Initially formed in 1964 as simply The Shadows, the band learned in spring 1965 of an existing British group, The Shadows. A friend of theirs, Whiz Winters, who worked for their manager, Paul Sampson in his record shop, came up with the name "The Shadows of Knight" to tie into the British Invasion in music of that time, and because all four of the band members attended Prospect High School in Mt. Prospect, Illinois, whose sports team had the name The "Knights."
They would release three albums in their first five years of existence. Founding members included Warren Rogers (lead guitar), Roger Spielmann (rhythm and lead guitar/vocals) Norm Gotsch (rhythm guitar), Wayne Pursell (bass guitar), Tom Schiffour (drums), and Jim Sohns (vocals). Sohns was sixteen years old at the time. During 1965, Joe Kelley was recruited to play bass, replacing Pursell. Kelley would swap bass and lead duties with Rogers in late 1965 at the time of the "Gloria" recordings. Guitarist and vocalist Jerry McGeorge replaced Norm Gotsch in late 1965 after Gotsch was drafted into the U.S. military. David "Hawk" Wolinski, who later worked with Rufus and Chaka Khan, replaced Rogers on bass in late 1966.
After performing in and around Chicago's northwest suburbs in 1964 and 1965, The Shadows of Knight became the house band at The Cellar in Arlington Heights, Illinois, owned by Sampson. They attracted over 500 teenagers every Saturday and Sunday at the "Cellar" for over six months until Sampson began booking other bands, giving them a break. A recording of a Shadows of Knight performance at The Cellar was released in 1992 by Sundazed Records as Raw 'n' Alive at The Cellar, 1966.
A performance in support of The Byrds at Chicago's McCormick Place in early summer 1965 attracted the attention of Dunwich Records record producers Bill Traut and George Badonski. During that show, they performed "Gloria" by Van Morrison's Northern Irish Them band. The band signed with Dunwich shortly thereafter and recorded "Gloria" as a first effort.
Released in December 1965, "Gloria" received massive regional airplay. The band had slightly altered the song's lyrics, replacing Morrison's original "she comes to my room, then she made me feel alright" with "she called out my name, that made me feel alright" after influential Chicago station WLS had banned Them's original version. This simple change overcame the prevalent AM radio censorship of the era, and got The Shadows of Knight's cover version of the song onto the playlist of WLS, which had censored the original. The single reached the No. 1 position on the radio station's countdown, as well as on local rival WCFL. On the Billboard national charts, "Gloria" rose to No. 10. The secondary publication Cashbox ranked "Gloria" as high as No. 7. In Canada the song reached No. 8 on the RPM Magazine charts. "Gloria" sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc by the R.I.A.A.
There is reason to believe the Billboard charting understated the song's popularity. and The Shadows of Knight's version of "Gloria" reached number one in several markets where it received airplay. But, because Dunwich was not a national label, the single was released on a staggered basis around the country. This caused it to peak in certain markets before being released in others, diluting its weekly placement. Most significantly, the song received little airplay in certain major markets, such as South Florida (Miami) and California, where Morrison's release of "Gloria" had just been a major chart-topper the previous year.
The Shadows of Knight soon released the Gloria album, followed by the Back Door Men LP, in the summer of 1966. Subsequent singles included their version of the Bo Diddley song "Oh Yeah" (which reached No. 39 nationally), "Bad Little Woman" (#91), and the powerhouse "I'm Gonna Make You Mine" (#90), which can be seen as a precursor to hard rock. However, none of these releases approached their initial commercial success. Failure to find a winning followup to "Gloria" handicapped the band's earning power, and led to its disintegration. Tom Schiffour left the band in Spring 1967. McGeorge departed for acid-rock band H.P. Lovecraft shortly thereafter, while Kelley left to front his own blues band. Hawk Wolinski also left the band to form Bangor Flying Circus with Schiffour, guitarist Alan De Carlo, and drummer Michael Tegza, also of H.P.Lovecraft.
By mid-1967, the only original member of the The Shadows of Knight remaining was vocalist Jim Sohns, who, through simple default, inherited the band's name and legacy. In 1968, Dunwich sold the master tapes to its Shadow of Knight recordings to Atlantic Records for one dollar. Sohns then moved the band from Chicago to New York, where they signed with Buddah Records. Sohns had hoped to take the band in a British power-rock direction, but the Super K record label pulled them into a more commercial orientation, pairing the band with bubblegum groups such as the 1910 Fruitgum Company and the Ohio Express on tour. In 1969, the second generation The Shadows of Knight released "Shake" on Buddha's short-lived subsidiary Team Records; the track eventually climbed to No. 46 (#37 Canada Dec.68). That same year, without the band's knowledge or consent, the unsuccessful update "Gloria '69" was released by Dunwich. It consisted of new bass and guitar tracks overdubbed by Peter Cetera (later of Chicago) and Jim Donlinger, both Chicago rock veterans.
