Review : Full Circle Magazine

Full Circle Magazine. August 2006. artist profile: Bill Knight

Unlike his name, Bill Knight is not the kind of man you’re going to find riding a white horse, wearing a coat of shiny armour. Bill is a man you’d expect to find, tucked away in some smokey, dimly lit backroom corner of a crowded pub, cigarette in his mouth, hunched over his acoustic guitar, picking a tune from the depths of soul and singing from the bottom of his heart.
If Martians landed looking for human specimens, Bill would be the one suspended in the jar with muso written on the masking tape. Bill just looks like musos are supposed to look. Not in the cultivated, affected and managed way of so many wannabes. Bill is the epitome of the genuine, truth-speaking, life-living, been there done that, the t-shirt’s long since rotted away, balladeering troubadour that has populated the folk music since the early days of Greenwich Village and the phenomenon that is Bob Dylan, who Bill ranks as his most important influence. That’s Bill’s world. He belongs there, not as a poser but as appropriate as the jeans, ashtrays and the hope for people to care more than they do.
Bill is also a very fine guitarist and a singer whose voice is comfortable and interesting to listen to.
“I do the obsure,” Bill says, “when people ask me to play a Dylan song because they’re ‘fans’, they expect me to do Blowing in the Wind or something…” He continues picking his guitar and then breaks into I dreamed I saw St Augustine from Dylan’s album John Wesley Harding.
When I asked for a Neil Young tune, another of his influences, he chooses Star of Bethlehem from American Stars and Bars. He sure does obscure. No Heart of Gold or Harvest Moon here.
Point being, if you’re not a real, don’t say you are, because you most probably won’t know the song he plays.
Dylan and Young have two of the most distinctive voices in music and Bill does not try to copy either as would so many less assured and mature musicians. Bill sings their songs in such a way that, while instantly recognisable, the songs become his.
But Bill is not just about covering Dylan, Young, Leonard Cohen, John Fogerty or Tom Waits numbers. Bill Knight is a songwriter, a musical poet, an authentic troubadour.
He writes and performs his own songs, has produced three albums and is working on a fourth. So why haven’t you heard of him before?
Mainly because Bill enjoyed a long and successful career in property management with the Cape Town City Council until he retired in 2000. Although he played gigs and wrote music for most of his life he has had to catch up for corporate time since then.
Bill says his music is best described as “Skollierock” (Cape Roots Music) ( or “ Kaapse Mengsel”) – the sound and rhythms of Cape Town, coupled with insightful and thought-provoking lyrics.
Listening to his CDs is almost like flipping through an old photograph album and coming across long-forgotten but fondly remembered scenes and faces. There are the inevitable notes there from Jukuka and David Kramer (who he lists as local influences along with Koos Kombuis and Rian Malan) but are the lyrics are uniquely Bill’s and the stories he tells are sure to conjure up incidents or people most of us have come across in the Cape.
His last two CDs he has recorded in his own home-studio, which he also leases out to other artists and up-and-coming performers. It is an affordable option for anyone who wishes to record just about anything.
Although he has done the gigs and played all over the south and other areas in Cape Town, Bill thought he’d like a more regular place to play, so he came up with a concept called the Cottage Club.
The Cottage Club is according to Bill, about Local Music. It’s about the musicians and the songwriters and the tremendous homegrown talent in the country in general but in the Cape in particular. So twice a month Bill provides his home as a venue for local audiences to come and hear and enjoy the cream of home-grown contemporary folk music
If you’re looking for a genuinely interesting evening book yourself a place at the Cottage Club for a home-cooked meal and an intimate performance in Bill’s cosy 25-seater venue. Check out our calendar for the next Cottage Club date.

(The Cottage Club is now Relocated in the Fish Hoek Valley).