His father died in 1939 at the age of 32 and, because of his mother's poor health, he was raised mainly by relatives. He learned guitar whilst serving in the USAF and after discharge entered the University of Alabama, where he wrote music in his spare time. In 1956 he founded the rockabilly group, Baker Knight and the Knightmares. Their debut single, "Bop Boogie to the Blues", was released on Kit Records that year.
The next release, "Bring My Cadillac Back", was a local hit and was picked up for national distribution by Decca Records, but radio stations were reluctant to play it was considered free advertising for Cadillac cars. Decca held on to Knight and had him release three solo records featuring arrangements by Ray Ellis: "Reelin' and Rockin' (Bippin' and Boppin' Over You)", "Just a Little Bit More", and "Love-A, Love-A, Love-A". None sold well, and Decca dropped his contract soon afterwards. Knight moved to Hollywood in 1958, hoping to pursue a career in acting, but was unsuccessful. He became friends with Eddie Cochran and Cochran's girlfriend, songwriter Sharon Sheeley, who had written "Poor Little Fool" for Ricky Nelson, and who helped him find work as a songwriter.
Knight wrote "Lonesome Town", which became a hit for Nelson in 1958, as did the B-side, Knight's "I Got a Feeling". Nelson continued to record Knight's songs, many of which became hits. However, he refused to let Nelson record his tune "Just Relax" which, instead, he released himself as a solo single in 1959, with Cochran on guitar, for Coral Records. Neither this nor the next, "Pretty Little Girl", sold well and another label dropped him. Knight then wrote "The Wonder of You" for Perry Como, but Ray Peterson recorded it instead at the behest of Como's arranger Dick Pierce, and the song became a hit in both the U.S.
and UK. Elvis Presley later recorded it with even greater success. Knight continued to record solo with RCA, Chess, Reprise, and Challenge, but never with much success. He pursued his movie career, but he only appeared on screen once, in the 1966 B-movie, Swamp Country.
He had a small part as a strolling minstrel and sang several of his own songs. In 1966, Dean Martin picked up "Somewhere There's a Someone", one of eleven of Knight's songs he would cover. Frank Sinatra recorded a handful of Knight tunes, including "Anytime at All". Knight also wrote psychedelic music for the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band in the late 1960s. Knight turned to country music in the 1970s, writing songs for Ernest Ashworth, Hank Williams, Jr., Jerry Lee Lewis, Dave & Sugar, and Mickey Gilley, whose #1 hit "Don't the Girls All Get Prettier at Closing Time" won Knight the Academy of Country Music's Song of the Year in 1976. Knight's last solo release was "If Only", on Warner Bros.
in 1977. In 1985, Knight returned home to Birmingham, suffering chronic fatigue and agoraphobia, and his output diminished considerably. In the 1990s he set up his own home studio and self-released several solo albums through his website, including The Way I Hear It, Music Is My Woman, and Music for Romantic Dreamers, the last one all instrumental. Knight published a memoir entitled A Piece of the Big-Time, just before his death. Thomas Baker Knight Jr. died peacefully from natural causes at his home in Birmingham, Alabama, in 2005 at the age of 72.
He was survived by his daughter, Tuesday Knight, and his son, Thomas Baker Knight III. Discography - Singles - Year - Title - Record Label 1956 "Bob Boogie To The Blues" / "Little Heart" Kit Records "Bring My Cadillac Back" / "I Cried" Kit Records "Bring My Cadillac Back" / "I Cried" Decca 1957 "Reelin’ and Rockin’" / "When The World Gets Around" Decca "Just A Little Bit More" / "The Value Of Love" Decca "Love-A-Love-A-Love-A" / "High School Days" Decca 1958 "Ain't Nothin' But Love" / "My Heart Cries for You" Jubilee "I Never Get To Kiss You Anymore" / "Wishing" Jubilee 1959 "Just Relax" / "Takin’ A Chance" Coral "Pretty Little Girl" / "Tag Along Blues" Coral 1960 "I Can Tell" / "The Beginning Of The End" RCA 1961 "Dum Dum Diggley Dum" / "Any Time At All" RCA "Peek-A-Boo" / "Theme From The Devil’s Island" Chess 1962 "Whose Little Baby Are You?" / "Bring It On Home To Me" Kit Records "Hungry For Love" / "House Next Door" Checker 1963 "Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me" / "My Memories Of You" Challenge "Big City Girls" / "Look In The Mirror" Everest 1964 "Surrender To Me" / "When Somebody Mentions Your Name" Challenge "Apple Daddy" / "Good Evening Mr. Heartache" Challenge 1965 "Girl Like That" / "Hello Mama" Challenge "I’m The Wolf Man" / "Sit and Dance" (als "Round Robin") Domain Records 1966 "Man With A Plan" / "I Woke Up On The Wrong Side Of The World" Reprise "It Goes Deeper Than That" / "From A Distance" Reprise "Would You Believe It" / "Tomorrows Good Time Girl" Reprise "Would You Believe It" / "Tomorrows Good Time Girl" (UK-Veröffentlichung) Reprise "I Want What You Got" / "Sorry ‘Bout That" Reprise 1967 "I Feel Sick About The Whole Thing" / "Hallucinatuions" Reprise "Things Are Looking Good" / "Stick-To-It-Ivity" Reprise 1968 "Verge Of Success" / "Are You Satisfied Now?" Reprise 1970 "Lady Hamilton" / "Man Who Never Made It" Happy Tiger 1975 "A Legend On The Stage" / "A Legend On The Stage" unknown 1977 "If Only" / "Physical Thing" Warner Bros. A personal obituary follows: Baker Knight at Allmusic Some that you might remember: Ricky Nelson............Lonesome Town Dean Martin.............Somewhere there's a Someone Elvis Presly............The Wonder of You Perry Como..............Sweet Adorable You I was proud to call Baker my friend for many years and his death in 2005 was a shock even though I knew he had been in poor health for time. Miss you Thomas. Posted by MusicalIrish May 2008. Read more on Last.fm.
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