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CURTIS KNIGHT (& THE SQUIRES)


Demo RECORDINGS
9 demo recordings exist of Curtis Knight and Jimi Hendrix (and possibly Johnny Starr - see the Johnny Starr Artist-section) trying out rough versions of songs. These include tracks that sound like solo Knight compositions, two Hendrix originals and three songs that Jimi & Curtis later recorded in the studio.

Four of these demos first surfaced on the cd The Authentic PPX Studio Recordings vol. 3, released by the German SPV label in 1996. They were reissued in 2020 on the Dagger Records cd No Business along with 5 previously unheard tracks so No Business includes all of the Curtis Knight demo recordings (and mixes) known to exist. I`ll list the tracks here in the order that they appear in on No Business.

No Business uses the exact same master for the previously released demos as the SPV release in 1996 did. The Dagger Records cd is a bit quieter but otherwise the audio quality is identical as is the musical content. All four SPV tracks are also presented in the same sequence on No Business. Which is interesting - is the original master for these now lost, or has the tape degraded so badly that EH decided to use the SPV master?

Brad Tolinski says in the liner notes for No Business that the demo recordings were done at Studio "76" right after Jimi and Curtis first met. I have serious doubts about this. The tapes are very lo-fi and sound exactly like rough demos cut at somebody`s home with a cheap consumer deck. I don`t believe Chalpin would have made mono demo recordings on a cheap portable deck in his professional recording studio. Also, there is ambient noise on some of the songs that does not sound like a recording studio at all. For example, "Ballad Of Jimmy" has what sounds like a doorbell going at 0.28 & 0.40 and cutlery dropping on a plate at 0.59.

However, I stated my belief that these demos are home recordings in the review of the cd to which John Mc Dermott of Experience Hendrix replied with this:
"[...] the 1965 demo was cut at the studio. It was done quickly and simply but it was among Ed's tapes. It was not a multi-track recording. In typical Chalpin fashion, he pulled it out in July 1967 (after the first JH return to Studio 76) and attempted to overdub studio instrumentation over it. The second session in August removed the need for such an attempt and he abandoned the idea. He now had sufficient material to compile at least two albums (by his standards)."]

So, the official word from Experience Hendrix is that the demo recordings were all done in late 1965 at Studio "76" in New York City.


I Ain't Taking Care Of No Business
(aka No Business aka Taking Care Of No Business)
Composer: Jimi Hendrix
Recorded at: New York City
Date: late 1965?
Vocals: Curtis Knight
Harmony vocals: Johnny Starr?
Guitar & harmony vocals: Jimi Hendrix

This demo is very close to the 1967 studio recording of the song (which was released as "No Business"), it was clearly used as the blueprint. Jimi mentioned this demo recording during the PPX court case:

"There was one time that Curtis started playing this song - I think it was No Business - and like he was playing an old version of it, some demo version or something, I don't know. And we were playing with it. But that old version was made like, you know, a while back" 2

So this demo was known to have existed at one point but it only surfaced in 2020. "I Ain't Taking Care Of No Business" is important for being the first Hendrix song that we know of with a publishing contract in his name ("Jimmy Hendrix"), with RSVP MUSIC, INC signed on 30 March 1966.4

It is also the only known Hendrix composition that we have both a pre-fame recording and a later re-recording of. Sort of, that is – the Jimi Hendrix Experience recorded a song titled "Taking Care Of No Business" in London on 4 & 5 May 1967 but this was a complete rewrite by Jimi. He kept the track title and the theme of the song is exactly the same but the lyrics and music have been entirely re-written. 3

Then, even though his own band had already recorded a mostly newly written track loosely based on the song, Jimi recorded the original composition in the studio with Curtis Knight in New York City in July / August 1967. Which, like the 1967 sessions in general, makes little sense, at least not in retrospect.

The track was copyrighted in 1967 without any mention of Jimi, interestingly crediting Curtis Knight for the music but making no mention of lyrics: 5

NO BUSINESS; m Curtis Knight. 1 p.
© PPX Pub. Co., a division of PPX
Enterprises, Inc.; 14Aug67; EU9707.

