Sunday, November 29, 2009

Everlasting Love, Robert Knight (1967)

I'm not usually one for sappy songs, but for reasons I can't explain, Everlasting Love - the version originated by Robert Knight - has thrilled me from the very first time I heard it at 15 and it sends waves of pleasure through my being to this very day. 

I never knew anything about this song's genesis, and it was only after I moved to the Cleveland area in the early 90s, where the oldies station plays only a version that was recorded by Carl Carlton, that I realized any other version existed.  I remember feeling disoriented the first time I did hear it, it was so off kilter from the original, and not in a good way.

My research about the song and those involved with it turns up intriguing threads of all kinds.  And this is just some of them:
  • It was written by Buzz Cason and Mac Gayden. Cason founded a group called the Casuals which is generally thought to be Nashville's first rock and roll band.  They were pegged by Brenda Lee's management as of high enough quality to become her backing band. 
  • Gayden was a talented guitarist and sought-after studio musician who played on Bob Dylan's Blonde On Blonde sessions.  
  • Cason had a new record label in Nashville, Rising Son. Gayden discovered college student Robert Knight singing with his then-band, the Fairlanes; putting Knight under contract as a solo artist, he had an immediate hit for the new label with Everlasting Love, which Gayden had been tinkering around with for years but never completed. 
  • Let's see, can we find a Temptations connection to the song? Yes!  After David Ruffin departed the group in 1968, he embarked on a solo career, and he recorded Everlasting Love, putting his inimitable stamp on it, for his My Whole World Ended album.  Wow.
  • Detroit native Carl Carlton, who was a friend of Ruffin's, was unfamiliar with the Knight version of the song but loved David's, and wanted to record it himself.  He did, and it became a huge hit in 1974.  I, however, never heard a note of that version until I moved to the Cleveland area almost 20 years later.  
  • Cason was also the mastermind behind Soldier of Love (Lay Down Your Arms), popularized by American soul artist Arthur Alexander, an early influence on the Beatles. (He wrote and recorded the early Beatles cover Anna, a song I always liked - by them - but knew nothing about.) On the Live at the BBC compilation of unreleased performances from BBC appearances in 1963-65, we can hear the Lads singing Soldier of Love.  NEVER heard this before in my life. Amazing!
  • Not that it's relevant, but Cason also voiced the original Alvin of Chipmunks fame.  Random internet discovery ...
Robert Knight continued to record; his Love on A Mountaintop became a huge hit in the UK.  So while I always thought he was a one-hit wonder, he really wasn't after all.  


KarmaSartre said...

A great, under-rated song. I knew the Carlton, so the Knight version sounds a little odd. Regional I suppose: I remember meeting people from the East Coast who didn't know GLORIA was a Them song.

I've always wished the song had another bridge or something, like it is incomplete. Maybe a strong non-fadeout ending. One of those old re-mixed 12" 45-RPM dance versions would feel right.

Thanks for the fascinating history and all the links.

wendy said...

Yep, that regional aspect can kick in with certain songs, I've found. Gloria is a good example, although I got both versions fed to me. I know I was exposed to things in the Washington, D.C. radio market during the 60s that I wouldn't have been in Ohio during that same period - Everlasting Love was clearly one of those. But I find it odd that, in '74, when the Carlton version came out (and by that time I WAS in Ohio), it never got on my radar screen. I was listening to more album-oriented radio at that time, so that could explain it.