RIP Robert Knight of 'Everlasting Love' Fame

Tuesday, 07 November 2017 07:13 AM Written by 


 It's not surprising that Nashville's proud heritage in the R&B field isn't nearly well as recognized at its massive country music (and even rock) heritage. One of its biggest stars, Robert Knight, known for his 1967 hit "Everlasting Love," died yesterday at 72, following a brief illness. The song, to this day, continues to be covered. Knight's original is categorized as"Northern Soul" or "Beach Music."  

Knight, born Robert Peebles in the Nashville suburb of Franklin in 1945, he sang with a vocal group known as the Paramounts and made his first solo record in 1961. The producer suggested he change his name to Knight.  Dot tied Knight and the others up and when the group disbanded, Knight couldn' t record for several years.

1961: "Free Me"

Majoring in chemistry at Tennessee State University, Knight joined the Fairlanes, another vocal act. They were playing a fraternity Party at Nashville's Vanderbilt University when guitarist Mac Gayden, a young, Nashville-born musician well versed in R&B, was playing on campus with another band, Charlie McCoy and the Escorts, taking a break when he heard Knight's lead vocals with the Fairlanes from the party down the street.

He went in and talked to Knight about making a record. Knight didn't believe the pitch at first. Gayden connected him with Buzz Cason, a Nashville-born country singer, songwriter and producer and together. They recorded him at Fred Foster's Nashville studio, where Roy Orbison did many of his biggest hits for Foster's Monument label, He was signed to Rising Sons, a Monument subsidiary. 

They recorded four songs initially including Knight's first single," Sandy."  Knight also recorded "Everlasting," a song Cason and Gayden co-wrote and custom-tailored to Knight's vocal strengths, with a Motown-inspired arrangement. Gayden and the Escorts accompaned Knight, including McCoy, bass player Norbert Putnam, drummer Kenny Buttrey. All played on Bob Dylan's Nashville material (including Blonde On Blonde) and countless country hits in years to come. 

"Sandy" fizzled.  "Everlasting" was to be the B-side of his next single, but that quickly changed.

1967: "Everlasting Love"

Late in 1967 it reached the Top 20 in both R&B (# 14) and pop (# 13) in the US, released on the Rising Sons label, a Monument subsidiary (Monument released the single in Europe--the 45 sleeve above is the German release). Since then it's been covered literally dozens of times over the years (including individual recordings by Gayden and Cason) In the UK the pop group Love Affair made it a hit, (1968), followed R&B singer Carl Carlton (1974), Sam Smith and Rachel Sweet (1981) U2 (1989) and Gloria Estafan (1995).

"Everlasting" was Knight's only US hit single. He recorded "Love On A Mountain Top," recorded for Rising Sons in 1968, also co-written by Cason and Gayden. It enjoyed some success in the Pittsburgh area at the time but fizzled until British disc jockeys began playing it in 1974, giving Knight a Top Ten single in the UK.

1974: Knight sings "Mountaintop" on the UK show "Top of the Pops"

Knight had left music and returned to day jobs (including some in the Chemistry department) at Vanderbilt after his musical career ended. He performed "Everlasting Love" at a 2014 "Music City Roots" concert, part of a local effort to establish Nashville R&B's rightful place in history.



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