Update With Reg Knighton - October 2006

Reg Knighton performed with The Grass Roots as lead guitarist and vocalist from 1974 to 1975 during the period of their Mamacita single, their self titled album and the US tour in support of it. In 1976, he worked with John Sebastian on his popular Welcome Back album, then played with a band called White Horse before landing his own recording contract. He produced his self titled solo album in 1977. The next year he released his second album, titled The Reggie Knighton Band produced by Roy Thomas Baker. In 1981, he worked with Mark Saffan & The Keepers and just this year added his vocals to Phil Brown’s The Jimi Project album. Thank you Reg for taking the time to answer a few questions about your Grass Roots years!

What is your birthday?

November 3rd, 1953 

Where were you born?

Biloxi, Mississippi

At what age did you start playing guitar?

12 yrs. old 

When did you begin playing in groups?

12 yrs. old

What musical groups influenced your playing style?

Initially: Beatles, Stones, Ventures (Pipeline), Them (Gloria), McCoys (Hang On Sloopy), Tommy James & the Shondells (Hanky Panky), Dino, Desi, & Billy (I'm A Fool), Kinks (Tired of Waiting)

Later: Clapton, Ry Cooder, Jesse Ed Davis, Hendrix, Jimmy Page, Dean Parks,  Mick Taylor, Pete Townsend

What brand and model of guitar do you like the best and why?

Fender Telecaster & Stratocaster - sonic excellence, versatile, classic iconic appearance, rugged/roadworthy/replaceable 

Gibson SG Standard : used by Eric Clapton on Fresh Cream, George Harrison on Revolver,  Mick Taylor - with Stones,  Angus Young with AC/DC.

definitive "humbucker thru a marshall" lead guitar sound . . . light weight, resonant . . . peerless.

Also SG Special same as Standard model but w/P90 pickups - Carlos Santana "BMW"  (Black Magic Woman) guitar tone . . ..

When did you meet Dennis Provisor and how did it come about that you auditioned for The Grass Roots?
 

In 1972-73 I met Dennis Provisor's brother, Joe,  through an old girlfriend. Joe and I were both just out of high school. Joe was impressed with my playing and songwriting and suggested I contact his brother.  I phoned Dennis and made an appointment to meet with him. 

When I appeared at the front door of his Califa St. sprawling ranch style home with guitar and amp in tow for the appointment, he answered the door half asleep, with no idea whatsoever of who I was or why I was there.

I reminded him of our phone call to which he remained oblivious but invited me in nonetheless out of his good graces.

He sat at his antique piano; I played thru my pint size Vibrochamp; and we immediately made a musical connection.

He had left the Grass Roots and begun experimenting with a Lee Michaels/Frosty inspired "power duo" concept with drummer Joe Pollard. Also, he and I began going into the studio together and playing local live venues together. During this period, Virgil Weber left the Grass Roots and Dennis played with them, temporarily, until they could find a replacement for Virgil. When Grass Roots  guitarist Reed Kailing also left the group, I auditioned for Reed's spot, and became their 'umpteenth guitarist'. Dennis and I both remained in the group for a year and a half or so.

What were your impressions of The Grass Roots before you auditioned?

A successful hit making group, grounded in the 60's explosion of music/culture and continuing its relevence through the mid 70's and beyond . . .

What year did you officially join the group?

1974

Where did you first play a live concert with the group?

Auditorium: Purdue University, LaFayette, Indiana

What was the first Grass Roots song you performed?

We opened at Purdue with Glory Bound.

What other musical groups did The Grass Roots tour with, during your time with them?

Phlourescent Leech & Eddie, The Association, Jewel Aiken, Jan & Dean and others.

Can you relay any memories of your life on tour with the group?

Joel Larson once boarded an airliner wearing "hot socks" plainly visible through his open toed high heeled sandals. Hot socks were like "foot gloves" sporting individually knitted digits; one for each toe to fit into. They were loud, multicolored, garishly attention getting and worked very well as a means by which to engage attractive female passengers in conversation.

What regions of the US did you tour?

Everywhere really: Washington, Colorado, Florida, Alaska, Iowa, Indiana, Ohio, New York, New Orleans  . . . and all points in between . . .

What songs from the set list seemed to get the strongest reaction from the crowd?

Temptation Eyes
Let’s Live For Today
Where Were You When I Needed You 

and the hands down favorite:

Midnight Confessions

On the self titled LP you are credited with vocals along with the other group members. There is a long list of other musicians credited but no mention of the instruments played by the group members. How involved were you in the recording process?

