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Jean Knight

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Jean Knight (born Jean Caliste, January 26, 1943, New Orleans, Louisiana) is an African-American r&b/soul/funk singer, best known for her 1971 Stax Records hit single, “Mr. Big Stuff”.

After graduating from high school, Caliste began singing at her cousin’s bar ‘Laura’s Place’ and caught the attention of many different bands who were willing to accompany her. In 1965, she recorded a demo of a cover version of Jackie Wilson’s song “Stop Doggin’ Me Around.” Her demo attracted record producer Huey Meaux, who signed her to a recording contract at the Jet Star/Tribe record labels. Shortly thereafter, Caliste adopted the professional name of “Jean Knight,” because she felt that her surname was too hard to pronounce. She recorded four singles, making a name for herself locally, but was not able to attract any national attention. By the late 1960s, it was obvious that her career was not living up to her high expectations, so she went to work as a baker in the cafeteria of Loyola University in New Orleans.

In early 1970, she was discovered by songwriter Ralph Williams, who wanted her to record some songs. With Williams’ connections, she came in contact with record producer Wardell Quezergue. In May of that year, she went to Malaco Studios in Jackson, Mississippi, for a recording session during which she recorded “Mr. Big Stuff.” After the session was finished, the song was shopped to producers at several national labels, all of whom rejected it.

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