My Grandfather, The Cotton Club, and Billy Eckstein


As the sunsets on another sweltering hot day
in Manhatten, New York. My grandfather, 24
year old Ira Davis gets off the bus after a long
ride from Chattanooga, Tennessee.

His destination The World Famous Cotton
Club in Harlem, The Black Mecca of
Entertainment back in those days, where
many African American Jazz Stars performed
alone with The Jazz Swing Bands of that Era.

It was 1944 and one of the biggest Jazz Singers
of the day was Billy Eckstein whom my
Grandfather came all the way from down south
to see.

As he walked a few short block to the club he
felted the need to just start singing and in a clear
strong baritone voice he began to sing

SINGING

Alone from night to night you'll find me too weak
to break the chains that bind me.

I need no shackles to remind me, I'm just
a prisoner of love.

For one command, I stand
and wait now from one who's master of
my fate now.

I can't escape for it's too late now, I'm just
a prisoner of love.

What's the good of my caring if someone is
sharing those arms with me.

Although she has another, I can't find another
for I'm not free.

She's in my dreams awake or sleeping, upon
my knees to her I'm creeping,

My very life is in her keeping, I'm just a
prisoner of love.

The crowd cheered as he finished the Billy
Eckstein song. It was then that he realized he
was at the entrance to the Cotton Club
As he finished shaking hands and greeting
the many fine ladies (Granddaddy had it going
on, just look at him....SMILE)

He walked into the swank and polished
club, got him a shot of Bourbon, lit his
cigarette and listened as the MC came onto
the stage

"Ladies and Gentlemen thanks for coming
out this evening to The Cotton Club. The first
performer of the evening is none other then
the man with the golden voice Mr. Billy
Eckstein."

Written by SoleMannKing 12/25/2006

Views: 20

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Comment by Edie Antoinette on February 14, 2008 at 9:29pm
I love it...your vision is beautiful.
Comment by Shelley "SoleMann" King on February 14, 2008 at 9:20pm
Thank you both...I need to get back into my writings...I did this blog on Christmas night 2006 after spending the day over my grandmothers house...SMILE
Comment by Edie Antoinette on February 14, 2008 at 9:16pm
You know this is my favorite type of blog. Excellent job, indeed! I love the way you narrated it and the video is sublime--I could feel the excitement and hear your grandfather singing...see him shaking hands...

What a wonderful blog.

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Introspection

Spotlight | Maze

  1. play Maze — 03 Feel That You're Feelin'
  2. play Maze — 04 Somebody Else's Arms
  3. play Maze — 04 Southern Girl
  4. play Maze — Can't Get Over You
  5. play Maze — Golden Time Of Day
  6. play Norman Brown — Night Drive
  7. play Norman Brown — Feeling
  8. play Norman Brown — Still
  9. play Miles Davis — miles 1
  10. play miles 2
  11. play miles 3
  12. play miles 4
  13. play miles 5
  14. play Marvin Gaye — I Met A Little Girl
  15. play Santana — 01 Singing Winds, Crying Beasts
  16. play Santana — 02 Black Magic Woman-Gypsy Queen
  17. play Mongo — 02. Afro Blue



The history of the Butlers/Raw Soul is dense, but for all of us music nerds, that's normal. It is not totally clear what year the Butlers actually formed but they released their first single in 1963 on Liberty Records. That single was "She Tried To Kiss Me" and another single followed on Guyden entitled "Lovable Girl." After the Guyden single the Butlers took a break not recording another record until the single "Laugh, Laugh, Laugh" was released on the Phila label in 1966. The group also backed Charles Earland and Jean Wells on one Phila single ("I Know She Loves Me"). 


As you might be noticing, the Butlers were doing a fair amount of recording but not achieving much success. The group's recordings sold regionally but never had the promotion to make an impact on the national scene. After the single with Phila, the Butlers moved to the Fairmount label (part of the Cameo-Parkway family) and released a handful of singles, some being reissued singles of the past. The Butlers were with Fairmount for 1966-67 and then moved to Sassy Records. Sassy released the group's greatest single (in my opinion) "Love (Your Pain Goes Deep)" b/w "If That's What You Wanted." A copy of that 45 sold for just under $500 last summer on eBay. Even though that isn't that much in the world of record collecting--it's still a hefty sum. The Butlers released another single on Sassy ("She's Gone" b/w "Love Is Good") that appears to be even 
harder to come by then the "Love (Your Pain Goes Deep)" single.

 

The true history become a bit blurred here as the AMG biography states that the Butlers last record was released on C.R.S. in 1974 (". However, between 1971 and that single, Frankie Beverly formed a group called Raw Soul and released a number of singles. Some of the songs recorded by Beverly during this period are "While I'm Alone," "Open Up Your Heart," (both on the Gregor label) and "Color Blind." "Color Blind" was released by the Eldorado label and rerecorded by Maze. Beverly's big break came when Marvin Gaye asked Raw Soul to back him on a tour. Gaye helped Beverly/Raw Soul get a contract at Capitol. Beverly decided to take the group in a different direction, a name change occurred, and Maze was created. 

The above isn't the most complete history of Beverly but hopefully someone will know a way to get in touch with the man or his management because a comprehensive pre-Maze history needs to be done on Frankie Beverly (his real name is Howard, by the way). Below you'll find every Frankie Beverly (pre-Maze) song available to me right now ("Color Blind" will be up soon). 

If you have a song that is not included below, shoot it over to funkinsoulman (at) yahoo.com and it will go up in the next Frankie Beverly post (later this week--highlighting Maze). Also, if you have any more information please share your knowledge. The Butlers material has been comp-ed sporadically (usually imports) but the entire Maze catalog has been reissued and is available. 

Enjoy.  "She Kissed Me" (Fairmount, 1966 or 1967) 
 
 "I Want To Feel I'm Wanted" (not sure which label or year) "Laugh, Laugh, Laugh" (Phila, 1966) "Because Of My Heart" (Fairmount, 1966 or 1967)
   
 "Love (Your Pain Goes Deep)" (Sassy, 1967)
   
 "If That's What You Wanted" (Sassy, 1967)
 



Frankie Beverly is one of those cats that has lasting power. He started in the music business doing a tour with doo wop group the Silhouettes and then formed his own group called the Blenders. The Blenders never recorded a single, Beverly wouldn't appear on wax until forming the Butlers a few years later. Along with Beverly, the Butlers included Jack "Sonny" Nicholson, Joe Collins, John Fitch, and Talmadge Conway.

Beverly would later enjoy great success fronting Maze and Conway would become a
well-known penning Double Exposure's
"Ten Percent" and the Intruders' "Memories Are Here To Stay." 
 While Maze is a phenomenal group, Beverly's work before that group will always stand out as his best (imo).

The Butlers produced tunes that most Northern Soul fans would kill for and Raw Soul gave the funksters something to pursue. If, by chance, you know of a way to get in touch with Frankie Beverly or his management, please drop me an e-mail. It would be absolutely great to do an interview with him about his pre-Maze work. He's still playing out, most recently doing a New Year's Eve show in Atlanta.
:: Funkinsoulman ::

Power...Through Simplicity ♪♫♪

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