devil" on YouTube.
Curtis Knight co-wrote the B-side. Reviewed in Billboard issue 9 October 1961 as having "moderate sales potential" 12. Library Of Congress copyright registration for the B-side 7:
GOTTA GO TO SCHOOL; w & m Curtis
Knight, Gregory Carroll & Sampson
Horton. © Emorey Music Corp.;
Curtis Knight: "You're Gonna Be Sorry / Little Doe-Doe"
7" (Shell 45-310) released February 1962
"You're Gonna Be Sorry" was reviewed in Billboard magazine February 24, 1962 issue: "Fervid chanting by Curtis Knight and femme group on feelingful gospel-flavored theme with fast-moving tempo"
Listen to "You're Gonna Be Sorry" on YouTube
Listen to "Little Doe-Doe" on YouTube
Library Of Congress copyright registrations for the tracks 8:
YOU'RE GONNA BE SORRY; w & m Sampson
Horton & Curtis Knight. © Saxon Music Corp.;
LITTLE DOE DOE; (Little Doe-Doe), w & m
Sampson Horton & Curtis Knight.
© Saxon Music Corp.; 30Jan62;
Curtis Knight: "Gotta Have A New Dress / When You've Got Love"
7" (Shell 45-312) released October 1962
Listed under "Reviews of New Singles" in Billboard magazine October 27, 1962 issue. Later re-recorded with the Squires including Hendrix on guitar.
Listen to "Gotta Have A New Dress" on YouTube.
Listen to "When You've Got Love" on YouTube.
Library Of Congress copyright registrations for the tracks 8:
GOTTA HAVE A NEW DRESS; w & m Sampson
Horton & Curtis Knight. © Saxon Music
Corp.; 30Jan62; EU704774.
WHEN YOU'VE GOT LOVE; w & m Sampson
Horton & Curtis Knight. © Saxon
Music Corp.; 12Mar62; EU710199.
All four of these solo singles were co-written and the last two also produced by Sampson Horton, any information about him would be most welcome.
Curtis doesn't seem to have recorded anything between 1963-1964. It is of course possible (and even likely) that the information just hasn't popped up yet or that Curtis was a member of an unknown band during this time.
Solo (on RSVP Records)
Sometime in late 1964 / early 1965 Curtis Knight got a record deal with RSVP in New York:
"Ain't Gonna Be No Next Time / More Love"
(RSVP 1111) released April 1965
Listed in Billboard magazine April 17, 1965 issue under "SPOTLIGHT WINNERS OF THE WEEK". The producing credits for this 45 go to Harold Thomas and Peter Orna (once again any info on these two gentlemen would be appreciated).
After the first RSVP single was released Knight seems to have changed management again, this time hooking up with Ed Chalpin and his company PPX Enterprises sometime in late 1965.
Jimi Hendrix was introduced to Curtis Knight in the lobby of the America Hotel in New York. According to Hendrix himself he recorded "How Would You Feel" with Knight the next day, so this would date the meeting to have taken place on the 5th of October. Several studio sessions and live gigs followed until mid 1966 when Hendrix started his own group the Blueflame. The following two singles feature Hendrix on guitar, for details about the Hendrix & Curtis Knight -recordings see other sections of this site.
"How Would You Feel / Welcome Home"
(RSVP 1120) released April 1966
"Hornet's Nest / Knock Yourself Out"
As Curtis Knight & the Squires
(RSVP 1124) released 1966
After Hendrix reached fame with the Jimi Hendrix Experience Ed Chalpin sued Reprise Records and Polydor / Track Record for breach of contract, since Hendrix was legally still under an exclusive contract to Ed Chalpin. While the court process was still in progress Jimi (for reasons never properly explained) again recorded for Ed Chalpin in July & August 1967, working on Knight songs and participating in a jam session. Ed Chalpin later won the right to release all the studio recordings (the live recordings are a more complex case) featuring Hendrix, and he has been licencing these tapes to hundreds of companies over the last 30 years, creating the most confusing jungle of different mixes and edits of the material imaginable.
SOLO (POST HENDRIX)
Curtis Knight - "Fancy Meeting You Here / Love In" (RCA 1888) released 14 November 1969 USA 4
Curtis Knight - "Down In The Village / No Point Of View" (RCA 1950) released 1 May 1970 USA 3
Curtis Knight - "Down In The Village / High And Low" (Polydor 2050 030) released 1970 The Netherlands
Curtis Knight - "Down In the Village" (Paramount PAS 5023) - LP released 1970 USA
Curtis Knight - "Down In the Village" (Stateside C 062-92378) - LP released 1970 France
Curtis Knight - "Down In the Village" (Polydor 2441 009) - LP released 1970 The Netherlands
Some of these solo Curtis Knight releases were put out by Polydor who were also Jimi's label at the time!
Special thanks for info on all things Curtis Knight go to Nate Edmonds Jr., Doug Bell, Univibes and Jimpress.
1 postings by Kathy Knight-McConnell at snow-day.blogspot.com and www.myspace.com/memoriesofcurtisknight : "Curtis was born Mont Curtis McNear but changed his singing name to Curtis McNair early on (after his cousin Barbara McNair). When he left the service he changed his stage name to Curtis Knight, although in his very early years he used Curtis McNear."
2 postings by Kathy Knight-McConnell at snow-day.blogspot.com and www.myspace.com/memoriesofcurtisknight : "Curtis Knight sang with the Ink Spots, the Titans, the Love Notes and others"
3 A promotional 45 of Down In The Village was stamped "1 May 1970", unknown who stamped this and when but likely to have been done by the label before sending the discs out
4 A promotional 45 of Fancy Meeting You Here was stamped "14 November 1969", unknown who stamped this and when but likely to have been done by the label before sending the discs out
6 Library of Congress Copyright Office
7 Library of Congress Copyright Office
8 Library of Congress Copyright Office
Catalog of Copyright Entries 1962 Music Jan-June 3D Ser Vol 16 Pt 5
9 Library of Congress Copyright Office
Catalog of Copyright Entries 1965 Music Jan-June 3D Ser Vol 19 Pt 5
10 Library of Congress Copyright Office
Catalog of Copyright Entries 1965 Music July-Dec 3D Ser Vol 19 Pt 5
11 Library of Congress Copyright Office
Catalog of Copyright Entries 1960 Music Jan-June 3D Ser Vol 14 Pt 5
12 Review in Billboard issue 9 October 1961
13 Scans of the single label at www.45cat.com/record/62290
14 YouTube clip of the single A-side posted by user "OfficeNaps", the description lists the personnel: ""Lonesome Mood"'s massive groove is orchestrated by Porter, with support from Sonny Kenner (guitar), Bob West (bass) and Joe Sample (piano). And the striking unison vocal lead and jazzy harmonies come courtesy of Titans Larry Green and Curtis McNear (who would later record as Curtis Knight); I believe Porter is also contributing to the vocals."