Soul singer Jean Knight's only big hit was a monster -- the sassy funk classic "Mr. Big Stuff," one of the largest-selling singles ever released by the legendary Stax label. A native of New Orleans, Knight was born in 1943 and made her first recordings for producer Huey P. Meaux's Jet Stream and Tribe labels during the mid- to late '60s (many of her sides were later collected on West Side's Blue Soul Belles, Vol. 2). Her success largely confined to the immediate area, Knight was working as a baker when she went to Malaco Studios in Jackson, MS, for a session with veteran producer Wardell Quezerque in 1970. The key track, a spirited putdown of male arrogance called "Mr. Big Stuff," was shopped to Stax Records, who passed on it at first. However, after King Floyd's "Groove Me" (another Malaco recording) went gold, Stax reconsidered and released "Mr. Big Stuff" in 1971. It was an enormous hit, spending five weeks at number one on the R&B charts and falling one slot short of the same position on the pop side. Despite a strong accompanying album of the same name and some similarly gritty follow-up singles (which included "You Think You're Hot Stuff" and "Carry On"), Knight couldn't manage to duplicate the success of "Mr. Big Stuff," and quickly faded from the soul scene.
In 1981, Knight scored a minor hit with a version of "You Got the Papers (But I Got the Man)," and charted with one of the more successful covers of the Rockin' Sidney zydeco smash "My Toot Toot" in 1985; "My Toot Toot" also served as the title track for a full-length LP on Mirage. Knight returned once again in the late '90s, cutting an album for Ichiban in 1997 called Shaki De Boo-Tee. She followed it two years later with the Formaldehyde release Queen. ~ Steve Huey
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