1969 The Friends of Distinction – Going In Circles
In the mid-sixties, Floyd Butler and Harry Elston were members of a vocal group called the Hi-Fi’s. The group doesn’t appear to have successfully recorded any music, although they frequently opened for Ray Charles in concerts. Singers Marilyn McCoo and Lamont McLemore were also members of the Hi-Fi’s. The group fell apart in 1966, but two other groups were born as a result. Marilyn and Lamont became co-founders of the 5th Dimension.
Floyd and Harry recruited singers Jessica Cleaves and Barbara Jean Love to form a replacement group. Harry suggested calling the new group The Distinguished Friends, but Floyd talked him into a slight reversal: The Friends of Distinction. Football player Jim Brown discovered the group and helped them sign with RCA Records.
South African musician Hugh Masekala played the trumpet, and in 1968 he topped the Hot 100 with his instrumental hit, Grazing In The Grass. The next year, Harry wrote lyrics for the song and sang lead vocals when the Friends of Distinction recorded it for their first album. Their version reached #3 on the Hot 100 and #3 on the R&B chart and earned the group a gold record.
Their second single also came off their first album and gave the group another gold record, although it did not chart as well on the pop charts. Going In Circles peaked at only #15 on the Hot 100 and reached #3 on the R&B chart in 1969. The B-side of the single came from their second album, but could get no higher than #63 on the Hot 100.
Barbara became pregnant and took some time away from the group. She was replaced by Charlene Gibson.
The group recorded a third album in 1970. Charlene sang lead on the first single from the album, Love Or Let Me Be Lonely, which again took the group into the top ten on the Hot 100. Sadly, that became the last time the group reached the top forty.
Friction between Floyd and Harry led the group to disband in 1975. Jessica joined Earth, Wind, and Fire and later sang with Parliament-Funkadelic.
Floyd and Harry patched up their differences and planned to reform the group in 1990, but Floyd had a heart attack and died while they were still in the planning stages. Harry eventually reformed the group, and they are still touring.
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