Monday, November 23, 1970

Gladys Knight 1944-1953

May 28, 1944: Gladys Knight was born in Atlanta Georgia to Merald Woodrow Knight from Cordel, Georgia, son of a full-blooded Cherokee, and Sarah Elizabeth Woods from College Park, a suburb of Atlanta. She was named for an aunt who lived near Detroit. Gladys first home was in the Gray Street public housing projects at 224 Merritts Avenue near the Fox Theater. Her sister Brenda was three years old when Gladys was born, and her brother Merald Jr (Bubba) was just 16 months old.

When Gladys was only two years old, her brother would push her up high enough to get a handhold on the piano bench. Then they would both get to playing like they were child prodigies performing at Carnegie Hall.

At age three: Gladys' Uncle Alvin made a recording of Little Gladys singing the gospel hymn "Just a Closer Walk with Thee." Gladys' daddy was able to move the family to their first regular home by working two jobs. On August 22, 1947, Gladys brother David was born.

At age four: Gladys had her first recital as the youngest member of the Sunbeam Children's Choir at the Mount Moriah Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia. She sang "Ave Maria" in Latin.

At age five: Gladys was baptized at Mount Moriah Baptist Church. Gladys enjoyed duplicating the recipes from her Little Girl's Cookbook. Once, after her mother had made a cake, Gladys and Bubba fought over the bowl. Gladys settled on the knife, but when her brother tried to protect her from cutting her tongue on the blade, she fell and nearly slit her own throat.

Before the age of six: Gladys began performing and touring as a guest soloist with the Mount Moriah Baptis Church Choir and the Morris Brown College Choir in Atlanta, Georgia. She once pondered the signs over two water fountans that said WHITE and COLORED, and she asked her mother, "Momma, what color is water?"

Age eight: Gladys Knight won the Ted Mack Original Amateur Hour contest on national television by singing Brahms's "Lullaby" and Nat King Cole's "Too Young." The prize: $2,000. It was a very big deal for a little black girl to beat out everybody else on one of the most popular prime time shows.

December 4, 1952: Bubba's tenth birthday party leads to an impromptu talent show. Brenda, Bubba and Gladys sang with their cousins, Eleanor and William Guest. They sounded really good, and Gladys' mother suggested they form a group. They rehearsed every week. Their cousin James Woods agreed to be their manager. He had connections in the local club scene and was known as Pip, so they became The Pips. The Pips first big gig was winning the talent show at the El Morocco. The prize: a two-week contract to perform at the Royal Peacock - $10 a night for two shows a night. They got great exposure and lots of invitations to sing at other clubs.