Saturday, June 17, 2017
I want to share with you a couple of stories that immediately come to mind when I think about Sonny Knight.
I am not a dancer. Sure, I may be the inventor of the chop chop dance, but that is essentially a chair dance. At a concert I am big into bouncing my head and tapping my toes in time, but I will never be one to participate in a Flashdance scenario. I think it's safe to say that Shyboy Tim feels the same way as I do, but there was one time when we both not only danced, but we sang too. AND we did it all on a stage in front of a camera crew shooting a commercial! You may have heard us on the radio refer to the "Google commercial shoot" that we were a part of. The commercial sadly never made it out into the real world, but participating in the project was one of the most amazing things I've ever been apart of. Google was shooting a commercial about our "mystery record" search and how we discovered the band Haze. Part of the commercial was filmed up at First Avenue, and Haze reunited for the first time in many decades to perform. One of the songs they did was 'Are You Free?', and when the band heard Tim and I singing along in the audience they invited us up on the stage with them. That is when we found ourselves smack dab between Sonny Knight and Willie Ternoir. We all shared two microphones, and sang backup. Sonny and Willie insisted that if we were to be on the stage with them, then we had to dance as well, which we did, and it was amazing. I will never ever forget that moment, being surrounded by some of the best voices you'll ever hear and being a part of Haze. Somewhere out there in Google land this footage probably still exists, but that happy image will forever be stuck in my memory.
Flash forward several years, and Sonny Knight now has his own band and has released an amazing album on Secret Stash Records. It's the Rockbend Folk Festival in St. Peter and Sonny Knight and The Lakers are on fire. He has all of us in the crowd in the palms of his hand and he is whipping us into a frenzy. It is one of those shows that you will brag about being at our lie and say you were. That's how good Sonny Knight is, or I guess I mean was. At one point during a song he instructs the crowd that we are all going to jump up and down a specific number of times, and we do. We count our jumps out loud and cheer when we finish. He then starts picking out random members in the crowd to pick a number for us to hop to. Most folks say five or eight, but when he points to a friend and asks how many jumps should we do she yells out a ridiculous number like twenty-nine! Sonny looks incredulous, but he leads us all through it and we jump and bounce twenty-nine times to the music. It was crazy fun! After the show Tim and I are talking with Sonny who is grinning but looks exhausted. It is then that we find out that the day before he had badly sprained his ankle performing at the State Fair. He shows us his swollen ankle wrapped up in an ace bandage. We are flabbergasted! He just played for almost two hours, dancing and jumping around like a man half his age, and he did it on a gimpy leg! The show must go on, he told us, it is all about the show.
This morning Secret Stash Records shared with us the sad news that Sonny Knight lost his battle with cancer. My heart was broken. Longtime Shuffle Function listeners know the story behind the "mystery record" and the Twin Cities band Haze (if this isn't ringing any bells, please click on this link) . It was during this time that we first met Sonny Knight. He was incredibly shy and soft spoken in person, but on the stage he was a force of nature. I am so happy that our paths crossed like they did. We didn't get to see Sonny often but when we did he always had a big hug for us and he would thank us for our part in the re-discovery of Haze. When we saw Sonny playing at the record release for Secret Stash Record's Twin Cities Funk & Soul album we had no idea that we were witnessing the birth of what would become Sonny Knight and The Lakers. I don't have the words to describe how happy I was to see someone from Haze stepping out and succeeding, and especially someone as talented and amazing as Sonny. His dream came true in the end, and for the last few years of his life he was the star he'd always dreamed of being. It just shouldn't have ended so soon.
On Monday morning's Shuffle Function show Tim and I will be celebrating his music, spinning his records, and missing him madly. From 6 to 9 a.m we will be playing Haze and Sonny Knight and The Lakers. Tune in to hear this great music, and if you want to share your own stories about Sonny we would love to hear them. There are some great link and articles about Haze further back on our blog, including the City Pages article, You can find those here. The great T.D. Mischke did an interview with Sonny awhile back that I highly recommend as well. You can find that here under episode 17 Soul Singer Sonny. So hang in there Shuffle Functioneers. Monday morning is going to be tough and sad but I am glad that I've got the KMSU radio community to be there with me. If you want to email us requests or stories please feel free to reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org