Jimy Sohns, lead singer of Chicago’s very own Shadows Of Knight, passed away Friday Night (July 29th) after suffering a second stroke. He was 75.
The Shadows Of Knight were the first Chicago band to make The National Top Ten when their debut hit “Gloria” came blasting out of transistor radios from coast to coast in the Spring of 1966. The tune, written by Van Morrison and first recorded by his group Them the year before (and released as a B-Side), was often referred to by Jim Peterik of The Ides of March as “Rock And Roll’s National Anthem” during the Cornerstones Of Rock shows that the two bands have been performing together for the last several years, along with other ‘60’s local rock giants The Buckinghams, The New Colony Six and The Cryan’ Shames. It has since been inducted into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.
The story goes that WLS Morning Disc Jockey and Program Director Clark Weber put the word out to Bill Traut, The Shadows’ Manager and one of the co-owner of the new Dunwich record label in Chicago, that if somebody could record a “clean” version of “Gloria,” it would be an immediate hit … and Traut had his boys quickly learn the song and head into the studio later the same day to do exactly that. Sohns once told me that while that may have been the legend that was spread via the publicity chain, it wasn’t quite accurately the truth. (And, as we all know, when the legend is far more interesting than the truth, print the legend!!!)
People talk about "Gloria"
being the big break-through hit in 1966 ... and there've been stories going
around for years about how WLS and Clark Weber got us to make that record ...
and I love Clark, he's a great guy ... but people remember things differently.
All I know is we were playing "Gloria" for a year before the record
came out, so nobody had to ask us to go out and learn that song in order to put
a record out. We actually learned that song in a gas station up in Arlington
Heights ... now if that's not a garage band, I don't know what it is ... and
then we went out and played it that same night at The Cellar. Don't get me
wrong ... the radio support here in Chicago was great and it became a #1 Hit
We picked up on "Gloria" very early on ... and that was actually the B-Side of a Them record. The A-Side was Them's version of "Baby, Please Don't Go" ... and "Gloria" was on the B-Side ... and, as such, they let a lot of things go on that record because it was just a B-Side. There are a lot of little mistakes in that ... and here's a little bit of trivia for you ... you know who plays that guitar solo there in the middle on Them's version of "Gloria"? That's Jimmy Page!
In 1969, The Shadows Of Knight re-released “Gloria” with an overdubbed fuzz tone guitar running throughout it, thinking the heavier sound of the day just might make it a hit all over again. Sadly, that didn’t happen … but honestly, quite deservedly so … it really is an AWFUL record!!! (kk)
I would wait breathlessly for Art Roberts on WLS to announce his “top three most-requested songs” every night at 9 pm. The Ides and our many fans would jam the phone lines but to no avail. “Now, for the second week in a row, the top most-requested song is -- you guessed it -- the Shadows of Knight and "Gloria."
Jerry McGeorge’s ringing Rickenbacker guitar cut through the darkness of my room like a hot knife through butter. Then that banshee wail of a voice pierced through “ya know she come around - About five feet four from her head to the ground.” Game over. This song -- this group -- this singer was destined to win. Again!!
Fast forward to this millennium when the Ides and the Cornerstones of Rock had the pleasure of sharing the stage with this rock legend. Jimy was always self-effacing and humble, but he always kept an ace up his sleeve. “Ya know Gloria just got inducted to the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame. Hadda fly down to Cleveland to accept the award.” God bless you, Jimy. He’s one rock star that deserves every accolade he has ever received.
The Cornerstones of Rock are missing a boulder. No one can replace him and never will. But Jimy’s voice will echo always through rock history. He’s the man - Oh Yeah, he’s the man - and he will sing forever in our hearts. Rock In Peace, Brother.
Jim Peterik and all the Ides of March
So sorry to hear about Jimy Sohns. I’m actually a Shadow of Knight fan from the “Shake” era. I heard that on the radio and couldn’t get enough of it. I know it’s not a complicated tune, but something raw and fun about it gets me every time. It got played in the Rochester, NY, area, but didn’t make a big impression nationally I guess. From there, I went back and found other SOK stuff. To this day I still have the original Gloria album on Dunwich and the Super K (Buddha) album with a different mix of “Shake” on it. It seems to me they were probably better live than the records represent.
So many of the artists we grew up with are leaving us. Very sad but understandable. People say “Why don’t the Rolling Stones hang it up?” And I’m like “Noooo!!” They’re one of the last from the golden era and I love that Mick and Keith are still running around the stage and rocking! It’s an inspiration and when it ends, we will all feel a litter emptier in my opinion. These songs are classics and why shouldn’t they do them if they can?
I was quite surprised to learn that that was The Shadows Of Knight on the Buddah single release in 1968. This was a BUBBLEGUM hit!!! It’s what the label was founded for! The Shadows Of Knight were groomed as Chicago’s “Bad Boys Of Rock And Roll” … “America’s Rolling Stones” … how on earth could this be them on this Buddah hit?!?! It just didn’t make sense to me at the time … or how they would have even been considered!
