The Shadows of Knight were a group of Chicago area teenagers. Who, like most rock 'n' roll groups, were intent on becoming pop stars. Instead of creating a brand-new sound or striving for something different, their philosophy was to take popular styles of rock 'n' roll and push them to the edge.
It was at that that the band excelled. The passion and soul they pumped into their music on is still in the grooves of each record. And although they set out to be nothing more than a "typical" rock group, they made some of the most atypical records of the 1960s!Forming in late 1965, the Shadows of Knight were all friends and aquaintances, except for lead singer Jim Sohns, whom they stole from a rival group.
The group's early sounds were highly influenced by black music and by white British interpretations of black music. Venturing into hard-edged R&B, the group made two LP' for Dunwich Records within its first year (both records now available again, thanks to Sundazed Records).
Those albums are essential listening for anyone who loves the gritty early sounds of groups like the Rolling Stones and the Pretty Things. Of course, it's their version of Them's "Gloria" that shot the Shadows to the top of the American pop charts.
Their rise to fame was fast, and the pressures were very hard for the group to handle. By 1967, the group, disillusioned by its mismanagement, began to fall apart. Guitarist Jerry McGeorge went on to form the understated H.
P. Lovecraft. Both the bassist Joe Kelly and the drummer Tim Schiffour held out for more straight-ahead blues in the Joe Kelly Blues Band. Jim Sohns held on.By late 1968, Sohns was the only surviving member, legally securing the Shadows of Knight name for himself.
The "group" was then contracted with by bubblegum producers Kasenetz and Katz to record under that name for K&K's Teem Records label. Grabbing at any straw handed to him, Sohns quickly moved to New York, assembled a group of musicians, and went on to record some of the best records of the bubblegum genre.
A master at interpreting popular sounds, Sohns was able to take teen appeal and mix it with his gritty soulful voice for an unbelievable version of "Shake." Jim (under various psuedonyms) is also quite obviously the vocalist on many other soulful bubblegum songs pressed for K&K labels.
Firmly grounded in the bubblegum genre and sensing another change in popular music, Jim began to have an interest in harder rock 'n' roll sounds. His last great single is perhaps the most perfect melding of rock and bubblegum sounds: "Run, Run Billy Porter"/ "My Fire Department Needs A Fireman.
"Although Sohns continues to this day to keep the Shadows of Knight name alive, he lost his chart-topping drive in 1969 and began to rehash his earlier Chicago career, so his subsequent records are neither timely nor so empassioned.
© Glynis Ward 2001–2007
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