Hip-Hop Media Training

Why Did Gladys Knight’s Background Singers Call Themselves The Pips?

Hip-Hop Media Training

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photo: Michael Ochs Archives

Bubba Knight, an original member of Gladys Knight and The Pips, sang Al Green's "Love and Happiness" and The Beatles' "Yesterday" Wednesday and Friday night during a segment of his sister's set on the "Soul Train Cruise."

In an exclusive interview with Yahoo Music, the talented singer, who incorporated a number of comedic bits in his performance, explained why the group was called The Pips.

After a seven year old Gladys won the televised singing competition Ted Mack's Original Amateur Hour TV show in 1952, she later formed a singing group with her siblings and cousins.

"After she won Ted Mack's Original Amateur Hour that's when we had a party in my backyard, and that's when Gladys Knight and The Pips performed because this guy took his record player home and we decided to give a talent show with everybody that was left," Bubba said. "And, we decided to sing, my two cousins and my older sister Brenda."

When their mother heard them sing together she suggested that they form a group.

"The name Pip came from my first cousin," he said at the 6:02 mark in the above video interview. "His name is James Woods, but he was a man around town and his nickname was Pip. He bought our wardrobe. He took us around to different spots. He was instrumental in getting us into different contests that we eventually won, and when we got ready to go even further with our careers we decided to name the group The Pips after James Woods, in honor of him."

Though Gladys Knight and The Pips released their last album in 1987 and Gladys left the group in 1988, Bubba remained an instrumental part of his sister's career, helping her determine which songs to perform during concerts and helping her select songs for her albums.

Bubba, 71, said he is finally ready to pursue a solo career. "I feel that I've done as much as I could do to get Gladys' career off the ground," he said with a laugh. "Now, it's time for her to stand on her own two feet."

Bubba wants his solo material to reach the masses. He wants to record "music that will appeal to a broad variety of people, like young and old," he said. "I don't want to lose my senior citizens because I'm a representative of the senior citizens."

Though Bubba released his first album with Gladys Knight and The Pips more than 50 years ago, there's still one honor he hopes to achieve. "One of my aspirations is I want to get a Grammy," he said. "I want a Grammy for the Best New Artist."

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photo: Steve Grayson, WireImage

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