On November 5, we lost the smooth, soulful singer who brought us the original version of “Everlasting Love,” written by Buzz Cason and Mac Gayden, 50 years ago, in 1967. We look back with Buzz Cason on Robert Knight’s recordings.
By Warren Kurtz
Buzz Cason told Goldmine, “Robert was a kind, loving and gentle man and these characteristics were displayed in his smooth but forceful style of singing. He was a pleasure for Mac and I to work with and a dynamic performer in live performances.”
In the early ‘60s, Robert Knight was part of the Tennessee doo-wop group called the Paramounts. They released four singles beginning with “Trying” in 1960 on the Carlton label and ending with “Just to Be with You” on Laurie in 1963. In between, were the singles with widest distribution, “Congratulations” and “When You Dance” on the Dot label, which featured Robert Knight’s high tenor vocal delivery. He also had solo singles on the Dot label at the same time with “Free Me” and “Because.” The flip side of the latter single, called “Dance Only with Me,” was on par with the Drifters’ “Dance with Me” and “Save the Last Dance for Me” from that era. From 1964 through 1967 he was part of the local Nashville group, the Fairlanes, while studying chemistry at Tennessee State University.
Robert Knight’s biggest success came in 1967 when Rising Sons record executive and songwriter Buzz Cason and his songwriting partner Mac Gayden wrote “Everlasting Love” for Robert Knight. The songwriting duo was listening to the successful Motown sound coming from Detroit and wanted to create something similar in Nashville. Robert Knight’s single, “Everlasting Love” on Rising Sons, peaked at number 13 nationally in mid-November, and stayed there for two weeks, beating Motown’s Temptations in the number 14 slot for both of those weeks. Their single was “(Loneliness Made Me Realize) It’s You That I Need.” For 13 weeks in the Top 40, going into early 1968, radio listeners heard Robert Knight pledge, “Need you by my side, girl, to be my bride. You’ll never be denied everlasting love.” The Rising Sons label released its first album, with more than half of the composition written by Cason & Gayden. Like Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass’ “Whipped Cream” album, “Everlasting Love” by Robert Knight was released with a model on the cover.
Rising Sons RSS-17000
From the album, the catchy single “My Rainbow Valley” was released, written by Cason & Gayden. Its flip side, also from the album, was Robert Knight’s version of “Sandy,” a soft song Buzz Cason had written with John “Bucky” Wilkin from Ronny and the Daytonas, which reached the Top 40 in January of 1966. Robert Knight’s single did not chart.
Between “Everlasting Love” and “My Rainbow Valley,” there was a Robert Knight single on Rising Sons, not on the album, called “Blessed Are the Lonely,” which reached number 97 in January of 1968. Its flip side was on the album, and like the A side, it was another Cason & Gayden composition and named “It’s Been Worth It All.” Robert Knight’s performance was in line with the Miracles’ “The Tracks of My Tears.” Later that year, on another label, Elf, which Buzz Cason also co-led, “Isn’t It Lonely Together,” written by Ray Stevens, was released. Robert Knight’s vocals were strong and the record had a great arrangement by Bergen White. This single was Robert Knight’s final Top 100 entry, peaking, like “Blessed Are the Lonely,” at number 97. Other songs were recorded in the late ‘60s including “Love on a Mountain Top” and a second album.
In the early ‘70s, Robert Knight was married and working in Nashville at Vanderbilt University in the chemistry department. Within a few years, England began a strong craving for ‘60s U.S. R&B and soul records. Due to that interest, the Drifters, with Johnny Moore as the group’s leader at the time, moved to England. Their ‘70s songs “You’re More Than a Number (In My Little Red Book)” and “Kissin’ in the Back Row of the Movies” recaptured sounds that were in line with “Under the Boardwalk,” “I’ve Got Sand in My Shoes” and “Saturday Night at the Movies” from the mid-‘60s. Buzz Cason recounts how this era in Britain impacted Robert Knight in his autobiography “Living the Rock ‘n Roll Dream,” “His little dance beat record, ‘Love on a Mountain Top’ broke out of, believe it or not, a Nottingham, England disco! It was an album cut that Mac and I had forgotten about. It was released as a single and soon Robert and I were winging it off to England for a tour supporting his hit, which sold in excess of 400,000 copies in England. Robert was a hit and the agency offered to guarantee him $4000 a week to stay and work in the UK indefinitely. He played but was homesick after a few weeks. ‘Man, I’ll lose my wife and job too if I stay over here,’ Robert lamented. So, he left stardom.” They returned to Nashville.
Robert Knight continued recording singles in Nashville in the mid-‘70s. In 1974, on the Monument label, he had the smooth “Better Get Ready for Love,” with a steady beat and the powerful “The Outsider.” He recorded some light disco singles on the Private Stock label. First there was “I’m Coming Home to You” in 1975 and then “I’ve Got News for You” in 1976, produced by Buzz Cason and recorded at his Creative Workshop recording studio in Berry Hill, Tennessee.
In August, we interviewed Buzz Cason for Goldmine’s Where Are They Now? series. Here is a segment on Robert Knight.
GOLDMINE: On Saturday, September 27, 2003, we saw Robert Knight perform “Everlasting Love” at the Vanderbilt halftime show in Nashville. Our daughter Brianna got to play the high trumpet parts at the end. She and her band mates were amazed at rehearsal after hearing Robert. They exclaimed, “That’s the voice from the record.”
Buzz Cason: I was at the halftime show too. What a rare performance we caught. Robert was an assistant in the chemistry department and then a groundskeeper at Vanderbilt. He knew band director Dr. Sagen. It was good to hear all the instruments at the show too, including Bob Babbitt as a guest on bass. On the original record Norbert Putnam played bass and he later produced “Margaritaville” with David Briggs. On congas and drums we had Kenny Buttrey, who also later recorded with Jimmy Buffett, but prior to that was known for his work on “Oh, Pretty Woman.” Carol Montgomery and I were on background vocals, all at Foster Studio in downtown Nashville.
Vanderbilt rehearsal Friday, September 26, 2003, Robert Knight in green plaid
Vanderbilt performance Saturday, September 27, 2003, Robert Knight, bottom left
GM: The flip side, “Somebody’s Baby,” has a gospel feel like “People Get Ready.” Robert delivered upper range emotion, like Smokey Robinson in the song.
BC: It was strictly a flip side, something easy to sing. I wrote both sides of the single with Mac Gayden, who later went on to the groups Area Code 615 and Barefoot Jerry.
Flip side: Somebody’s Baby
A side: Everlasting Love
Top 100 debut: September 30, 1967
Peak position: 13
Rising Sons RS 45-705
There have been only two times in Billboard’s history when a song has reached the Top 40 four times in four consecutive decades.
“The Way You Do the Things You Do” – written by Smokey Robinson & Robert Rogers
1964 #12 The Temptations
1978 #20 Rita Coolidge
1985 #20 (with “My Girl”) Daryl Hall & John Oates with David Ruffin & Eddie Kendricks
1990 #6 UB40
“Everlasting Love” – written by Buzz Cason and Mac Gayden
1967 #13 Robert Knight
1974 #6 Carl Carlton
1981 #32 Rex Smith and Rachel Sweet
1995 #27 Gloria Estefan
Warren Kurtz is a Contributing Editor at Goldmine, known for “Fabulous Flip Sides” along with interviews, CD, DVD and book reviews. “Warren’s Fabulous Flip Sides” can be heard most Saturday mornings, in the 9 a.m. hour, Eastern time, on WVCR radio as part of “Moments to Remember.”