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