R&B/ funk singer Jean Caliste was born on January 26, 1943, in New Orleans, Louisiana, and adopted the professional name of “Jean Knight.” Her parents were Louis Joseph Caliste and Florence Edwards. She began singing as a teenager in her cousin’s Crescent City bar called Laura’s Place. In 1965 at the age of 22, Knight signed a recording contract with the Jet Star/Tribe record label.
In 1970, Knight recorded the “Mr. Big Stuff” at Malaco Studios in Jackson, Mississippi. However, it was heard by a Stax Records producer in 1971 and company bought the rights and released it again on the album sharing its name. This time the record peaked at no. 1 on the Billboard R&B chart and no. 2 on Billboard Hot 100 chart. It also charted in Brazil reaching no. 94 and remained on the chart for 11 weeks. “Mr Big Stuff” was Knight’s biggest hit selling more than two million copies worldwide. Knight was nominated for “Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female” for the song “Mr. Big Stuff” at the 14th Grammy Awards in 1972.
Knight followed her first hit with “You Think You’re Hot Stuff,” later in 1971 and the record peaked at no. 19 on the Billboard R&B chart and no. 57 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. In 1972, Knight only had one hit, “Carry On” which peaked at no. 44 on the R&B chart.
In the 1980s, Knight had two hits. “You Got the Papers (But I Got the Man)” reached no.56 R&B in 1981 and four years later in 1985, she released “My Toot Toot,” which became her first international hit. It reached the top ten in the United Kingdom and no. 3 in South Africa.
In 1997, Knight released two albums The Very Best of Me for Aim Records and Shaki De Boo-Tee through Ichiban Records. Two years later, in 1999, the album Queen came out. However, it did not chart. In 2003, Knight performed at the Soul Comes Home: A Celebration of Stax Records concert during the grand opening of the Stax Museum at the Orpheum Theater in Memphis, Tennessee. She was also inducted into the Stax Museum of American Soul Music that year. In 2007, Jean Knight was inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame.