There has never been any doubt that Los Angeles is the music capital of the world! Included are those that are part of this city’s great musical heritage. One name that is apt to be overlooked is Larry “Fuzzy” Knight. The history of his contributions would leave the average person in awe. I certainly was… It’s a wonder that Mr. Knight‘s accomplishments hasn’t yielded him a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame!
Larry Knight was born in St. Louis to a middle class Jewish family that lived in a modest apartment. At a young age his musical acumen was measured off the chart! Upon the news from his school teacher his family learned .. He was a genius.. perhaps even a prodigy! Unfortunately the Knight apartment was too small for a big piano so they bought him a violin to start it in turned to a cello and then a stand-up bass. He could master any instrument in front of him. During his early years he was already reading and writing music to the level of a great composer. As he grew up Larry started digging early rhythm and blues music that was being played on all“black” music radio station KATZ.. The “Katz” of St. Louis. He was so obsessed by the power of R&B that without the consent of his parents he ventured to all black night clubs that the radio station would do weekly live broadcasts just to be left in awe by the music’s power. In those days you had to go through St. Louis if you were a black artist. Interestingly, this locality was in fact the gateway to Memphis, Chicago, Kansas City and New Orleans.
Larry would be wonderstruck struck by seeing such musical icons as Sam & Dave, Otis Redding, Ray Charles and James Brown that his chakras’ led him to be deeper obsessed with black music. At 16 he would sneak across the bridge to E. St. Louis, Ill. and jam with the likes of Chuck Berry, Albert King and Ike Turner. He saw himself more as a black man than white.
Ike Turner Larry Knight Chuck Berry
Larry’s father..”Old Man” Weisberg (Knight’s real name) was afraid that his little Larry could get himself murdered, get hooked on drugs or come down with syphilis. No whites would go to these obscure night spots other than a token Anglo woman who was either a hooker, a junkie or both. Those in the know saw that Larry was “cool” and a welcomed virtuoso as a player. He didn’t care that Ike Turner or Chuck Berry were tight wads.. He just wanted to sit in and jam with his heroes. He could hold his own. In 1966 Larry had a regional hit with Larry Knight and the Upsetters , “Hurt Me” and got airplay in Chicago, Detroit and of course St. Louis..
When Larry turned of age he was drafted by the army to serve action in Viet Nam. For almost two years his musical sojourn was put on hold while he was in the “jungle” killing “Charlie” and serving his country. After his discharge he was back in St. Louis doing his thing .. playing music. He got gigs all over the Southeast and while in Daytona Beach there was a band playing in a club not too far from where he was playing called The Allman Joys… yep you guessed it .. The Allman Brothers Band. Upon returning home Larry decided to start his own band called Pax where he would play bass guitar and be the band leader. Remember, he is proficient at every instrument put in front of him. His relationships with the D.J.’s at KATZ radio allowed for his introduction to Barry Goldberg of The Electric Flag. Goldberg himself had sat in with Howlin Wolf, Muddy Waters and Mike Bloomfield all based in Chicago. Goldberg got the Pax band to go to Chicago and cut some demos. The tracks he produced lead to an invitation to come out to Los Angeles and promised he’d secure a record deal. Larry with the band Pax couldn’t pass up this opportunity! Once he and the band tied up some lose ends they had moved to CA.. Larry and Pax arrive in L.A. and he went to Goldberg’s home in Topanga Canyon only to find an attendant who revealed that Barry Goldberg was in rehab due to his addiction to heroin. You’d assume that all would be lost for Larry Knight and Pax! After all the work to venture to the West coast all he had was “bupkis” to show. Pax got an agent who booked them as a cover band to play at hotel lounges from Yuma, AZ. to Santa Monica. In those days musicians were allowed on the lots of A&M Records and Capitol to place their cards on a bulletin board looking for session work. Sure there was the famous studio musicians, “The Wrecking Crew ” Mr. Knight was no slouch and he was able to get some studio work while PAX’s agent was still getting them unappealing gigs. Knight even got the gig to back up Bette Midler when she was just starting out.. before that the “Divine Ms. M.” was playing at bath houses in NYC.
While driving one evening he sees on the marquee at a club in the San Fernando Valley… Delaney and Bonnie… Larry had a knack of being at the right place at the right time. He was friends with Bonnie during the St. Louis days. Born Bonnie Lynn O’Farrell back before she moved to L.A. and married Delaney Bramlett. Bonnie was well renowned in the Mid-West.. she had been the first white woman to sing back up for Ike and Tina Turner. Delaney and Bonnie had completed an incredible “game changing” tour of Europe with Leon Russell, Eric Clapton, Dave Mason and George Harrison. The press on both sides of the Atlantic was incredible for this so called “super group”. Upon completion Clapton hires away the D&B rhythm section to record Derek and the Dominos in Miami. In addition, alcohol and drugs had a lot to do with the band’s demise. Larry hugs Bonnie and sits in; he’s so good he didn’t need to audition.. they hire him to be their guitarist. Again, Larry can play every instrument like no one else. As expected, Knight had the unfortunate task of informing PAX that destiny called and he was moving on.
Delaney & Bonnie
Unfortunately D&B had their issues… excess of alcohol.. drugs .. and inrecoupable recording costs. The record company was at the end of their wits. Stories of abuse had become infamous amongst L.A. musicians and the press. It was a terrible nightmare for all especially for Larry Knight whose work ethic was really being challenged; this is not how he rolls! While hanging out in Topanga Cyn. Larry met former Spirit guitarist, Randy California of Spirit fame. California was given the name after meeting Jimi Hendrix in Manny’s Guitar shop in N.Y.C. and they became pretty close mates.
Randy California… Kapt. Kopter
The world was pretty small within the music world during these days. Knight and California would jam at the world famous Corral in Topanga and it ended up with the recording of the post Spirit record…Kapt. Kopter and the (Fabulous) Twirly Birds moniker.. They gigged throughout Los Angeles to filled up clubs but unfortunately the record failed in the U.S. and the press were very unkind; however in Europe it went to the top of the rock charts. Still in Los Angeles Larry gets a call from the Jefferson Airplane who had just started their own record label.. Grunt and they offer him a sweet deal to move to S.F. and act as their studio guru. While in the Bay area Knight decides to grow this awesome austere beard which would soon become the addition of “Fuzzy” to his name.
Things were going pretty slow as far as Fuzzy was concerned. You see he’s your proverbial workaholic and when he got a call from Randy CA. to come back to L.A. and rehearse for a massive tour of England and Europe under the name of Spirit. They were treated like kings with first class accommodations… They say when Spirit played at London’s famed Rainbow Theater they did 8 encores! Larry “Fuzzy” Knight was actually starting to make some great money.
Los Angeles Rock Band Spirit
Their relationship would last for years and approximately 11 C.D.’s… they had become very close friends. When Knight learned of California’s tragic drowning in Maui, Hawaii he was sincerely distraught about losing one of his best friends.
Blowin’ Smoke.. Smokettes’
Knight decides while back in Los Angeles to fulfill his long time wish…start a killer rhythm and blues revue just like he would see during his formative years. The band is called Blowin’ Smoke and it features the greatest musicians in Los Angeles. They “thump” and “swing” like no other band in town. If you want to party and dance your ass off then you need to check this band of musical gypsies out! The group also featured a trinity of female singers.. “the Smokettes”. Blowin’ Smoke has been pleasing crowds in L.A. for over 20 years. During this time some of the band members had passed away or just moved on but the essence of the “Revue” format never changed. Larry being the A+ musician would create arrangements that would blow your mind. An important premise to this story is that with the return of the soul sound by breakthrough artists.. Weeknd, Prince, Elle King, Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars to name a few again Larry “Fuzzy” Knight is way ahead of the curve. After experiencing a Blowin Smoke’s gig at the world famous Harvells’ Night Club I would see “millennial” kids watch in awe and pushing each other to cram on the dance floor. Give it up for Larry “Fuzzy” Knight and Blowin’ Smoke!
In tandem to Blowin’ Smoke “Fuzzy” has a side project..Sky King.. “Morose Tales From the Left Coast” which has a definite blues base that is streamlined with a retro psychedelic vibe.. The standout track from the C.D. is”Blues Skies”.
Rock Bands of L.A. com wants to thank Larry and Doug Deutsch for their time and consideration…