Born Thomas Baker Knight, Jr., 4 July 1933, Birmingham, Alabama
Died 12 October 2005, Birmingham, Alabama

Baker Knight's songwriting has overshadowed his long career as a singer of rock 'n' roll, pop and country. Born of Scots ancestry in 1933, Knight grew up in Birmingham, Alabama, where he attended high school, spent one year at the University of Alabama (after serving in the US Air Force for three years) and became a technical illustrator after a course at a local art school. He had learned to play guitar in the school orchestra, B.B. King being his first idol. In 1955 Knight formed a rock 'n' roll band, Baker Knight and the Knightmares. Soon they recorded their first single, "Bop Boogie To the Blues"/"Little Heart", for the Nashville-based Kit label, owned by Alan Bubis. A second Kit single, "Bring My Cadillac Back" (1956), sold well enough to be picked up by a major label, Decca, and might even have become a national hit, had it not been banned by many radio stations that saw the disc as a free commercial for Cadillac. Several other Decca singles followed in 1957-58, mostly with a rocking A-side, and "Love-A Love-A Love-A" attracted a British cover version by Marty Wilde. After two singles for Jubilee, Knight found himself on Coral in 1959, where he recorded two good rockers, "Just Relax" (with Eddie Cochran on lead guitar) and "Pretty Little Girl" (with Earl Palmer on drums and Rene Hall on guitar). "I Can Tell" on RCA (1960) was the last of his singles in the R&R idiom ; the majority of his many recordings (on at least 15 different labels) are in a soft-rock style. But he certainly was no slouch as a vocalist.

The lack of hit records as a singer was more than compensated by his success as a songwriter. In 1958 Knight moved to Hollywood where Ricky Nelson became the principal customer for his songs. "Lonesome Town" and "I Got A Feeling" were the first Baker Knight compositions that Ricky recorded. They were released back to back and both sides went Top 10 in late 1958. Nelson went on to record a total of 21 songs by Baker, including the hits "Never Be Anyone Else But You", "Sweeter Than You", "I Wanna Be Loved", "Mighty Good", "Right By My Side" and "You Are the Only One". Knight's best-selling song was "The Wonder Of You", rejected by Perry Como, but accepted by Ray Peterson (# 25 in 1959, also # 70 in 1964) and revived by Elvis Presley in 1970 (# 9 US, # 1 UK).

After supplying Dave Dudley with a # 3 country hit in 1963 ("Cowboy Boots"), Knight started writing more and more for the country market, his biggest success in this genre being "Don't the Girls All Get Prettier At Closing Time" by Mickey Gilley (# 1, 1976). More than 40 artists have recorded songs by Baker. The list includes Jerry Lee Lewis ("I Don't Want To Be Lonely Tonight"), Gene Vincent ("Ain't That Too Much"), Eddie Cochran ("One Minute To One"), Paul McCartney ("Lonesome Town"), Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin (11 songs), Emmylou Harris and Hank Williams Jr. Altogether, he has written over 800 songs. In 1985 Knight moved back to Birmingham where he died of natural causes on October 12, 2005, aged 72.

More info :

Baker Knight website :

Autobiography : A Piece Of the Big Time, 2005.

Acknowledgements : Stuart Coleman (Obituary, Now Dig This 272), Jason Ankeny (All Music Guide).

CD : The Baker Knight Story : Singer, Songwriter (America # 5001). Released 2006. 30 tracks, including his best rockers (Bring My Cadillac Back, Just Relax, Pretty Little Girl). The liner notes by Jason Ankeny are taken from All Music Guide.


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