Saturday, July 2, 2016

A Visit with Lonnie Knight, Opening Act for the Rolling Thunder Reunion

Saturday July 23 the Rolling Thunder Reunion will be rolling into town with a show featuring Eric Andersen and Scarlet Rivera, accompanied by Steve Addabbo and Cheryl Prashker. Lonnie Knight is on the docket to get the evening rolling as the opening act.

Knight has been playing professionally since high school. His first bands included the Castaways, the the Rave-Ons (with Dick and Larry Wiegand and Harry Nehls), then Jokers Wild. He was attending the University of Minnesota when the folk boom caught him and he began performing in coffee houses and college clubs around Minnesota, eventually joining up with the Bitter End circuit out of New York City and traveled the country for a few years. When that scene dried up Knight went back to electric guitar, working with City Mouse, the Neilsen-White Band, the Hoopsnakes, and his own band Big Shoes. He was also on staff at Sound 80 Recording Studio as a session guitarist and producer, gaining some serious cred in the Minnesota music scene along the way.

The past several years he's been active with the Guitars for Vets free concerts in the Twin Cities as well as the fund raising concerts for the Duluth Armory. As it turns out, when it was mentioned to Knight that Eric was coming to perform here in Duluth this summer he said "Eric's Blue River album in 1972 was a huge influence on me." He also said he will have died and gone to heaven if he could open for Eric Andersen. On July 23 that is about to happen.

EN: Your early groups, especially Joker's Wild.... when you look back on the "look" with the psychedelic clothes, what do you think now? Also, where did you and Clapton and the rest BUY those threads?

Lonnie Knight: I really wish I still had some of that stuff. It fit with the times... the only outfits that make me laugh are those sequined wizard suits. Impossible to play in, extremely hot, etc. I couldn't stand them back then, but I got outvoted.

EN: You did recording with record labels. They assumed the risk, correct? I mean, they covered the costs. Nowadays it is totally different. Everyone rents studio space and makes albums. How did this change occur and what's your take on all that?

LK: I think we paid some of the studio time on the Rave-Ons and Jokers stuff. Label paid all other costs (recoupable).

My solo albums, "Family in the Wind" and "Song for a City Mouse" were paid for by Symposium Records. I'm pretty sure that major labels still pay for everything, but they get it all back before the artist sees dime one.

Protools and the digital revolution made it much more affordable for anyone to record without financial backing. That has provided great opportunities for many artists to get their stuff out in front of people. But it's still a one-in-a-million shot at getting anywhere... and big money still talks in terms of achieving big success. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

EN: I once heard someone say they felt Townes Van Zandt was the greatest musician of our generation. I see that you worked with Townes. What made him so special?

LK: I think that Townes was one of the best songwriters of our generation. He was at the forefront of the Texas songwriter explosion, which included Jerry Jeff Walker, Guy Clark, and later, Lyle Lovett, etc. Townes and I did a week at a place called the Rubaiyat in Dallas, TX in 1973.We were both pretty heavy drinkers at the time. I remember him as pretty quiet, but pretty open. We sat up until dawn one night and he taught me "Pancho and Lefty."

EN: You performed in the Armory in 1969. What was the band you were with and what was that experience like?

LK: I know I played the Armory with Jokers Wild, and I think with the Rave-ons as well. I loved the Armory gigs. All that natural echo...

EN: What are your interests outside of music. Clapton had cars, for example.

LK: Photography has always interested me. I can spend days lost in Photoshop...

EN: We've experienced a lot of change in our culture over a lifetime. In what ways has the information age and Internet transformed music, live performance and the industry over all? 

LK: Well, it's all good and bad. I think the major impact has been in recording and distribution. Music has become too easy to access, and as a result has lost a lot of its mystique and a lot of its value. Sales of hard copy (CDs, etc.) have diminished, virtually everything that's ever been recorded is available on iTunes for ten bucks a month.

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Learn more about Lonnie at his website,
The concert will be at Weber Hall on July 23. Tickets can be purchased here at

Meantime, life goes on all around you. Engage it.

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