An album cover with Nick Knowlton, second from left, when he was part of the rock group Katahdin

An album cover with Nick Knowlton, second from left, when he was part of the rock group Katahdin

Click on this link  to listen to Nick and his group Katfish, cover the Beatles song “Dear Prudence.”  

LEWISTON — Perhaps the most distinctive voice ever to serenade the Lewiston-Auburn community has been silenced.

Friends and family members say Daniel “Nick” Knowlton succumbed to complications from esophageal cancer with which he was diagnosed in December.

“Nick touched the lives of so many,” said Linda Doucette Scott of Lewiston, “he is the true epitome of a man who dedicated his life to others and our community. He will be greatly missed by all. My deepest condolences to his family.”

A local legend on the rock-and-roll scene dating back to the 1960s, Knowlton crooned his way into the hearts of his family, friends and fans.

His brush with national stardom came in 1975 with a version of “Dear Prudence,” a recording on Katfish’s single 45 rpm. The Beatles’ cover broke the top 100, fellow local musician Richard Martin recalled.

Knowlton also write the now-famous Marden’s jingle, along with the “On Ice” theme for the former Lewiston Maineiacs.

A good friend who had collaborated on some music projects with Knowlton over the years, Martin, who played electric bass guitar, said he enjoyed working with Knowlton because he was “very amenable” despite having made a name for himself in the entertainment industry.

“He was a big presence in our community,” Martin said. “He was a musical great in our community.”

Knowlton’s musical career dates back to the 1960s when he was lead singer for the band Terry and the Telstars.

Roger Blais, another local rocker, knew Knowlton when he was about 14 and Blais was about 16 in the mid 1960s. They were in different bands, but knew of each other. Knowlton sang for Terry and the Telstars; Blais played guitar for The Innkeepers. They became lifelong friends and, over the years, played together at live venues. Most notable for Blais was a Beatles medley performed with Knowlton at the Colisee about eight years ago.

Their friendship blossomed at Maurice Music Store in Lewiston where the musical kids would hang out, Blais said.

Later in life, Blais and Knowlton sometimes played at fund raisers together, donating their time for charities.

“The man was as big as his heart,” Blais said, “just a great talented person who will be sadly missed.”

In the early 1980s, Knowlton recorded the album, “Hardcore Rock n’ Rolla” with the band Katahdin, aimed at breaking into national music scene.

“I can still remember him jumping around on stage with his long hair and bouncing off speakers singing at the Kamalot in Lisbon back in the 80’s,” said Sun Journal photographer Russ Dillingham, of Lewiston.

Blais said Knowlton “had an amazing voice and a personality that was just outreaching and would make everybody comfortable around him.”

Despite his celebrity, Knowlton was generous and quick with his praise for fellow musicians, Blais said.

“He was just a gracious, gracious man.”

Of Knowlton’s battle with cancer, Blais said: He fought a courageous fight.

In 2007, Knowlton’s wife wife, Joye, had died from liver cancer. He recorded his first solo album dedicated to her memory, titled “Letting Go: Songs for Joyce.”

Just before Christmas 2016, Knowlton himself was diagnosed with cancer. It took a while, but word about Knowlton’s troubles began to spread, and once that happened, the reaction was as huge as it was predictable.

A GoFundMe campaign raised nearly $25,000 for his treatment. In February, Knowlton fans and several area musicians teamed up for an event dubbed Banding Together for Nick at the Ramada.

In a telephone interview with the Sun Journal, Knowlton said he was often moved to tears by the support.

“I am blown away — truly blown away,” Knowlton said. “I’ve been so blessed. It’s all a little overwhelming.”

That support was still streaming in on Friday as news of Knowlton’s death spread across social media – along with his rock and roll career, Knowlton is said to have been among the most requested deejays for weddings, anniversary parties and other social functions.

“He sang his way into so many hearts,” wrote Anne Marie Jumper, of Lewiston, “and gave Lewiston a sound as a city.”

Bonnie Lagasse of Turner meets Elvis, aka, Nick Knowlton while performing at Echoes in Time at the Central Maine Youth Center in Lewiston in 2009.

Filmmaker Bill Maroldo, far left, has a laugh with some vintage performers at Via-Vision Film & Video Productions studio in Lewiston in 2009 as they watch themselves perform in a movie that Maroldo narrates about the history of music in the Lewiston-Auburn area. The local musicians, from left after Maroldo, are Roger Renaud, Ed Boucher and Nick Knowlton.

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