After eight lean years with the Butlers, Frankie Beverly changed directions.
Self-contained bands were the vogue in the '70s, so after a series of misfires, Beverly disbanded the Butlers. As a kid, Beverly was fascinated by Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers so much that he started using the name Frankie; his birth name is Howard. He was also influenced by Sly Stone. His first professional singing stint was a yearlong road tour with the Silhouettes ("Get a Job"); he formed the Blenders afterward but didn't record until the Butlers. He learned to play rhythm guitar and keyboards, and began Raw Soul with fellow Philadelphians Roame Lowry, McKinley Williams, and Sam Porter. Gigs were plentiful around Philly, but Beverly felt that California held the key; he relocated to the San Francisco/Oakland area in 1971. The addition of three members made Raw Soul a full-fledged funk band. Eldorado Records issued the first Raw Soul single, "Open up Your Heart," which features Temptations-ish ping-ponging leads, a Larry Graham sound-alike bass singer, and a Sly Stone/Noman Whitfield production. The label credits read Raw Soul With Frankie Beverly; two later singles on Gregor Records are credited as Frankie Beverly and Raw Soul. The Gregor singles, like the Eldorado side, dealt with curing the world's woes, dissolving social injustices, and ending bigotry and racism. "Color Blind" (1971) was sweetened with '70s funk horns, and asked the question: What color is harmony? Raw Soul's recordings sold regionally but never broke nationally; they did help to build a small following on the West Coast. Gregor followed "Color Blind" with "Understanding" b/w "People in the Know." Marvin Gaye gave them a big break when he picked them to back him on a tour and allowed them to open the show with some original numbers. Before meeting Gaye, they had no luck shopping a demo; after the tour, a meeting with Capitol Records' Larkin Arnold resulted in a recording deal. Beverly scrapped the Raw Soul concept for the smoother sounds of Maze, keeping the core members and bringing in others to complete the package. After years of trying, Beverly was selling singles and albums by the truckload. Incorporating the best elements from the Butlers and Raw Soul, Maze became a quiet storm and urban contemporary favorite. Message songs, nothing new to Frankie (check the Butlers' first single, "The Sun's Message"), continued with Maze, and heartfelt love songs were also a part of the agenda. Everything worked, and the caps he wore to hide his thinning hair and receding hairline became a trademark. The fact that Philadelphia International Records exploded just two years after he left town may have disheartened him initially, but his success was still phenomenal. ~ Andrew Hamilton