Thursday, November 27, 2014

Gladys Knight and the Pips, The #43 Artist of the Seventies*

At the age of eight, Gladys Knight formed this group in 1952 with brother Bubba, sister Brenda, and cousins William and Eleanor Guest in their hometown of Atlanta, Georgia.  They named themselves the Pips after cousin James "Pip" Woods.  The group began to perform in the evenings and sang gospel music on Sundays.  Langston George (in 1959) and Edward Patten (in 1963) replaced Brenda Knight and Eleanor Guest when those two left the group to get married.

Gladys Knight and the Pips first recorded in 1958, releasing the single "Whistle My Love" on Brunswick Records.  The group scored their first hit when a cover of "Every Beat Of My Heart" topped the R&B chart and reached the Top 10 overall in 1961.  Knight left the group to start a family in 1962, but returned two years later.  The group switched to Fury Records, then to Maxx in 1964 and enjoyed several other minor hits.  Langston George left the group in 1962, leaving a quartet.

The group became known for their solid live performances, that enabled them to continue without selling a lot of records.  Choreographer Cholly Atkins designed dance routines for the group that became a signature of their shows.  In 1966, Gladys Knight and the Pips signed with Soul Records, a subsidiary of Motown.  They had several minor hits with Soul, but enjoyed their greatest success there with the Marvin Gaye song "I Heard It Through The Grapevine", a #2 smash.  The group's version sold 2.5 million copies, at the time the best-selling record in Motown history.

In 1970, Gladys Knight and the Pips released the single "If I Were Your Woman", which became the title of their 1971 album.  The song rose to #1 on the R&B chart, and gave them their third Top 10 song at #9.

"I Don't Want To Do Wrong" reached #2 R&B and peaked at #17 overall.

"Make Me The Woman That You Go Home To" was a #3 R&B hit, but a mid-charter overall.  In 1973, the group released the album Neither One of Us, and the single "Neither One Of Us (Wants To Be The First To Say Goodbye)" became one of their biggest career hits.  It too topped the R&B chart and made it all the way to #2 overall.  It captured the Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Performance by a Duo, Group or Chorus.

The group scored later in the year with the #2 R&B song "Daddy Could Swear, I Declare", which reached #19 overall.

Later in the year, Gladys Knight and the Pips left Motown, opting to sign a contract with Buddah Records instead.  The group felt that they were treated as a second-string act at Motown, with the Supremes, the Temptations, and Marvin Gaye given all the hits, while the Pips received the leftovers.

The group recorded Imagination, the first album for their new label.  At Buddah, Gladys Knight and the Pips worked with songwriter Jim Weatherly, who had written "Neither One Of Us".  Weatherly contributed a smash for the group's next release.  "Midnight Train To Georgia" was a double #1 in the U.S. (both Popular and R&B), and hit #5 in Canada and #10 in the U.K.
"Midnight Train To Georgia" won the Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group and an American Music Award for Favorite Soul/R&B Single, and the album Imagination captured the AMA for Favorite Soul/R&B Album.  The song is still a solid member of The Top 500 Songs of the Rock Era*, and gave the group their first Gold album.  Gladys Knight and the Pips continued their winning ways with "I've Got To Use My Imagination", another #1 on the R&B chart that landed at #4 overall.

But the group wasn't done with the album yet.  The single "Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me" made it to #3 in the United States (with another #1 on the R&B chart), #6 in Canada, and #7 in the U.K.

The single "On And On" peaked at #2 on the R&B chart and made it to #5 overall.

Gladys Knight and the Pips achieved a third consecutive Gold album with I Feel a Song in 1974.  The single "I Feel A Song (In My Heart)" topped the R&B chart but only made it to #21.

The group won both Favorite Pop/Rock Band, Duo or Group and Favorite Soul/R&B Band, Duo or Group at the American Music Awards.  The group received their own hour-long musical variety television show, The Gladys Knight & the Pips Show, which ran on NBC as a summer replacement series. 

In 1975, the medley of "The Way We Were/Try To Remember" rose to #2 on the Adult chart and reached #11 overall for the group.

Gladys and the Pips won another American Music Award for Favorite Soul/R&B Band, Duo or Group.  The album 2nd Anniversary went Gold in 1975, and the group enjoyed some continued success on the R&B chart, but they were not able to land a Top 20 hit again.

  The group released their Greatest Hits package in 1976, and from it, this release reached #3 on the Adult chart--"So Sad The Song" (Please click on the "Play" icon in the top left-hand portion of the video.) Gladys Knight and the Pips continued to record through 1988.

In 1996, Gladys Knight and the Pips were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  Three years later, the group's smash "Midnight Train To Georgia" was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.  In 2001, their vocal abilities were properly recognized when they were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame. 

Gladys Knight and the Pips sold over two million albums in the decade, and exploded for 22 hits.  They scored six Top 10 songs and one giant #1 song. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.