The trio chose the moniker The Pips after their relative James “Pip” Woods. They began competing in talent events in their hometown of Atlanta in 1955 and won every competition they entered. Brunswick Records was drawn to their persistent success, which led to a record contract in 1957.
However, the two albums they issued under the Brunswick label failed to chart. Despite this setback, The Pips were able to open for legendary R&B acts such as Jackie Wilson and Sam Cooke. Brunswick dropped the group in 1959, and both Brenda Knight and Eleanor Guest quit The Pips to establish families. They were later replaced by another cousin, Edward Patten, and Langston George, a close friend of the group.
Gladys Knight & the Pips recorded “Every Beat of My Heart,” a Johnny Otis composition, in 1961. Without a record label to back them up, Huntom Records, a local Atlanta label, took control of promoting the single and securing a distribution contract with Vee-Jay Records for its release.
The band moved to New York and tried out for Bobby Robinson’s Fury Records. However, they realized that “Every Beat of My Heart” was already popular, but that they had been cheated out of their rightful royalties. To make amends, Robinson had The Pips re-record the song, which was later released on Fury Records. Both versions of the song charted well on the Billboard Hot 100, with the Huntom/Vee-Jay version reaching number six.
Are Gladys Knight and the Pips still living?
Eleanor Guest, a founding member of the Pips, passed away from heart failure on August 23, 1997. Congestive heart failure caused the death of Langston George on March 19, 2007. By serving as her tour manager and occasionally appearing onstage with Gladys during performances, Bubba Knight is still keeping an eye on his sister’s professional endeavors.