To my ears there are three vocalist on this demo version. Curtis sings the lead and Jimi does some harmony parts and a third person, who I believe may be Johnny Starr, adds another harmony part. A good point in the track to listen to: the third person is humming behind Curtis' vocals at 1.08 - 1.21 and at 1.22 starts singing "I just ain't..." right after which you can hear Jimi join in.

Available on:
Cd No Business - Curtis Knight & The Squires The PPX Sessions Volume 2 (Dagger Records 19439800592)


Working All Day

(aka Ooh-Ah)
Composer: Jimi Hendrix (& Curtis Knight?)
Recorded at: New York City
Date: late 1965?
Harmony vocals: Curtis Knight
Harmony vocals: Johnny Starr?
Guitar & Vocals: Jimi Hendrix

The song was copyrighted under the odd but apt title "Ooh-ah" in 1967:

OOH-AH; w & m Jimi Hendrix & Curtis
Knight. 2 p. © PPX Pub. Co., a div .
of PPX Enterprises, Inc.; 18Aug67 ;
EU10730.

It's a bit suspicious that a registration made in 1967 includes Curtis Knight as one of the composers. It may of course be an entirely correct credit but when Ed Chalpin started to overdub tracks and assemble albums from the various recordings in 1967 credits for the songwriting were given in very haphazard fashion and clearly most of the time not based on actual composer credits. The Dagger Records album credits the song to just Jimi.

This demo was not known to exist at all before it's release in 2020, Jimi does all of the lead vocals making this now the earliest known recorded track with him singing. The tape sounds just like Jimi`s home demos from later in his career do, he sings softly to his own guitar accompaniment.

Like Tolinski points out in the No Business liner notes Jimi later recycled the "Oaah-ahs" from this track for "Purple Haze". "Working All Day" itself, however, is a clear re-write of "Chain Gang" by Sam Cooke. The style of the background vocals has been lifted from "Chain Gang", the subject matter of the lyrics also follows the Sam Cooke song very closely but they are completely different as are the vocal melodies, so this is not a cover version but rather a pastiche.



I think there are two probable reasons why Jimi may have composed the song. Either this is one of his first attempts at writing and recording his own songs, and like many artists he starts out by emulating songs composed by others. Or, this remake of "Chain Gang" was specifically written for Ed Chalpin. "How Would You Feel" was a rewrite of a Bob Dylan song, "Working All Day" follows the same template, as does "Hornet´s Nest" to some degree. Did Chalpin want to record hit songs so Jimi and Curtis tried to write them in the style of previous successes?

Again I hear three vocalists, Jimi is doing the lead vocals and there are two persons doing the "ooh-ah"'s which often overlap.

Available on:
Cd No Business - Curtis Knight & The Squires The PPX Sessions Volume 2 (Dagger Records 19439800592)


Two Little Birds
Composer: Curtis Knight (& Jimi Hendrix?)
Recorded at: New York City
Date: late 1965?
Vocals: Curtis Knight
Guitar: Jimi Hendrix

Solo vocal by Curtis, a track that was previously unheard and unknown of until it was released in 2020. According to the No Business liner notes this track was composed by Curtis Knight and Jimi Hendrix. I do have to wonder if Experience Hendrix didn`t mix this one up in the credits with "Working All Day" which was copyrighted in 1967 with Jimi & Curtis listed as the composers?  For "Two Little Birds" I haven`t found any registration at all so why Jimi is included as a co-composer here and Curtis not mentioned at all for "Working All Day" I do not know. It`s of course always possible that Experience Hendrix  has information that I don`t. This sounds very much like a solo Curtis Knight ballad very unlike anything Jimi ever composed.

Available on:
Cd No Business - Curtis Knight & The Squires The PPX Sessions Volume 2 (Dagger Records 19439800592)


Suddenly
Composer: Curtis Knight
Recorded at: New York City
Date: late 1965?
Vocals: Curtis Knight
Guitar: Jimi Hendrix

A solo vocal by Curtis and another rather traditional ballad. The composition was known to exist as there is a 1965 copyright registration for it but the demo recording only surfaced in 2020. The track sounds like a dub from an acetate and in general the sound quality of the previously unheard demo recordings released on No Business is a bit worse than on the four tracks that had already been released by SPV. Has the original tape been lost or fallen to pieces in the 20 years since the SPV releases? The liner notes make no comment about the sources used for these recordings.

