James Brown
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Terry Callier
Sam Cooke
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Knight Brothers
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Tony Middleton
Clyde McPhatter
Esther Phillips
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James Diggs and Richard Dunbar were the duo who performed and made records as the Knight Brothers between 1961-’69. They were both born in Washington in the late 30s and grew up, went to school and sang in the churches of the capital. They began their secular careers with the Starfires who had two singles released on Decca in the late 50s. When the group broke up Jimmy and Richard came together as the Knight Brothers and signed to Bargain Records, who issued ‘You Are The One’ and a follow up ‘Love Will Break Your Heart’ in ’61 but neither single sold many copies outside Washington, so briefly they called it a day.
James and Richard moved to the Big Apple in ‘63, where they got a deal with the Chicago based label Checker, who put them in a New York studio with Herb Cohen and Bert Berns. ‘Love (Can’t You Hear Me)’ got them some positive recognition and improved sales. Two more singles were issued but good as they were could not break the Knight Brothers nationally and Jimmy Diggs quit to join the Carltons, who he wrote and sang with for about a year through ’64.
By early ’65 Diggs was ready for a reunion with Dunbar and the Knight Brothers recorded their greatest hit ‘Temptation ‘Bout To Get Me’ in Chicago with producer the late great Billy Davis. It was as if they had found the missing link and it all came together, turning good into great. The record went to #12 on the US R&B singles chart in May ’65 and even found some pop success when it entered the Hot 100 at #70. On the back of this hit, Chess sent them out on a nationwide tour and ‘Temptation…’ became their first European release. Davis also produced the follow up ‘I Owe Her My Life’/’I’m Never Gonna Live It Down’ which was cut in September ’65. Though this penitent ballad did not click with the US fans it was excellent Deep Soul and the B side was also exceptional. Chess issued ‘All I Have To Do Is Dream’ a soulful remake of the Everly Brothers hit that had topped both R&B and Pop charts in ’58 to try to keep the momentum rolling but that also bombed. In February ’66 the duo came off the road and cut a six song Chicago session but none of the tracks were issued. To the Knight Brothers it must have seemed like it was all over – and it nearly was. In August five more tracks were cut with Monk Higgins and Burgess Gardner and from this session another promising single was issued, ‘She’s A1’/’That’ll Get It’ was released. Though it didn’t chart in America it did achieve better sales and was issued in the UK..
Diggs and Dunbar persevered in Chicago and signed to Jerry Butler’s Fountain Productions in ’67. Jerry produced two good sessions for them that yielded two great singles ‘Nobody’s Fault’/ ‘You’re My Love’ and ‘Tried So Hard To Please Her’/’Ghetto Joe’ both released on Mercury. But there were few takers outside Chicago and when their last single on Allen in late ’68 disappeared without trace they threw in the towel. The Knight Bros. remained without an album to their name for 40 years until 2004 when Clive Richardson compiled The Knight Brothers -Temptation for Shout in the UK.

Peter Burns September ‘04

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Recommended listening
The Knight Brothers Temptation – UK Shout RPMSH 279 /04
Impressed – UK Kent CDKEND 205 /02