Sonny Knight and the Lakers

an interview with Sonny Knight
by Teri Barr
July 2016

Sonny Knight & the Lakers at the Majestic in Madison, WI 6/11/2016 - photo by David Luciano

Sonny Knight & the Lakers at the Majestic in Madison, WI 6/11/2016
photo by David Luciano

If you haven’t heard about the highly acclaimed Midwestern funk and soul group, Sonny Knight and The Lakers, you are in luck. The Twin Cities-based band is making a much-wanted return to AtwoodFest 2016, a huge follow up to its Madison area debut, during AtwoodFest 2014.

Since that July, the group has been back in the area four times—playing to both sold out venues and packed streets, including a “Live on King Street” show during the summer of 2015.

Knight, who is now closing in on 68 years old, maintains his agile, ageless-ness on stage; surrounded by a talented, young group of musicians who support his every word, note, and move. Watching this band perform together, this is one well-oiled machine.

Talking to them off stage, this is also a group of guys who have become a family, and care about each other as well as their success.

Here’s a description I found, courtesy of Blurt Magazine Online, which gives an accurate description of what you can expect:  Sonny Knight and the Lakers exist in the afterglow that soul luminaries like Sam Cooke and Aretha Franklin created with their raucous, kinetic, and supreme live performances. Sonny Knight and the Lakers Do It Live, from the eponymous group, is a loving return to the height of live Rhythm and Blues, with Knight and his band perfectly capturing the uproarious vibe and rebellious musicianship of an era long gone in their first live album release. A year of steady touring through the US and Europe has allowed the group to create a seamless set, mixing songs from their critically-acclaimed debut studio album, I’m Still Here, with a couple covers of classic soul songs from their native Minneapolis, and re-imagined bits from Led Zeppelin and James Brown.

Still not sure about Sonny Knight and The Lakers?

Here’s a few updated questions with Sonny during their most recent stop in Madison. He was still the kind, accommodating man with the big, welcoming smile; and the band was also the same group I recall; engaging, curious, and a whole lot of fun.

Maximum Ink: You have traveled the U.S., Europe, and more since we first talked. How does it feel to be recognized for your music?
Sonny:
I’m finally getting this chance to pursue my lifetime dream. And as you know, I went from driving truck to karaoke, and even after having an opportunity in my early 20s, it was only when The Lakers asked me to join them that I believed this could be real.

MI: And the group is still just three years old. But you and drummer Eric Foss, who also manages your P.R. and interviews, have a really special relationship?
Sonny:
We met through a regular Funk and Soul Show, and Eric asked about putting something together. He had a plan, and made me feel like I was an important part of his idea. He also helped create this big, new sound, which quickly led to writing and recording our debut album. Our follow-up happened quickly, too. It is a live album which captures everything you’ll see and hear at a show. It’s magical!

MI: Did music always remain a dream, even while you were driving truck for a living?
Sonny:
There was some success here and there, but nothing like this! As a kid growing up in the South, it was always about Gospel. I was little but already on a big stage at church. And as I grew up I played with different bands; but was always most interested in funk and soul.

MI: And you’ll be back in Madison for another opportunity to share your funk and soul. How does that feel for all of you?
Sonny:
I still believe what I told you two years ago. I am with an outstanding group of talented musicians who show me so much respect, and I love them for it. But they probably don’t know, I also believe they are my heroes. They helped me make a 60-plus-year-old dream come true. And Madison has been a big part of it, too.

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