The original copyright registration for this track  was made in early 1965, long before Curtis met Jimi:

SUDDENLY; w & m Curtis Knight. 2 p
© RSVP Music, Inc.; 10Mar65 ; EU871253.

A second registration was made in 1967 changing the copyright holder from RSVP to PPX:

SUDDENLY; w & m Curtis Knight. 2 p.
© PPX Pub. Co., a div. of PPX
Enterprises, Inc.; 18Aug67; EU10728.

Tolinski compares the style of the guitar parts on "Two Little Birds" and "Suddenly" to "Little Wing" and "Castles Made Of Sand" and he´s right.

Available on:
Cd No Business - Curtis Knight & The Squires The PPX Sessions Volume 2 (Dagger Records 19439800592)


The U.F.O.

(aka UFO aka Unidentified Flying Objects)
Composer: Curtis Knight?
Recorded at: New York City
Date: late 1965?
Vocals: Curtis Knight
Guitar: Jimi Hendrix

The U.F.O. was recorded in the studio for RSVP in 1966. According to the book Setting The Record Straight on or around 27 July 1967 Chalpin bought the masters for the following tracks:"The U.F.O.", "I'm A Fool For You Baby", "Ballad Of Jimmy", "Gotta Have A New Dress", "Hornet's Nest", "Knock Yourself Out", "Your Love".

The copyright listing for this song dates from 1967 after Chalpin had bought it from RSVP: 6

UNIDENTIFIED FLYING OBJECTS; w & m
Curtis Knight. 2 p. © PPX Pub. Co.,
a division of PPX Enterprises, Inc.;
16Aug67; EU10284.

I do not know what document(s) the listing in Setting The Record Straight is based on but it would seem to be the earliest title that we have for this song so I'm using it as the "official" title. This is backed up by the demo recording on which Curtis sings "I'd have come to see you friend and taught you the U.F.O." ie "the U.F.O" is the name of a dance in the lyrics. The whole discussion is of course academic as it's all just variations in the spelling of the title...

No Business uses the exact same master for this track as the SPV release in 1996 did.

Cd No Business - Curtis Knight & The Squires The PPX Sessions Volume 2 (Dagger Records 19439800592)

Better Times Ahead
Composer: Curtis Knight?
Recorded at: New York City
Date: late 1965?
Vocals: Curtis Knight
Harmony vocals: Jimi Hendrix
Harmony vocals?: Johnny Starr?
Guitar: Jimi Hendrix

At 1.39 there is ambient noise that sounds like someone dropping plates, not something that you'd expect to hear in a studio?

On this track it's hard to say whether these are one or two persons doing the background vocals as it's hard to tell the possible different vocals apart from each other. There is however someone going "da da da daa" at 0.43 and this doesn't sound like Jimi or Curtis.

No Business
uses the exact same master for this track as the SPV release in 1996 did.

Available on:
Cd No Business - Curtis Knight & The Squires The PPX Sessions Volume 2 (Dagger Records 19439800592)

Everybody Knew But Me
Composer: Curtis Knight?
Recorded at: New York City
Date: late 1965?
Vocals: Curtis Knight
Guitar: Jimi Hendrix

No Business uses the exact same master for this track as the SPV release in 1996 did.

Available on:
Cd No Business - Curtis Knight & The Squires The PPX Sessions Volume 2 (Dagger Records 19439800592)

If You Gotta Make A Fool Of Somebody
(aka If You Gonna Make A Fool Of Somebody)
Composer: Rudy Clark
Recorded at: New York City
Date: late 1965?
Vocals: Curtis Knight
Harmony vocals: Jimi Hendrix?
Guitar: Jimi Hendrix

First released by James Ray with The Hutch Davie Orchestra on the 45 "If You Gotta Make A Fool Of Somebody / It's Been A Drag" (Caprice 110) in 1961. The version probably released closest to the time of recording of this demo was the Maxine Brown 45 "If You Gotta Make A Fool Of Somebody / You're in Love" (Wand WND 1104), November 1965 1.