"Shake" and its B-Side, "From Way Out to Way Under" were actually recorded by Sohns and a number of studio musicians, on the understanding that a Shadows of Knight reassembled by Sohns would record the follow-up album. That album, Shadows of Knight is today regarded as a distinct recording oddity, being an attempt to mix punk and bubblegum music.
The four years following the breakup of the original Shadows was a dark creative period with little financial success. The band's repertoire consisted mostly of pop cover songs, which allowed them to survive by playing clubs. The second iteration of the band consisted of John Fisher, former lead guitar of the Glass Menagerie, on bass, Woody Woodruff and Dan Baughman on guitars, and Ken Turkin on drums. Turkin was replaced in early 1969 by Paul Scarpelli, and in 1970 Jack "Hawkeye" Daniels replaced Woodruff on guitar. The band's lineup remained the same for two years, and they recorded "I Am the Hunter," which did well in several B markets. John Fisher was replaced by Edgar Winter alum Jorge Gonzales on bass in 1971, who was subsequently replaced by John Hardy the following year. He was then replaced by studio bassist Don Ferrone.
Over subsequent decades, Sohns fronted varying incarnations of the group on the oldies circuit. He also spent a period of time reflecting on his future in the music business, choosing to become the road manager of the band Skafish between 1978 and 1980. He would join the band to sing "Gloria" as the band's encore. In 1978, Sohns punched Sid Vicious at the Harrah club in New York City, throwing him down a flight of stairs. Sohn's life took a particularly downward turn when he was convicted of felony drug charges in 1980. After exhausting appeals, he served three years between 1983-1986. While in prison, he formed a band, Jimy Sohns and The Cons. The group won the top award at the Mississippi River Blues Festival two years in a row.
Commencing as of the 1990s, The Shadows of Knight have enjoyed a resurgence in public interest, in significant part due to the 1998 release of their first two albums, in remastered form, by Sundazed Records. In 1992, Performance Records (aka "Donewitch" Records) released The Shadows Of Knight-Live, Featuring "Gloria". This was an unreleased performance recorded live in Rockford, Il in 1972. The performance featured Lee Brovitz on bass (later of Blue Angel) and the late Paul Roy on guitar. As one reviewer noted in relation to the album, "If you subscribe to the theory that the '60s actually survived a couple of years into the 1970s, then this is a prime slice of 1960s garage punk." The album is also noted as containing "a wonderfully blistering guitar-laced extended version of Willie Dixon's 'I Just Want to Make Love to You'", which is nearly twelve minutes long. Also in 1992, another live recording, Raw 'n' Alive at The Cellar, 1966, was released by Sundazed Records. As noted by Richie Unterberger, "This is one of the very few live garage band tapes from the mid-'60s of relatively decent sound quality (considering the standards of the era). The song selection of this set should also please fans of one of the most famed '60s garage bands, captured here at a club in their home turf of Chicago in December 1966." In 1994, Rhino Records released Dark Sides: The Best of The Shadows of Knight. Noted reviewer Richie Unterberger had mixed feelings about this collection, particularly in view of the absence of "I Just Want to Make Love to You". "I Just Want to Make Love to You" was included in a 2005 Atlantic release, Rhino Hi-Five: The Shadows of Knight, a five song EP that also included "Gloria" and "Oh Yeah".
In 2006, The Shadows of Knight headlined Little Steven's cross-country "Underground Garage" tour with The Romantics. The Shadows also joined Cheap Trick's Halloween show ("Cheap Trick or Treat"), along with guest appearances by members of The Romantics and The Charms. This performance was subsequently televised on VH-1 Classic. At shows on the 2006 tour, they were joined onstage at various times by Rick Mullen (of Van Morrison, Commander Cody, Don McLean), Vince Martell (Vanilla Fudge), Mark Stein (Vanilla Fudge), and members of The Romantics. Also in 2006, a CD of new material, A Knight to Remember, was released. The music on A Knight to Remember, which contains a reworked version of "Gloria", has been compared to that of The Sonics.
In 2008, the band toured as part of "The Psychedelic Shack Tour", which also featured a reformed Nazz, Vince Martell and, on occasion, Henry Gross. Also in 2008, a new CD was released, Rock 'n' Roll Survivors, containing a further reworking of "Gloria".
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