Crass, outrageous, unpredictable, Terry Knight was all showbiz. Before being stabbed to death in 2004, he had worked with everyone from ? and the Mysterians to Ed McMahon. If he's remembered for anything, it's for his involvement with early-'70s arena rockers Grand Funk Railroad. But, as Barry Stoller reveals in his biography "I (Who Have Nothing): The Terry Knight Story," Knight had a surprisingly diverse portfolio in the '60s - dj, singer, songwriter, producer, record company exec, in styles from raungy garage punk ("Comin' on Back To Me" is a classic "Nuggets"-style rocker) to shmoove EZ-listening. And it's almost all out-of-print. Today's guest post tells the tale of Knight's brief production/A&R career at Cameo-Parkway. Take it away, Barry!
Knight never intended "I (Who Have Nothing)," his breakout national hit
with the Pack and his first foray into lounge music, as a 45. The
decision rested with Neil Bogart, president of Cameo-Parkway, the
company which distributed Terry Knight &The Pack's locally-produced garage records. When
the tune hit, Knight immediately seized his chance and submitted to the
influence of C-P (and Richard Rome, C-P staff arranger, who produced the
"Comin' Back To Me" (by the Alabama garage band, Rites of Spring) was
Knight's first production duty with C-P (and his second ever with a
group other than his own). Essentially, he 'saved' the Rites of Spring's
failed 45 attempt, initially a demo, by supervising the re-recording of
the vocals which featured new lyrics. The tune, released while "I (Who
Have Nothing)" was still on the charts, bombed.
"If Love Is" was a vanity project for 'Dandy' Dan Daniel, a DJ at New
York's influential WMCA-AM. On this, Daniel's third C-P 45, 'Dandy' Dan
emotes Rod McKuenesque poetry over a backing track originally intended
as a Knight solo session. The music was written by Knight with
assistance from Rome; the lyrics are probably Knight's. The backing
track was recycled on a subsidiary C-P easy-listening album by the
International Pop Orchestra. Summer 1967, one of the last C-P releases.
Knight composed "The Incident Theme" on the set of the movie (which is a
malignant kicker) shortly after C-P folded in a flurry of lawsuits
between Allen Klein (who leveraged a buyout of the label) and Bogart
(who fled the label with several newly signed groups and producers plus
a stack of masters which surfaced in a variety of contexts). Knight was
managed by Ed McMahon at the time and McMahon had a part in the flick.
Promoted on the Tonight Show. Arrangement by Charles Fox (who did the
score for Barbarella shortly after). November 1967.
After The Incident bombed, Knight and McMahon went separate ways. Knight
was without a recording or production contract until early 1969. The
rest is heavy metal history.
- Barry Stoller