It was the prerogative of the producers Dennis Lambert & Brian Potter to use studio musicians on that album. 

A decision to use studio players was never appreciated by a band's actual players, but it wasn’t altogether an uncommon practice in those days . . . even the Beach Boys would customarily use "studio musicians" to expedite the process and guarantee an expected standard of quality.

One particular irony however: on the self-titled Haven album: the song Something About You was arranged by Dennis and me and we had to playback a tape of our arrangement to the studio musicians in order for them to play the song properly.

What was the atmosphere like at the newly formed Haven records?

Very business like. Very professional.

Did you meet any other notable recording artists doing work with Haven?

I believe Lambert & Potter were working with the group Tavares at the time.

At one session Graham Nash popped into the control room for a moment and was ebullient with praise for recording engineer Joe Sidore's acoustic guitar sound. Nash made an impression as an extremely nice person.

How much media promotion did Haven and Capitol Records give the group?

I recall lots of radio spots for Mamacita when we were scheduled to play at either Disneyland, Magic Mountain or Knotts Berry Farm

How many TV appearances did you make with The Grass Roots?

A few. . .  Dick Clark shows: American Bandstand, The Music Thing (TMT) etc.

What are your memories of the song Mamacita being banned?

I have no knowledge of any banning of Mamacita at any time.

As the new member with a group of veterans like Grill, Larson and Provisor how do you feel you fit into that equation?

I was very blessed to fit right in with three guys that I had the utmost respect for, each in their own way: Dennis was a mentor: a consummate musician-singer-songwriter and one of the best singers in the business. Rob Grill was a gifted singer and group leader. Joel was a terrific drummer; 100% natural . . .and a shamelessly aggressive ladies man from who I learned a great deal about self confidence and being assertive toward women.

What do you feel is your greatest contribution to the group and why?

I lent a "Small Faces" kind of "loose precision" to the ensemble’s sound. My guitar playing was droney and I got sustain from my tone  . . .  on songs like Glory Bound and Temptation Eyes I endeavored to get Pete Townsend like "power chord sustain".

What was your last memory associated with The Grass Roots?

We had many MANY GREAT performances in which the four of us were "in the zone" . . . we filled a lot of harmonic space for just 4 guys.

How did you most benefit by your membership in the group?

Improved my skills as a live performer.

You went on to a successful music career in your own right after leaving the group was that your plan?

Yes. 

You went on to computer work in recent years. What are some of your accomplishments in that field?

I was involved in the development of a graphical user interface for a checkbook size personal computer back in the mid 80's. and in the early 90's I helped design a traditional recording console's on screen graphical representation as part of a (at the time) state of the art automation system for a Neve console.

What do you find most rewarding about your computer work?

The purity of the process. Any other "machine" is defined/implemented by all of the physical parts of the machine and how they fit together. You need the physical 'parts' and the conceptual "blueprint" for how those parts all fit together: a set of parts and the assembly instructions.

With computer programs, there is no distinction: the program is the "blueprint" AND the "parts" all in one uniform "source code". 

In other words, the specification is  the implementation itself!

It's the epitome of elegance. 

How are you keeping in tune as a musician?

I play guitar every day and jam with my friends as often as possible.

What are your future plans?

To work in renewable energy research.

With all the experiences you have had as a musician, touring and/or playing with music legends (The Grass Roots, John Sebastian, 10cc, Jesse Ed Davis, Warren Zevon) recording and your own songwriting - what remains your most fond memory?

Playing with the Grass Roots in Anchorage Alaska and sharing the bill with the Phlourescent Leech and Eddie was a pretty idyllic experience. Earning that glowing parasite Phloe's respect as a guitar player that evening felt pretty good.

On another occasion I was playing with Jesse Ed Davis at the Hollywood Central (now called The Viper Room) and Jesse paid me a genuine compliment for having played a solo that he really liked. For a guitar player, it doesn't get much better than that; receiving validation from someone of Jesse Ed's talent.

I received similar encouragement in my early years from two outstanding guitarists; Dean Parks & Randy California

How would Reg Knighton like to be remembered in history?

A guitar player that had a good touch and was known as much for the space he left as for the notes he played.


1975

1976

1977

1977

1978

1981

2006

The Reggie Knighton Band collaborating with John Sebastian
on the animated film score for The Devil and Daniel Mouse circa 1979.
L to R: Glenn Symmonds, Reggie Knighton, Clive Smith, Kurtis Teel and John Sebastian.
Brian Ray was also present but not in this photo.