Record Label: Secret Stash Records
For Sonny Knight, the making of his debut album nearly 50 years after releasing his first single has effectively pushed the reset button on a long and interrupted career, bringing it around full circle musically and geographically. He and his new backing band, the Lakers, recorded I’m Still Here in a subterranean Minneapolis studio a scant seven blocks away from the basement studio beneath a long shuttered record store where he recorded his first 45 (as Little Sonny Knight & The Cymbols) in 1965 at age 17.
Shortly thereafter, music took a back seat to a three-year stint in the army. A few more years in the Bay Area followed, before he returned to Minnesota in the mid- 1970s and joined the now-cult favorite funk group Haze. By the early ‘80s, Haze had broken up and Sonny walked away from music for a full time job as a truck driver.
Unbeknownst to Sonny, not only had that lone single he cut as a teenager (“Tears On My Pillow” B/W “Rain Dance”) become a prized item in R&B collector circles in the ensuing decades, his powerful voice had not been forgotten. In the 1990s, vocalists Monroe Wright and Maurice Young (formerly of Minneapolis soul legends the Valdons) extended him an invitation to join their new group, The Bachelors. When the Valdons were revived in 2012 in celebration of Secret Stash Records’ Twin Cities Funk & Soul compilation, Wright and Young tapped Knight as a new member.
After six months of working together on soul revues, Sonny and Secret Stash founder / in-house funky drummer Eric Foss formed Sonny Knight and The Lakers. Beginning in the spring of 2013, months of rehearsals led to a series of gigs and residencies. Then, the band spent a long weekend at a cabin in Northern Minnesota. Listening to old 45s, learning gospel songs, and woodshedding tunes paved the way for the band to develop a common musical vocabulary and refine their direction. It was a defining moment that transformed them from a group of good players into a rock-solid band.
They brought Sonny back into the studio and cut a new single, “Hey Girl B/W “ Sugarman,” that was released in November 2013. Without missing a beat, they began working on tracks for I’m Still Here in December and by the end of January the entire 11- song album was complete. Since the Lakers were spearheaded by a reissue label focused on obscure music, the band encompasses more than just Motown and Stax inspired sounds. The many hours spent digging for and listening to forgotten sixties and early seventies soul and funk records have practically oozed into the rehearsal space and studio.
I’m Still Here finds Sonny’s dynamic presence and vocal power perfectly complimented by the hard soul grooves of his seven-piece Lakers. The combination makes for a classic sound not to be missed by fans of real, organic soul music.
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Joseph Abajian (DJ Jab) founded Fat Beats in 1994 with nothing more than a shoestring budget and an earnest obsession with the music, the culture, and the brotherhood of New York’s burgeoning rap scene. What began as a simple vinyl shop in Manhattan’s Lower East Side quickly became an integral hub for artists, both aspiring and established, to convene and collaborate on new projects. Joseph’s timing couldn’t have been more impeccable. When the 90’s cultural zeitgeist – and, in turn, the music industry establishment – chose hip-hop as its new arbiter of cool.
International tourists and touring artists alike flocked to Fat Beats for rare vinyl, kindred spirits, and exclusive in-store performances from Jay Z, Eminem, Gang Starr, Outkast, Slum Village, Mos Def, and more. One thing was clear: the Fat Beats phenomenon could no longer be contained in a single basement shop.
In the late nineties, Abajian proceeded to open new stores in Amsterdam, Tokyo, Los Angeles, and Atlanta. He further expanded the company’s profile to include global distribution and record label branches. Distribution has since proven to be the company’s strongest and most enduring enterprise. Today Fat Beats Distribution stands poised as one of the country’s pre-eminent distributors of vinyl & specialty item records: a proud survivor in an industry now famous for its mortality rate. Despite market fluctuations, technology innovations, and stylistic revolutions, Fat Beats has remained steadfast in its commitment to the timeless vinyl format and to the loyal community who keeps it spinning.
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