Q&A With Claude McKnight of Grammy Winning Vocal Group Take 6

Take 6
Take 6

Take 6 is the most awarded a cappella group in history, with ten Grammy’s, ten Dove Awards (Gospel Music Awards), Best Jazz Vocal Group honors for seven consecutive years in Downbeat’s prestigious Reader’s and Critic’s Poll, a Soul Train Music Award, BRE (Black Radio Exclusive) Vocal Group of the Year, two NAACP Image Award nominations, induction into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame and countless other musical and humanitarian citations. (via Take6.com)

Formed at Huntsville, Alabama’s Oakwood College in 1980 by Claude McKnight, the acclaimed group has gone on to worldwide fame and been called upon to collaborate with a who’s who in music including Quincy Jones, Stevie Wonder, Whitney Houston, Ray Charles, and McKnight’s kid brother, Brian, among others.

Recently in Chicago for WTTW’s “Soundstage” to perform with super-group “The Summit” (a collaboration between Take 6 and The Manhattan Transfer), N’Digo spoke with McKnight to discuss his influences, the importance of art in schools, and why he thinks Take 6 has managed to achieve longevity in the fickle music business.

Who were your musical influences? Who were the artists that made you want to pursue music?

I have quite a few musical influences. But to name a couple:
Earth, Wind and Fire
The Doobie Bros.
Woody Herman and the Thundering Herd
Andrae Crouch
Ralph Carmichael
My grandfather Fred Willis Sr.

Take6
Take6-Photo By Pascal Martos

Before landing a recording contract, the group actually had two other names. What were they and how did you guys come to be known as Take 6?

Our first name was the “Gentlemen’s Estates Quartet” then we were “Sounds of Distinction ” then “Alliance”. When we got our first recording contract with Warner Bros. records we had to change our name because someone already had Alliance. We ended up brainstorming and voting for a new name. Take 6 had the most yes votes . It was a play on the jazz song “Take 5”.

After almost 30 years of being on the national map, to what do you attribute the group’s longevity?

I would have to say that a continued love for creating and trying to stay outside the box has been one of the things. Also, a genuine love and respect of one another keeps us together!

Take 6
The Summit (Take 6 And Manhattan Transfer) -Photo by John Abbott

Do you have a specific formula that you use or routine you follow as far as creating music?

I never really follow a routine. I typically allow for whatever inspiration I may be in in that moment. I could be driving, on an airplane, in the shower. Whenever something authentically hits me I try to listen to what it is and capture it.

What’s your opinion about the importance of art in schools and how it’s losing funding?

The arts in general has been shown to help stimulate and challenge students to not only learn, but to have outlets that are healthy, creative and life changing. Losing funding for these important building blocks is detrimental in many ways for young learning minds.

Who are a few of the younger artists out that you really like?

I love Bruno Mars, Kendrick Lamar and a few others. People say that music is lacking or “where is the good stuff?” My answer is always that there is NO shortage of creativity out there!

Favorite memories or things about Chicago?

Come on now…the pizza and the hot dogs! Haha! Seriously though I’ve always loved Chicago for the culture and people.

What’s something people would be surprised to find out about you?

Ha! I was afraid of the dark until about 4 years ago lol. Also…. I grew up being painfully shy.

Take 6
Take 6

Best advice for aspiring artists?

My best advice would be to tell every artist.. be you. Do you. Find something unique about who you are and play that up 100 percent!! Also.. learn as much about this business as you can.

Favorite quote or affirmation?

“You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take”

What’s next for Claude McKnight?

I’m currently working on what I believe will be a game changing platform for the music biz! It’s early in the game so I can’t say to much but stay tuned! 🙂

For more information on Take 6, please visit www.Take6.com.

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