The Pips

Although the Pips never had any commercial success on their own, they were famous for the distinctive background harmonies that they provided for Gladys Knight for many years. From 1961's "Every Beat of My Heart" to 1973's "Midnight Train to Georgia" to 1988's "Love Overboard," the Pips backed Knight on one major hit after another. Knight first started working with the Pips in 1952, when she was only eight and formed a quintet with her brother Merald "Bubba" Knight, her sister Brenda Knight, and their cousins William and Elenor Guest. At first, the group's main purpose was entertaining family and friends, but another cousin, James "Pip" Woods, encouraged the quintet to sing professionally and became its booking agent -- and by the late '50s, Knight and her relatives were touring with Jackie Wilson and Sam Cooke as an opening act. Brenda Knight and Elenor Guest left the Pips (whose name was inspired by Woods' nickname of Pip) in 1959, when they were replaced by cousins Langston George and Edward Patten. When George left in 1962, the Pips' most famous lineup -- Merald "Bubba" Knight, William Guest, and Edward Patten -- was in place. By 1962, Gladys Knight & the Pips had become famous thanks to the 1961 hit "Every Beat of My Heart." Knight temporarily left the group in 1964 when she became pregnant, and the Pips survived by doing background vocals for various artists. Around that time, the Pips recorded some little-known songs on their own, including "Linda," "Bless the One," "To Whom It May Concern," "Walking Around in Circles," and "Darling." Knight returned in 1965, and the Pips didn't do any more recording on their own until the late '70s. Minus Knight, the Pips recorded two albums for Casablanca: 1977's At Last...the Pips and 1978's Bunny Sigler-produced Callin' -- both of which suffered from inadequate promotion and did very little commercially. After that, the Pips did no more recording on their own. They remained with Knight until 1990 -- when Knight and the Pips parted company for good that year, she became a full-time solo artist and the Pips retired from music. ~ Alex Henderson

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