Lawrence Philpot, aka Larry Levan, legendary disc jockey of the Paradise Garage, record producer and remixer died Sunday, November 8, 1992 at Beth Israel Hospital from heart failure due to endicarditis: he was 38. Larry is revered primarily as the DJ and driving force of the famous gay disco Paradise Garage. With engineer Richard Long, he custom-designed the Garage's monster sound system and DJ booth, complete with audiophile Thorens turntables. Larry's brilliance lay not only in his technical skill and audio expertise,
but also in his unique and eclectic taste.
He confounded and greatly broadened the "rules" of what "dance music" could be, mixing everything from gospel, reggae, Philly soul and Euro-disco to rock ("Stand Back"/Stevie Nicks and "Eminence Front"/The Who, to name but two), post-punk ("The Magnificent Seven"/The Clash, and Talking Heads), ambient/environmental music (Klaus Schulze and Manuel Gottsching, for example), and just about everything else. He augmented this aural collage with disorienting sound effects and mind-expanding audio manipulations, working the crossover and balance controls to throw sound around the room as if it had a will of its own. Larry was a shaman who opened a sonic Pandora's box when he Djed, with all kinds of beautiful, scary and indescribably bizarre sounds careening around the room like spirits flying out of the Ark of the Covenant.
Larry cut his musical teeth at The Loft, essentially the first underground, afterhours disco. Started by David Mancuso at the advent of the '70s, The Loft combined psychedelic culture with proto-disco music, which then consisted of longform, psychedelic-influenced soul ("Melting Pot"/Booker T. & The MG's, "Papa Was a Rolling Stone"/The Temptations, etc.), jazz-funk like The Blackbyrds, funky rock ("Woman"/Barabas, for example) and trippy head music like Pink Floyd's Dark Side Of The Moon. When Paradise Garage opened in 1976, Larry added gospel-and R&B-flavored disco to his musical menu.
With Larry at the helm, the Garage embodied all that was beautiful about disco: glamour, unpretentiousness, excitement, hedonism, epiphany through music, black/white and gay/straight harmony, and the general concept of the dancefloor as family. Celebrities like Grace Jones, Keith Haring, Nile Rogers, Chaka Khan and Madonna hung out and danced the night away along with thousands more of Larry's dedicated flock. As a remixer, Larry applied his inimitable touch to countless all-time club classics, including "Got My Mind Made Up"/Instant Funk, "Ain't No Mountain High Enough"/Inner Life, "Can't Play Around"/Lace, "Heartbeat"/Taana Gardner, Gwen Guthrie's "Should Have Been You" and "Nothing Going On But The Rent" and many, many others. As a writer and producer, he helped create the sound of the innovative New York Citi Peech Boys and their seminal club hits "Don't Make Me Wait", "On A Journey", "Come On, Come On" and "Life Is Something Special", a joyous, mesmerizing celebration of life, love, and music. Larry's work has a spacious, epic, atmospheric quality, with a haunting blend of joy and pain. After the Garage closed in 1987, Larry kept a considerably lower profile, doing guest spots at various clubs, including Studio 54, Palladium and Mars, and Djing regularly at The Choice, arguably the inheritor of the Garage's underground legacy. The Choice didn't have the grandeur of the Garage, but Larry made it his home, casting his psychedelic spell on a diverse crowd of devoted Garage heads and various other afterhours types. Although his remixing work (and, according to some, his spinning ability) diminished, there's no doubt that Larry, even on a bad night, was still infinitely more creative, interesting and unpredictable than any other jock around. It was that unpredictability that was the reason for many of his followers disenchantment by the mid-and-late '80's: it was also the reason that legions more literally lived to hear him play, or were inspired to make their own careers in music and the music business. Larry's legacy is more than just a legendary nightclub and a fistful of club classics. Larry Levan was the ultimate DJ: he didn't just excel at his job, he reinvented the concept of the DJ, blurring the boundaries of music, race, sex, sexuality, and changing thousands of people's perception of music, sound and the world around them.Adam Goldstone (used with kind permission)
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.