Thursday, December 17, 1970

Gladys Knight 1954-1963

In 1955 at the age of eleven, while visiting Aunt Gladys near Detroit The Pips hooked up with Maurice King who taught them how to perform and got them their first professional gig singing the Parker House Sausage. They also recorded "Whistle My Love" for Brunswick (Decca) Records, but it went nowhere fast. Brenda Knight and Elenor Guest left the group. Edward Patten and Langston George joined The Pips.

Gladys was twleve years old in 1956 when The Pips joined the Supersonic Attractions tour with Jakie Wison and Sam Cooke so that they could get more performing experience during the summer when they didn't have school.

Gladys was thirteen years old when her daddy, suffering from extreme depression, moved out of the house and got an apartment to himself. Gladys mother worked two jobs. Brenda, Bubba and Gladys got part time jobs, but bills still went unpaid sometimes and utilitys were occassionlly shut off. In spite of all that, Gladys joined the track team, the choir, the yearbook staff and the cheerleading squad. She even joined her music teacher's jazz band and met Aretha Franklin for the first time, but all she really wanted to do was hang out with her friends.
,br> Gladys was fifteen years old when a serial rapist attacked her in her own bed one night. Thankfully, her brother Bubba was able to run him off before Gladys sutained any injuries other than a swollen lip, but the police never did catch that guy.

Gladys was sixteen years old when she began her senior year in high school. She was still singing with The Pips and the jazz band, and she was in love with Jimmy, a sax player in the jazz band.

After one particular gig a fellow named Fats Hunter asked them to stick around and sing something so that he could try out his new recordeing equipment. They recorded "Every Beat of My Heart," and were surprized when they heard it on the radion a couple of weeks later. Without a contract, Fats Hunter had released the record under his HumTom label and then sold the master to Vee Jay Records who sold lots of copies. The song made the top ten, but nobody paid The Pips; however, Fury Records heard the song and offered them a contract.

Gladys didn't want to go to New York to record the song for Fury Records. She had a track meet to throw javelin for, but she went. Since she was lead singer, Fury Records recommened they use the name Gladys Knight and The Pips. The record did very well, even competing against the illegal release. At one point the songs were on the charts at number 2 and number 3, but Fury didn't pay Gladys Knight and The Pips either. They claimed to have spent so much in recording and promoting there was nothing left to pay the artists. But, they got a gig at The Apollo.

In 1960, Gladys Knight found herself pregnant and married her boyfriend Jimmy in an informal ceremoy. Her brother Bubba gave her away. Jimmy joined Gladys Knight and The Pips on the road. Gladys met Tina Turner for the first time at the Howard Theater where Tina gave Gladys a real rock and roll make over. Tragically, Gladys miscarried in her first trimester.

In 1962, Gladys Knight and The Pips recored their first album for Fury Records. "Guess Who" and "Letter Full of Tears" made the Top Five on the charts, but they were still not getting paid. George Langston left the group to pursue a solo career, and they became a quartet. Gladys became pregnant again and left the group, too. The Pips went to New York and had some sucess on their own working as back up singers. On August 13, 1962, Little Jimmy was born.

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