Wand and Curtis Knight / RSVP were both operating in the same building (see the 1650 Broadway -section), Curtis making a demo of a song that Maxine Brown released right around the same time could be a co-incidence - or the demo might have had something to do with Wand?

The original title for "If You Gotta Make A Fool Of Somebody" uses "gotta", not "gonna" (though Curtis does alternate between singing "gotta" and "gonna").

No Business uses the exact same master for this track as the SPV release did.

Available on:
Cd No Business - Curtis Knight & The Squires The PPX Sessions Volume 2 (Dagger Records 19439800592)


Ballad Of Jimmy
(aka My Best Friend aka Ballad Of Jimi)
Composer: Curtis Knight?
Recorded at: New York City
Date: late 1965?
Vocals: Curtis Knight
Guitar: Jimi Hendrix

Again it sounds like this track was taken from an acetate. The demo version of "Ballad Of Jimmy" was previously unknown and unheard before 2020. This recording has the most ambient noise of the bunch, with what sounds like a doorbell going at 0.28 & 0.40 and cutlery dropping on a plate at 0.59...

The 1967 copyright registration: 5

THE BALLAD OF JIMI; w & m Curtis
Knight. 2 p. © PPX Pub. Co., a
division of PPX Enterprises, Inc.;
14Aug67; EU9708.

The demo follows the 1966 & 1967 studio versions closely, obviously it was just a novelty song and an inside joke at the time of the recording and not the dark doomy prediction of death Chalpin later tried to frame it as.

It was however a  song that a lot of work was put into over the years. We now have a demo version from 1965, a studio version from 1966 (recorded for RSVP) and another studio version from 1967 (recorded for PPX). It´s a real shame that Chalpin chose to overdub the new vocals with Jimi supposedly predicting his death as the song really WAS about Jimi right from the beginning and not just a later fabrication - which is the impression that the reworking left many people with.

"Ballad Of Jimmy" is the original title of this song as confirmed by studio talk back on the 1966 studio version released on No Business.

Available on:
Cd No Business - Curtis Knight & The Squires The PPX Sessions Volume 2 (Dagger Records 19439800592)


UNKNOWN SONG REGISTRATION

There is still one Curtis Knight song registration from this period unaccounted for, a song titled "NO.1". This could be a Curtis Knight solo recording that has nothing to do with Jimi Hendrix - or it could be something else. The registration credits Curtis Knight only with music, no credit for lyrics included. It may be an alternate title for a known track, an unrecorded composition or a demo track that hasn't surfaced, everything is possible.

N0.1; m Curtis Knight. 1 p. © PPX
Pub. Co., a division of PPX Enter-
prises, Inc.; 14Aug67; EU9711.




SOURCES
1 the Maxine Brown single "If You Gotta Make A Fool Of Somebody / You're in Love" (Wand WND 1104) was reviewed in Billboard issue 27 November 1965.

2 Jimi's PPX court case deposition interview recorded 7 March 1968 in New York City, partially reproduced in Univibes issue #35

3 with thanks to Len Pogost. According to the liner notes for the The Jimi Hendrix Experience -boxset released by Experience Hendrix in 2000 the 4 May 1967 session at Olympic Studios started with a solo take by Jimi followed by two rehearsal takes and finished with two formal numbered takes. Take two had a tambourine overdub by Mitch Mitchell added on 5 May and this is this master take which is included on the boxset. Hendrix collectors first got to hear the song on the bootleg cd Studio Haze which was released in 1993. That disc, however, was sourced from a leaked cassette tape of tracks which had been reworked by Chas Chandler (with the help of Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell) in 1987. Chas added a tuba overdub to the recording which works very well but was not present on the original tape.

4 the contract was offered for sale by Lelands.com in 2002.

5 Library of Congress Copyright Office
Catalog of Copyright Entries 1967 Music July-Dec 3D Ser Vol 21 Pt 5

6 Library of Congress Copyright Office
Catalog of Copyright Entries 1967 Music July-Dec 3D Ser Vol 21 Pt 5