The unstoppable Steve Knight


Volume 113, No. 5May, 2013

Bill Crow

Steve Knight (1935-2013) once gave me a real-life horror story resembling the bad dreams that sometimes plague musicians. He got a call to play the oud, and electric and acoustic guitars, for a three-week run with the Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre. The contractor said the oud was for just one short number, and that he was mainly interested in having a good reader on guitar. Since Steve’s three-year-old daughter Zoe was sick at home with chicken pox, and he needed the work, he let the contractor talk him into it.

The oud part turned out to be a solo, with changing meters, that opened the show. Steve woodshedded it, and got through it okay, but his amplifier required careful settings throughout.

On the last day, having misunderstood a time change in the schedule, Steve arrived in the band room to find it empty, all the other musicians having already entered the pit. He slid into place just as the lights dimmed, and found that the stage hands had put the wrong amplifier in place. When he began the oud solo, his first note came out as a hoarse scream. Some frantic adjustments of the amp knob got the sound settled down, but he could see the conductor’s displeasure. Toward the end of the piece, Steve’s ears began to get strangely warm. As they got hotter, he realized he hadn’t kept enough distance at home from his daughter. Steve developed a full case of chicken pox while finishing the show.

– From Bill Crow’s “Band Room” column, April 2009. See Mr. Knight’s obituary in this month’s Requiem.