You’re right … nationally, “Shake” was pretty much a flop, making The Top 40 in Cash Box only (and even then only peaking at #39.) Record World had it at #45 and Billboard a spot lower on their charts.
Here in Chicago, the record made it to #10!
The Shadows Of Knight topped the local charts with “Gloria” … and then made The Top 20 with “Oh Yeah” (#13) and “Bad Little Woman” (#19.) “I’m Gonna Make You Mine” (#25) and “Willie Jean” (#26) also made our local Top 40 … and then they were gone … so “Shake” was a big comeback record of sorts. It was just such a different sound for the band. (During those in between years, groups like The Buckinghams, The Cryan’ Shames and The New Colony Six took over the Chicagoland airwaves, scoring hit after hit after hit. The New Colony Six may have been the first local band to make the national charts, but The Shadows Of Knight were the first to earn a Top 10 Hit. (“Gloria” peaked at #10 in Billboard, but went to #6 in Record World and #7 in Cash Box.) The Buckinghams scored an incredible FOUR National Top Ten Hits in 1967 alone, while The Cryan’ Shames, The New Colony Six and The American Breed would all score #1 Hits on our Chicagoland Charts before the decade was over.
From Jimy regarding the Buddah years …
The Shadows started doing some studio gigs, too, when we went over to Buddah Records. The "Shake"-era Shadows Of Knight ... there were usually at least two or maybe three of us on those records ... we were on "Yummy Yummy Yummy" and "Chewy Chewy" and "Down At Lulu's" and a whole bunch of those records that were very popular at the time with this new style of music. When we went over to Buddah Records, we KNEW we weren't going to get any royalty money, playing as the "house band" ... but we thought we were going to get rich and famous with a hit the size of "Gloria" ... and that just never happened.
Phil Nee interviewed Jimmy Sohns on his Those Were The Days radio program …
And here are a few of those segments …
Wow. I'm saddened to hear of Jimy's passing ... after all these decades of seeing him at concerts, Biondi Film events, and what-have-you, I just can't imagine the Chicago music scene without him. Rest in peace, Jim. ;-(
Here's a nice pic ...
Jimy with Dick Biondi, WLS Toy Drive, 2014
I particularly enjoy this photo from my September, 2006 visit to a Chicago Gold show when I got to meet and chat and watch these three Jims in concert that evening. Three great guys.
L to R: Jims Peterik (Ides of March), Sohns (Shadows of Knight) and Pilster (JC Hooke of Cryan’ Shames)
Photo by my friend Mike Hartman, who took many of my memory photos that day.
More from Clark Besch's collection ...
It's been a tough week …
In addition to losing Jimy Sohns and Tony Dow, we lost two other absolute icons last week … Basketball Legend Bill Russell and Star Trek Actress Nichelle Nichols, who shared television’s first interracial kiss with Commander James Kirk of the Starship Enterprise.
A TV Milestone
Nichols was born Grace Dell Nichols right here in Chicago in 1932. Her first starring film role was in “Porgy and Bess” with Sammy Davis, Jr., (so she has kept some pretty good company throughout her career!) Not convinced?
At an NAACP Event she was approached by one of the promoters who told her that someone wanted to meet her … said he was her greatest fan. “I thought it was some Trekker, some kid,” Nichols said afterwards. “I turned in my seat and there was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with a big smile on his face. He said, ‘I am a Trekker, I am your biggest fan.’”
Nichols thanked King, and told him that she was leaving the show.
"He was telling me why I could not [resign]. He said I had the first nonstereotypical role, I had a role with honor, dignity and intelligence. He said, 'You simply cannot abdicate, this is an important role. This is why we are marching. We never thought we'd see this on TV.'"
Nichols said she was at a loss for words. It was the first time the importance of being an African-American woman on television had sank in. She returned to "Star Trek" creator Gene Roddenberry the next Monday morning and rescinded her resignation.
"He sat there and looked at me and said, 'God bless Dr. Martin Luther King. Somebody does understand me,'" Nichols says.
Bill Russell led The Boston Celtics to eleven championships in thirteen years, including eight in a row. (And we thought our Bulls Dynasty was worth bragging about! Well, it WAS!!!) He played for The Celtics from 1957 – 1969, and enjoyed a remarkable career.
How big was he? (And I don’t mean 6’10”!!!) During his career, he played in 963 regular season games … and scored 14,522 points … yet only averaged 15.1 points per game, which I found pretty surprising. I remember reading a biography on him while I was still in high school … he had just stopped playing basketball and was already considered to be a landmark, legendary player. (The head-to-head competition between Russell and Wilt Chamberlain dominated sports coverage in the ‘60’s.)
Russell won the MVP Award five times … and was named to twelve All Star Games.
Also a close friend of Dr. King, Russell was quite the activist in the ‘60’s … and was quite vocally critical of the racism he faced as a player, feeling that he never got quite as much recognition during his playing years as he deserved. (He also marched alongside Muhammad Ali.) The sports world lost a true icon this past weekend. (kk)