Gladys Knight & the Pips, if I had thought of them, I could have put in my weekly family music groups. One of those pieces of trivia I’ve long known is that “at the age of seven in 1952, she won Ted Mack’s Original Amateur Hour television show contest.” In 1953, Gladys,”her brother Bubba, sister Brenda, and their cousins William and Eleanor Guest started a singing group called ‘The Pips’ (named after another cousin, James ‘Pip’ Woods). The Pips began to perform and tour, eventually replacing Brenda Knight and Eleanor Guest with Langston George in 1959 and Edward Patten in 1963.”
I felt a bit badly for Gladys and the Pips during their tenure at Motown. They were getting a lot of the same songs as the Temptations’ album cuts. Moreover, their biggest hit on the label, Grapevine, was bested on the charts by Marvin Gaye the next year. I remember reading in the press how frustrated the group was when people would ask them why they were doing Marvin’s song.
They moved to Buddah Records in 1973, and later went to Columbia.
Here’s a bit I thought was hysterically funny at the time:
In 1977, the Pips (minus Gladys) appeared on comedian Richard Pryor’s TV special that aired on NBC. They sang their normal backup verses for the… “Midnight Train to Georgia;” during the parts where Gladys would sing, the camera panned on a lone-standing microphone.
The group, which broke up in 1989, when Gladys decided to be a solo artist, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996.
LISTEN to all:
15. Every Beat of My Heart (US #6 in 1961) – that early hit; it’d be a while before their next one
14. The End of Our Road (US #15 in 1968) – one of those songs also recorded by the Tempts
13. Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me (US #3; UK #7 in 1974)
12. Friendship Train (US #17 in 1969) – might even be the Temps same musical arrangement
11. The Nitty Gritty (US #19 in 1969)
10. I Don’t Want to Do Wrong (US #17 in 1971)
9. You Need Love Like I Do (Don’t You) (US #25 in 1970) – another Temps song
8. It Should Have Been Me (US #40 in 1968) – the variation on the Wedding March in the beginning always tickled me
7. Neither One of Us (Wants to Be the First to Say Goodbye) (US #2 in 1973). Appropriately, one of their last songs at Motown.
6. Take Me in Your Arms and Love Me (US #98; UK #13 in 1967) – can’t believe this didn’t do better in the States
5. Daddy Could Swear, I Declare (US #19 in 1973). I even forgive the rhyming of write and right.
4. If I Were Your Woman (US #9 in 1970)
3. I’ve Got to Use My Imagination (US #4 in 1973)
2. Midnight Train to Georgia (US #1 in 1973; UK #10 in 1976)
1. I Heard It Through the Grapevine (US #2 in 1967) – I suppose it’s sacrilege to say, but I’ve always preferred this version to Marvin’s, or Smokey’s or CCR’s…