William Guest, Backup Singer for Gladys Knight and the Pips

“I Heard It Through The Grapevine” on Soul Train

From the 1950s-1970s there were no small number of singing groups with a trio of backup singers, but Gladys Knight and the Pips were perhaps unique in having three male singers behind a female lead.

“Midnight Train to Georgia” and “Neither One of Us” on The Midnight Special

As a longtime member of the Pips, William Guest (July 2, 1941-December 24, 2015), Knight’s cousin, helped provide the smooth, low-volume vocal punctuation to her melodic leads. He and his fellow Pips added visual contrast, too, through their stage clothing and coordinated choreography.

“I Don’t Want To Do Wrong”

The group was active between 1953 and 1989 and during that time recorded many hits for the Motown and Buddah labels,  earning multiple Grammy and American Music Awards in the process. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996 and the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2001.  The group was formed when Guest was only 12 and Knight was 9; Guest’s sister and Knight, her brother and sister were the original members. The Pips got their name from another cousin, James “Pip” Woods.