Profile: Gladys Knight and the Pips

Gladys Knight and the Pips
Gladys Knight and the Pips. source:


1959, Atlanta, GA


Soul, Motown, Pop-soul, R&B

Principal Members:

Gladys Knight (b. May 28, 1944, Atlanta, GA): lead vocals (contralto)
Merald "Bubba" Knight (b. September 4, 1942, Atlanta, GA): backing vocals (baritone)
Edward Roy Patten (b. August 22, 1939, Atlanta, GA; d. February 25th, 2005, Livonia, MI): backing vocals (bass, tenor)
William Guest (b. June 2, 1941, Atlanta, GA): backing vocals (baritone)

Contributions to music:

  • Gladys Knight is considered by some to be Motown's best vocalist
  • The Pips' choreography may be the most famous of all vocal groups
  • Defined the more intimate, "relationship" based R&B of the early Seventies
  • Endured over three decades with the same members, a record beaten only by the Rolling Stones and Four Tops
  • Moved from early vocal group sounds to R&B, soul, Motown and pop
  • Knight is considered one of the finest song interpreters and stylists in soul music

Early years:

Knight had begun singing at the tender age of four in her Baptist church group along with siblings Bubba and Brenda and cousins William and Eleanor Guest, but she went pro after appearing solo on the American Idol of her day, a national TV show called Ted Mack's Original Amateur Hour. The seven-year old Knight and her kin then formed a secular singing group, The Pips, named after their manager, another cousin named James Woods, nicknamed Pip.

With cousins Langston George and Edward Patten eventually replacing the other two ladies, the group covered Hank Ballard and the Midnighters' slow dance "Every Beat Of My Heart."


It was a regional hit, but the group were cheated out of their royalties; undaunted, they cut another version which went Top Ten nationally.

The teenage Knight eventually quit, then rejoined in 1964, but it wasn't until being signed to Motown in 1966 that the hits began to come, including "I Heard It Through The Grapevine," which beat out versions by four different Motown artists -- including Marvin Gaye's -- for release as a single. Despite that, Knight and the Pips often felt unappreciated by Motown, passed over for its best songs in favor of Diana Ross especially. The group left for the Buddah label in 1973.

Later years:

Their take on the situation proved a correct one. The first hit on Buddah was the Grammy-winning smash "Midnight Train To Georgia," and soon the group were elevated to superstardom; Knight's elegant tales of heartbreak and the Pips' patented dance moves (choreographed by dance legend Cholly Atkins) became a national soul monument of sorts. Although disco cut into their sales, the group continued to enjoy hits and scored a major R&B comeback in the mid-Eighties. The Pips retired in 1989, but Knight has had continued success as a solo act, branching out into gospel and jazz and touring behind her classic hits.

Other facts:

  • Other Pips members have included: Brenda Knight (1953-1959); Eleanor Guest (1953-1959); Langston George (1959-1962)
  • Knight, not Diana Ross, was the first to approach Motown head Berry Gordy about signing Gary, Indiana's Jackson 5
  • Many of the group's biggest hits, including "Neither One of Us" and "The Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me," were written by a country songwriter, Jim Weatherly; his original version of "Midnight Train to Georgia" was actually called "Midnight Plane to Houston"
  • Knight suffered from a gambling addiction in the late Eighties
  • Knight, a Mormon, has been married four times


  • Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (1996)
  • GRAMMY Awards (1973, 1986, 1988, 2001, 2005)
  • GRAMMY Hall of Fame (1973)
  • Hollywood Walk of Fame (7083 Hollywood Blvd.)

Recorded work:

#1 hits:

  • "Midnight Train To Georgia" (1973)
  • "Every Beat Of My Heart" (1961)
  • "I Heard It Through The Grapevine" (1967)
  • "If I Were Your Woman" (1971)
  • "Midnight Train To Georgia" (1973)
  • "Neither One Of Us (Wants To Be The First To Say Goodbye)" (1973)
  • "Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me" (1974)
  • "I've Got To Use My Imagination" (1974)
  • "Save The Overtime (For Me)" (1983)
  • "Love Overboard" (1986)
Top 10 hits:
  • "Every Beat Of My Heart" (1961)
  • "I Heard It Through The Grapevine" (1967)
  • "If I Were Your Woman" (1970)
  • "Neither One Of Us (Wants To Be The First To Say Goodbye)" (1973)
  • "Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me" (1974)
  • "I Feel A Song (In My Heart)" (1974)
  • "I've Got To Use My Imagination" (1974)
  • "Letter Full Of Tears" (1962)
  • "Everybody Needs Love" (1967)
  • "It Should Have Been Me" (1968)
  • "The End Of Our Road" (1968)
  • "Friendship Train" (1969)
  • "The Nitty Gritty" (1969)
  • "You Need Love Like I Do (Don't You)" (1970)
  • "I Don't Want To Do Wrong" (1971)
  • "Make Me The Woman That You Go Home To" (1972)
  • "Daddy Could Swear, I Declare" (1973)
  • "Where Peaceful Waters Flow" (1973)
  • "On And On" (1974)
  • "Love Finds It's Own Way" (1975)
  • "Money" (1975)
  • "Part Time Love" (1975)
  • "The Way We Were/Try To Remember" (1975)
  • "Baby Don't Change Your Mind" (1977)
  • "Landlord" (1980)
  • "You're Number One (In My Book)" (1983)
  • "Lovin' On Next To Nothin'" (1988)
  • "Men" (1991)
#1 albums:
  • Imagination (1973)
  • Neither One Of Us (1974)
  • Claudine (1974)
  • I Feel A Song (1974)
  • All Our Love (1987)
  • Good Woman (1991)
Top 10 albums:
  • Imagination (1973)
  • Neither One Of Us
  • Gladys Knight & The Pips Greatest Hits (1970)
  • If I Were Your Woman (1971)
  • Anthology (1974)
  • 2nd Anniversary (1975)
  • The Best Of Gladys Knight & The Pips (1976)
  • About Love (1980)
  • Visions (1983)
  • Just for You (1994)
Appears on: Gladys Knight: "That's What Friends Are For" (1986)
Covered by: Indigo Girls, George Michael, Average White Band, Stephanie Mills, Roger, Joe Cocker, Yvonne Fair, Donny Hathaway, Bette Midler, Dusty Springfield, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Beki Bondage, Hall & Oates
Appears in the movies: Gladys Knight: "Pipe Dreams," (1976) "Twenty Bucks" (1993), "Hollywood Homicide" (2003), "Unbeatable Harold" (2006)