When Harold Melvin & the Bluenotes and Frankie Beverly & Maze broke out in the '70s, their names were unfamiliar to soul music lovers who lived outside the Philly/New York area. Yet, both Melvin and Beverly spent years trying to make names for themselves. Beverly's resumé begins in the early '60s with the Butlers, a vocal group comprising Beverly, Joe Collins, Jack "Sonny" Nicholson, Talmadge Conway, and John Fitch.
They debuted on Philly's Liberty Bell label with "She Tried to Kiss Me" in 1963; the ditty, written by Beverly and Collins, sparked some interest locally, but not enough to keep them with Liberty Bell, as their next release, "Lovable Girl" (1963), came out on Guyden Records. The popular Philadelphia group worked the clubs but didn't appear on record again until they backed Jean Wells and Charles Earland (uncredited) on "I Know That She Loves Me" on Phila Records in 1966; Phila also issued a solo 45 for the Butlers that same year entitled "Laugh, Laugh, Laugh" b/w "Butler's Theme."
A switch to Rouser Records in 1966 resulted in "Because of My Heart," credited as the Butlers With Frankie Beverly; the billing change didn't increase sells and by 1967 they were recording for Fairmount Records. The marriage produced two reissues of previous material that didn't do much better the second time around. Next, Sassy Records tried to get a hit with "Love (Your Pain Goes Deep)" b/w "If That's What You Wanted," and might have with better promotion. A liaison with Parkway Records birthed one flop single in 1967. In 1968, they hooked with Gamble Records, their first release being a reissue of "Love (Your Pain Goes Deep)"; the second, "She's Gone" b/w "Love Is Good," never escaped Philadelphia's city limits in 1969.
The final Butlers single dropped in 1974 on C.R.S. Records, but "Thinkin' of You" b/w "Strong and Kicking Again," both written by Larry Butler and Curtis Staton, did nothing, and Beverly forsook the Butlers and created the paradigm for Maze with Raw Soul. Beverly was obviously impressed by the transformation of fellow Philadelphian Daryl Hall, who broke from vocal group singing to front the more '70s Hall & Oates. Talmadge Conway became a prolific writer, penning songs with Phil Terry, Allan Felder, and others that include Double Exposure's "Ten Percent," the Ebonys' "Life in the Country," and the Intruders' "Memories Are Here to Stay." ~ Andrew Hamilton