b. Jean Caliste, 26th January 1943, Crescent City, New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S.A.
d. 22nd November 2023, U.S.A.
Jean Knight was an American R&B and soul singer from New Orleans, Louisiana and was remembered for her 1971, Stax Records, hit single, ‘Mr. Big Stuff’.
Knight was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, Jean began singing at a bar (owned by her cousin) Laura's Place, and became very popular, locally, at the venue.
In 1965, she recorded an early cover of the Jackie Wilson song ‘Stop Doggin' Me Around’. The version earned her employment at the Jet Star/Tribe imprint.
Jean then adopted the stage name of ‘Jean Knight’, feeling her birth name being too difficult for people to remember.
She recorded four singles, making a name for herself locally, however these were not as successful as hoped, so she travelled to New Orleans and began work as a baker in the cafeteria of Dominican College in New Orleans.
The songwriter, Ralph Williams, then wanted her to record some of his songs and as a result Jean came in contact with record producer Wardell Quezergue.
Jean travelled to Malaco Studios in Jackson, Mississippi, and began a recording session during which she recorded an early take on the song ‘Mr. Big Stuff’.
The song was sent to a few producers at several national labels, all of whom rejected it.
A producer at Stax Records then remembered Jean’s recording of ‘Mr. Big Stuff’, and released it.
mr big stuff - 1971 / keep it comin - 1981 / my toot toot - 1985 / shaki de boo-tee - 1997
The song was instantly successful and in 1971, it reached No. 2 on the pop chart and became a No. 1 R&B hit.
The song also went double-platinum and received a Grammy nomination for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female.
Jean performed the hit song on the show ‘Soul Train’ and an album of the same name proved to be very successful.
After a couple of follow up 45’s were less successful, Jean then left Stax.
In 1981, when Jean met local producer Isaac Bolden, who signed her to his Soulin' imprint.
She recorded an answer record to the Richard Dimples Fields tune ‘You Got the Papers but I Got the Man’.
Jean began touring again.
She recorded a cover version of Rockin' Sidney's zydeco novelty hit, ‘My Toot Toot’, finding herself in competition with the Denise LaSalle version.
Denise had the U.K. hit, whilst Jean had success in South Africa, reaching No. 3.
In 2007, Jean was inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame.
Jean married Thomas Commedore and together they had a son, Emile Commedore.
In the early 1970s, she was married to New Orleans longshoreman Earl Harris.
Jean Knight died on the 22nd November 2023, from natural causes, at the age of 80.
Mr Big Stuff (Stax Records 1971)
Keep It Comin' ( Records 1981)
My Toot Toot (Mirage Records 1985)
Shaki Di Boo Tee (Ichiban Records 1997)