Gladys Knight & the Pips
- 🇺🇸 Atlanta, GA
- Years Active
1952 - 1989
Gladys Knight and the Pips are one of the most successful and admired acts in the history of American popular music, cutting a series of crossover R&B hits for Motown Records before enjoying their greatest commercial success at Buddah Records via the 1973 classic "Midnight Train to Georgia."
Knight and the Pips - her brother Bubba and cousins William Guest and Edward Patten, whose creative vocal harmonies and precision choreography were as essential to the group's popularity as Knight's fiery, gospel-influenced leads - formed in Atlanta and cut their debut single "Ching Chong" for Brunswick Records in 1958. Their 1961 rendition of Johnny Otis' "Every Beat of My Heart," licensed for national release by Vee-Jay, was the first of 11 Pips singles to top the Billboard R&B charts, although the group was cut out of its profits, leading to a less successful re-recording of the song for Fury Records.
By 1965, Knight and the Pips believed they could not reach the upper reaches of stardom without stronger material and savvier promotion, and against Knight's wishes, the Pips reached out to Motown. Label founder Berry Gordy Jr. signed the group in early 1966, but Knight's misgivings proved prescient: "Diana [Ross] and the Supremes, the Temptations and Marvin Gaye were given all the hits, while we took the leftovers," she later recalled. In 1967, however, Knight and the Pips became the third Motown act to record Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong's "I Heard It Through the Grapevine," and the result was the biggest-selling single in Motown history - at least until Gaye's rendition of the song, recorded before the Pips', went on to even greater notoriety.
Knight and the Pips exited Motown in the wake of the Grammy-winning 1972 ballad "Neither One of Us (Wants to Be the First to Say Goodbye)." Their second single for new label Buddah, "Midnight Train to Georgia," remains a pop standard, topping both the pop and R&B charts. Knight split from the Pips in 1987, nine years before the group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
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