It’s always a sunny night when Sonny Knight takes the stage.
With continued good luck, that was the case Sunday when Sonny Knight & the Lakers performed a Down by the Riverside in Mayo Park.
And look at it this way: If the sun doesn’t shine on Sonny Knight, who has enjoyed a late-career resurgence, it’s not going to shine on anybody. Knight seemed to be living under a dark cloud earlier in his career, but as the title of his 2014 debut album declared, “I’m Still Here.”
Knight, the Minneapolis-based soul singer, was born 67 years ago in Mississippi. His family moved to St. Paul seven years later, and young Sonny took to music in a big way. His band, Little Sonny Knight & the Cymbols, recorded their first record in 1965, when Sonny was 17. He then entered the Army for three years, spent some time in San Francisco, and returned to Minnesota in the ’70s. He joined the band Haze, which had a minor hit with “I Do Love My Lady.”
But that was as far as it went, and Knight entered the musical equivalent of wandering in the desert. He became a full-time truck driver, and all but gave up on a career in music. Until, that is, the 1990s, when he joined a vocal group, the Bachelors. A cut on a local compilation album revived interest in both.
In 2013, Knight was able to join a newly formed band, the Lakers. Sonny Knight & the Lakers, as the band was now known, spent long weekend at a cabin in northern Minnesota working on songs, and refining repertoire and technique. With gigs lined up all over the Twin Cities, suddenly Knight’s career was ready for take off, part 2.
Then came “I’m Still Here,” released in April 2014, and with it more acclaim, a European tour and the recording of a live album.
“Sometimes I wonder, ‘Why me?'” Knight said. “Why are all these great things happening now? All I can say is ‘Thanks.’ These are dreams that I had forgotten. Only now that they are starting to come true do I remember that I had them.”