Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
After graduating from high school, she began singing at her cousin's bar called Laura's Place and caught the attention of many different bands who were willing to accompany her. In 1965, she recorded a demo of a cover of Jackie Wilson's song "Stop Doggin' Me Around". Her demo attracted record producer Huey Meaux, who signed her to the Jet Star/Tribe labels. Shortly, Knight adopted the professional name of Jean Knight because she felt that "Caliste" was too hard to pronounce. She recorded four singles, making a name for herself locally, but was not able to attract any national attention. By the late sixties, it was obvious that her career was not living up to high expectations, so she went to work as a baker in the cafeteria of Loyola University.
Success at Stax
In early 1970, she was discovered by songwriter Ralph Williams who wanted her to record some songs. With Williams' connections, she came in contact with record producer Wardell Quezerque . In May of that year, she went to Malaco Studios in Jackson, MS for a recording session where she recorded "Mr. Big Stuff". After the session was finished, the song was given to several national labels who all rejected it. But when King Floyd 's hit "Groove Me" (also recorded at Malaco Studios ) became a #1 R&B hit, Stax Records remembered Knight's recording of "Mr. Big Stuff", reconsidered, and released it. The song proved to be an instant smash in 1971, reaching #2 on the pop charts and becoming a #1 R&B hit. It went double-platinum and received a Grammy nomination for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female; it lost to Aretha Franklin's hit "Bridge Over Troubled Water." The next year, Knight was named the Most Promising Female Vocalist. An album of the same name proved to be fairly successful. A couple more minor hits followed, but disagreements with her producer and Stax terminated Knight's involvement with Stax.
After leaving Stax, she recorded songs for various small labels, but was not able to gain anymore recognition. She ended up performing and touring the local oldie circuits. Things changed in 1981 when she met local producer Isaac Bolden who signed her to his Soulin' label. Together, they came up with a song entitled "You Got the Papers but I Got the Man", an answer to Betty Wright's hit "I've Got the Papers on the Man"; that song was leased to Atlantic for national release. Soon, Knight found herself touring consistently. In 1985, she gained more recognition when she covered Rockin' Sidney's zydeco novelty hit "My Toot Toot". Her version proved to be the most successful, reaching #50 on the pop charts. Knight was then given a chance to perform it on the TV variety show "Solid Gold".
Although she waited twelve years to come out with another recording, she continued touring and performing engagements all over the world, particularly in the Southern states. Often, she tours with other artists such as Donna Summer and Gloria Gaynor.
- 1971: Mr. Big Stuff
- 1985: My Toot Toot
- 1997: Shaki de Boo-Tee
- 1999: Queen
- 1997: The Very Best of Me
- 1971: "Mr. Big Stuff" (US #2)
- 1971: "You Think You're Hot Stuff" (US #57)
- 1972: "Carry On"
- 1972: "Do Me"
- 1981: "You Got the Papers but I Got the Man" (with Premium)
- 1985: "My Toot Toot" (US #50)
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