Local Current Blog

Sonny Knight and his ‘Juicy Lucy’ live on at Matt’s Bar

Sonny Knight's 'I'm Still Here' is on the wall at Matt's Bar (Cecilia Johnson | MPR)

Soul artist Sonny Knight may have been from St. Paul, but in the first line of his 2014 album I’m Still Here, he shouts out historic Powderhorn hang Matt’s Bar. With “Juicy Lucy,” he references both a love interest and the restaurant’s signature, cheese-filled burger.

Not only did Matt’s know about the song; they added it to the jukebox. According to general manager Amy Feriancek, customers loved playing it while they ate their burgers. Although they’ve got a new jukebox now, Feriancek still has the old one at home.

Knight’s 2014 album I’m Still Here was “basically out of the ‘60s,” he told Chad Werner at NewsWhistle. Between its organ and forthright horns, it sounds like it came from a record crate at a vintage store. So it makes sense that its first line mentions a bar founded in 1954.

Knight passed away this year, but a couple of years ago, he had a chance to visit Matt’s Bar with Werner, once for NewsWhistle and again for City Pages. On the latter visit, he signed a copy of I’m Still Here for the wall, and it’s still there to this day.

Recently, general manager Amy Feriancek shared her memories of Sonny Knight’s visit, plus some photos she took that day.

Cecilia Johnson: Thanks for talking with me today. What do you remember about meeting Sonny Knight?

Amy Feriancek: Sonny was a really nice fella. He made you feel like, “Hey, I’m looking you in the eyes. I’m giving you my full attention.” I was kind of starstruck. I had to do my own research so I understood the meaning of him coming in.

“Juicy Lucy” came out in 2014, but he came here in 2015. That song just took us off our sales. The owner was talking about it. “Did you hear a local artist did this? This is the coolest thing ever.”

Have you noticed an uptick in interest in the record since Sonny’s death?

We have had many people take pictures of the wall now. But even when the song was in the old-style jukebox here, that was played a lot. [laughs] And it kind of cracks me up, it kind of cracks me up, because it was like, [sings] “Down at Matt’s.” And then it’s like, “five foot eight” [referencing the 5-8 Club, Matt’s famous Lucy rivals]. He was just making his own controversy, you know. We thought that was funny, too.

Do you know why he spelled the song with an “i” [versus Matt’s spelling, “Jucy Lucy”]? Did you ask about it?

No, I never did, and that was the first thing I noticed. But we didn’t want to correct him.

I didn’t know he was ill. One of my employees is an avid, avid musician. He mentioned it. But I don’t know how long he was ill for.

It was public for a little bit. He had to cancel his tour.

Okay. I didn’t know that.

Yeah. Did you ever notice him here after he visited?

No, I think that was a one-time thing. But then, I wouldn’t have been the one to notice. As a staff, we’ve had many people coming in who are famous, of some sort, and we just let them be. We have a respectful staff. I would’ve hoped that he’d say “hey,” but I don’t know if he was that kind of guy.

I do remember him saying he’d had a Jucy many times before. He was like, “This is the best one.” And I was like, “Thank you!”

You guys have had a star parade. [laughs]

Yeah, and we’re gearing up for the Super Bowl. We’re doing things right as we speak to prepare for that famous piece. We’re sure it’s going to happen, and we’re hoping to take some pictures and put them up on the wall, ’cause that’s awesome.

It doesn’t help that the big guy [President Obama] came in.

I know! I drove by here that very day.

I think Sonny mentioned that. He walked around and looked at all the memorabilia on the walls.

What’s one thing that’ll always stick with you about Sonny?

He just lit up. You could tell he was definitely a performer, but he looked me in the eyes. He knew I probably didn’t know a whole lot about him, and I was just kind of starstruck. But he made me feel more comfortable and at ease, meeting someone with, I’d consider, a high profile.

We’ve had so many customers say, “I know who this is. You’re kidding me! He came here?” So I get to tell my little story, and I’ve showed these pictures to a couple of customers. Like, “I got to meet him!”