Eddie Floyd with Tony Fletcher – Knock! Knock! Knock! On Wood: My Life In Soul
302 pages – Hardcover edition
As a songwriter and singer, Eddie Floyd has had many hit records, none bigger than the classic that he co-wrote with guitarist Steve Cropper, “Knock On Wood,” a song that has been covered hundreds of times by artists across many musical genres, including the smash disco version by singer Amii Stewart.
Floyd’s career has had many twist and turns, which he details in this exciting autobiography that is hard to put down. The singer gets an assist for writer Tony Fletcher, originally from England, but residing in America for the last three decades. Fletcher has authored a number of books, including a biography of another legendary singer, In The Midnight Hour: The Life & Soul of Wilson Pickett.
Growing up in Alabama, Floyd was raised by his mother, who frequently went to visit her brother in Detroit, often taking her son to shows musical revues at the famed Fox Theater. Floyd always envisioned himself as a singer, and quickly realized that Detroit had far more to offer than Montgomery, Alabama. He made several attempts to get back up north on his own, never getting out of his home state. His running around finally got the attention of the authorities, leading to an arrest for unspecified charges.
Floyd was sentenced to a three year stint at Mount Meigs, a reform school for Negro juveniles under fifteen years old. For many youngsters, that type of sentence would harden attitudes that would lead to more serious crimes upon release. But Floyd saw his time there as a blessing. After two more attempts at escape, he settled down, singing in the school church, and learning the art of vocalizing from one of his teachers.
When he regained his freedom, fate quickly fulfilled his dream of going to live with his uncle in Detroit. Soon he is part of a interracial vocal group with five members, calling themselves the Falcons. When the two white members joined the military, the group hired Sir Mack Rice to fill in. Rice became a noted songwriter, with hits like ‘Mustang Sally,” “Respect Yourself,” and “Cold Women With Warm Hearts”.
The group recorded several sessions, including one for Chess Records, before hitting the charts with “You’re So Fine”. Soon they were touring the country and making an appearance on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand. When lead singer Joe Stubbs decided to go out on his own after their hit record, his replacement was Wilson Pickett, who immediately lead the way on a scorching take of his original tune, “I Found A Love”. The ensuing success meant more traveling and acclaim, which soon lead to Pickett seeking his own way, and the end of the Falcons.
From there, Floyd moved to the Washington D.C. Area, where he was involved in a number of projects. At one point, he meets a radio DJ, Al Bell, who migrates to Memphis, where he soon becomes a main player in the Stax Records operation. Floyd is writing songs, one of which Carla Thomas places on the charts, and Solomon Burke records another of his tunes.
Once Floyd makes the move to Memphis, he becomes a key part of Stax, getting paired up with Steve Cropper to form a dynamic songwriting team. One of their early efforts,”634-5789,” was a smash hit for Pickett, although originally meant for Otis Redding, while other songs were recorded by Sam & Dave, Thomas, and the Mad Lads vocal group. During a writing session one evening at the Lorraine Motel, they hit on the idea that was transformed into “Knock On Wood,” which became Floyd’s first major hit, and ensured his place in the soul pantheon.
The Stax Records story has been told many times in great detail. Floyd gives readers an insider’s perspective, sharing his memories of the highlights of his own success, and his contributions to the label’s rise to prominence. He also lays out his thoughts on what ultimately lead to the label’s downfall. He continued to chart with songs like “I’ve Never Found A Girl (To Love Me Like You Do),” “Raise Your Hand,” and “Big Bird,” written as Floyd was attempting to fly home from a European tour in time for Redding’s funeral.
Floyd’s easy-going manner of telling his story, burnished by Fletcher, keeps things interesting as story moves beyond Stax. The songwriting and hits continue with album releases on the Malaco and Ichiban labels. Another turning point is Floyd’s involvement in the Blues Brothers phenomenon, fronting the band after it reformed for a reunion tour, singing on several band recordings, and getting exposed to a whole new audience after Dan Aykroyd wrote him into the script for the Blues Brothers 2000 feature film.
The book also includes sixteen glossy pages of photos spanning his career, including the only photo of the original Falcons.
It has been a remarkable journey for Eddie Floyd. His willingness to share the high points as well as those moments that took him through darkness inject a spirit of genuineness that will keep you reading page after page. It is a story well told, of a man and his impact on the world of soul music.