Curtis Knight, born Curtis McNair and cousin to singer Barbara McNair, will always be part of the Jimi Hendrix story and, as such, his own career is over-shadowed by that association. Knight / McNair had first sung in a group called The Statesmen, all members of the American military, who’d been popular in Japan , so much so they were featured on Japanese radio at the time. Back in Los Angeles, Curtis joined The Titans who had two records out on the Vita label in early 1957 and then moved over to the Specialty label where four more singles were recorded, the B side of one, “Can It Be” being written by Sonny Bono, then an A ‘n’ R man at Art Rupe’s label. The A side of the second release, “Arlene” was written by Curtis, but his surname was spelt McNear. From Specialty the group went to the Class label, then back to Fidelity, a Specialty subsidiary and on to World-Pacific for one release before family illness prompted Curtis to leave the group.
Curtis returned to his music career with a spell in a version of The Ink Spots put together by Harvey Fuqua, but by 1960 he was based in New York and after one single for a label called Horton, he had “That’s Why” released on the Gulf label and then two more singles, “You’re Gonna be Sorry” and “Gotta Have A New Dress”, all four tracks co-written by Knight with the man who’d set up the Horton label, Sampson Horton.
The next move was to the RSVP label, which grew out of a promotion company called Record Sales Via Promotion started by former Gone and End Records promotion man Jerry Simon. Three singles were released by Knight on RSVP, the second of which was produced by Ed Chalpin and the third of which was credited to Curtis Knight And The Squires. That third single, “Hornet’s Nest” was co-written by label boss Jerry Simon with none other than Jimi Hendrix, one of the four members of the Curtis Knight’s group.
It’s from that point on that Knight, Hendrix and Chalpin were inextricably linked and legal wrangles abounded for many a year.
It would be 1974 before Curtis Knight was, once again, his own man forming Curtis Knight Zeus in London and signing to Pye’s Dawn subsidiary. He later turned to writing, penning two books on Jimi Hendrix, both getting very mixed reviews. Curtis died in 1999.