Eddie Floyd

You don't have to wish upon a star or knock on wood to have one of your wildest soul-music fantasies come true: Legendary Stax singer and songwriter Eddie Floyd of "Knock on Wood" fame will indeed be appearing at the 2011 Ponderosa Stomp. Alabama-born but Detroit-bred, Floyd co-wrote with MGs guitarist Steve Cropper one of the greatest anthems of the Memphis soul era, one that has been recorded by everyone from Otis Redding and David Bowie to James Taylor and Ella Fitzgerald. But the Eddie Floyd story begins well before that soul-music milestone, a top R&B hit of 1966.

Mentored by an uncle who owned the pioneering Detroit R&B labels Lupine and Flick, Floyd in 1955 co-founded the racially integrated Falcons in Detroit, logging a top-20 hit with "You're So Fine" in 1959 with lead singer Joe Stubbs (later of the Contours). The Falcons were the first Detroit group to appear on the national Dick Clark Show in Philadelphia. Stubbs would then be replaced by the "wicked" Wilson Pickett, leading to the Falcons' 1962 hit "I Found a Love," which featured backup vocals by a pre-Motown version of the Supremes.

By 1965, Floyd moved to Memphis to work as a songwriter and producer at Stax. Floyd was recruited along with Booker T and the MGs to record with his ex-Falcon bandmate Wilson Pickett for Stax distributor Atlantic in sessions that produced two major hits: "Ninety-Nine and a Half (Won't Do)" and "634-5789 (Soulsville USA)."

However, fate intervened in 1966 to take Floyd from behind the scenes and plunge him into the spotlight. Atlantic's Jerry Wexler lobbied the Stax powers-that-be to release Floyd's version of "Knock on Wood," which had been written for Otis Redding.

Floyd also wrote or co-wrote notable songs for numerous artists: "Comfort Me" (Carla Thomas), "The Breakdown" (Rufus Thomas), "You Don't Know What You Mean to Me" (Sam and Dave), "I Love You More Than Words Can Say" (Otis Redding), and Johnny Taylor's "Just the One (I've Been Looking For)," to name just a few.

Floyd also released some winners under his own name, including "Big Bird," a song of lugubrious origins. The story goes that Floyd conceived the song while waiting at a London airport for a flight back to the U.S. to attend Redding's funeral. Floyd also charted with songs such as his Sam Cooke tribute "Bring It On Home To Me," "I've Never Found a Girl (To Love Me Like You Do)," and "California Girl."

After recording for the Malaco, Mercury, and Ichiban labels and performing with a latter-day version of the Blues Brothers, as well as with ex-Rolling Stone Bill Wyman's Rhythm Kings, Floyd has returned to Stax (now owned by the Concord Music Group), releasing the "Eddie Loves You" CD in 2008. Whether you live in the New Orleans area or have to catch a "Big Bird" to get to the Ponderosa Stomp, come see this major-leaguer of the soul genre, a giant both behind the microphone and as a behind-the-scenes hitmaker. (Joining Eddie Floyd at the Stomp will be Sir Mack Rice, a fellow bandmate from the Falcons.)

« Artists