Marie Knight ©1999JCMarion
Marie was known originally as Madame Marie Knight, as she was making her name known in gospel music circles. She was best known for her numerous gospel duets with Sister Rosetta Tharpe in the late forties and early fifties. She was born in Brooklyn, New York in June of 1925.
In October of 1951, Marie is to record with former heavyweight boxing champ Jersey Joe Walcott. The song is one written by noted writer and arranger Leroy Kirkland. The song is titled "Have Faith" and will be released by Decca Records. That December in support of this record, Jersey Joe, Marie Knight, The Knightingales, Dolly Lewis, and Vivian Cooper embark on a national tour. In March of 1952 Decca releases #48285 - "Sit Down Servant" and "Does Jesus Care?". In May "The Church In The Wildwood" and "He's My Light" with the Anita Kerr Singers is released on #28128. In September Decca releases #28399 - "It's Worth It" and "Hold On". In December a duet with Rosetta Tharpe is issued by Decca on #28509 - "There Is A Highway To Heaven" and "I'm Bound For Higher Grounds".
In 1953 Marie Knight continues to make sporadic appearances as a gospel music performer. In January, Decca #28545 - "Jesus Walk With Me" / "Get Away Jordan" is released. In July Decca releases another duet with Rosetta Tharpe - "Let's Go On" and "Let Go His Hand" on #48301. The last release of the year for Marie Knight is another in a series of gospel duets with Rosetta Tharpe - "Shadrach" and "It's Nobody's Fault" on #48309. In January of 1954 Marie Knight records "God Spoke To Me" and "Calvary" for Decca on #48308. That April Marie Knight makes a change as she records straight ahead R & B songs "I Know Every Move You Make" and "You Got A Way Of Making Love" on Decca #48315. She continues this move with a release during July of "This Old Soul Of Mine" and "I Tell It Wherever I Go" on #48320, and a November release of "Trouble In Mind" and "What More Can I Do" on #48327.
These Rhythm & Blues tunes turned off a great many of the gospel fans of Knight, much the same reaction that many people had to Rosetta Tharpe. In March of 1955, Knight gets back together with Tharpe and Decca releases #48332 - "Stand The Storm" and "Look Away In The Heavenly Land. In May of that year Marie Knight and Rosetta Tharpe play an exciting two week stand at Chicago's Black Orchid. In October Marie is part of the lineup of the "Lucky Seven Blues Tour" along with Earl King, Little Willie John, Otis Williams & The Charms, Jack DuPree, The Royal Jokers, and Hal Singer and his band. The tour will start with a week at the New York Apollo Theater in late October and carry through into late January 1956 on the West coast. Marie will sing both gospel and R & B songs.
In late January, the Lucky Seven tour winds up at the Savoy Ballroom in L.A. Soon after the tour is over, Marie Knight signs on for another all star touring show called the Rock 'n' Roll Jubilee which kicks off at L.A.'s Shrine Auditorium. With Knight, the show also features B.B. King, Shirley Gunter, The Dreamers, Mr. Bear, The Medallions, Little Willie Littlefield, Ernie Freeman, Hal Singer, and Paul Williams & his band. In the spring, Marie follows her close friend and duet mate Rosetta Tharpe from Decca to Mercury Records. Her first release for the new label is in April and it is on the subsidiary label called Wing. The songs are "Tell Me Why" and "As Long As I Love" on #90069. The 'A' side of the record does well in New Orleans and Texas. "Tell Me Why sells enough to warrant a cover version by Gale Storm on Dot Records. In July Knight reverts to her gospel roots on the parent label Mercury with "Stand Here By Me" and "Blessed Be The Name Of The Lord". In October of 1956 Marie Knight plays the Apollo Theater in New York with The Wheels and Sugar & Spice, and the new film "Rockin' The Blues". Mercury again changes their mind and releases a straight R & B record by Knight on the main label on Mercury #70969 - "Look At Me" and "Grasshopper Baby". In march of 1957 Mercury releases "Am I Reaching For The Moon?" and "I'm The Little Fooler" on #71055.
In 1958 Knight finds herself recording for New York independent label Baton Records. In April "September Song" and "I Thought I Told You Not To Tell Them" is released on #253. In early 1959 Marie Knight is signed to the Carlton label. "I Can't Sit Down" and "Miracles" are recorded with Rex Marvin on Carlton #502. Knight does the tour of Northeastern theaters in March - the Howard in D.C., Royal in Baltimore, and Apollo in New York. None of the ensuing sides by Knight did much on the sales charts, except for a fine recording in 1961 called "Come Tomorrow", which became famous after it was covered four years later by British rockers Manfred Mann. She then faded from the scene except for her continuing allegiance to gospel emulating her sometimes partner, Rosetta Tharpe. Again, her legacy to the history of the music is providing an example of the connection from the R & B scene to the Black church in America. Her contribution should not be overlooked.
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