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. After 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.