Songwriter, singer, and producer Leon Ware is one of the less-recognized products of the Motown Records music factory of the 1960s and '70s, primarily because he has tended to work behind the scenes despite recording a series of albums under his own name. His signature style is a highly romantic approach to soul music that has resulted in many hit records, notably "I Wanna Be Where You Are," recorded by Michael Jackson, and "I Want You," recorded by Marvin Gaye, both of which he co-wrote.
Growing up as an aspiring musical artist in Detroit, Ware naturally became part of Motown Records, which was founded in the city as he approached manhood. In the spring of 1967, the Isley Brothers' recording of "Got to Have You Back," which he wrote with Ivy Hunter and Steve Bowden, placed in both the R&B and pop singles charts after its release on the Motown imprint Tamla Records. But his first major hit as a writer came with the Four Tops' "Just Seven...
Back at Motown, Ware began collaborating with Arthur "T-Boy" Ross, younger brother of Motown star Diana Ross, and they came up with "I Wanna Be Where You Are," which Michael Jackson recorded for Motown on his early-1972 album Got to Be There. Released as a single in the spring, it peaked at number two on the R&B charts and reached the Top 20 of the pop charts. Over time, it became one of Ware's most-covered songs, earning recordings by José Feliciano, Marvin Gaye, SWV, and others. In 1973, Ware had songwriting credits on albums by the Average White Band, Donny Hathaway, and the Jackson 5. "Give Me Just Another Day," which he wrote for the Miracles, was released as a single on Tamla that fall and reached the R&B charts. His next R&B singles chart entry came with "If You Were My Woman," an answer record to the Gladys Knight & the Pips hit "If You Were My Man," recorded by Latimore on Glades Records, in the spring of 1974. That same season saw the release of a more important project for him, Quincy Jones' LP Body Heat on A&M Records. Ware was both a writer and performer on the disc, which topped the R&B charts and reached the pop Top Ten, going gold. "If I Ever Lose This Heaven," which he wrote with Pam Sawyer and sang on the album with Minnie Riperton and Al Jarreau, was an R&B singles chart entry in September.
Nearly a year later, it gained even greater renown when it was covered by the Average White Band on Atlantic for a single that reached the Top 40 of both the pop and R&B charts. It went on to become another major copyright for Ware, covered by such artists as Jonathan Butler, Sergio Mendes, and Nancy Wilson. Meanwhile, the title track from Body Heat, co-written by Ware, also became an R&B singles chart entry in the spring of 1975. "Rolling Down a Mountainside," which he wrote with Jacqueline Hilliard, also became an R&B hit, this one for the Main Ingredient on RCA Victor Records that spring, peaking in the Top Ten and also getting into the pop chart before serving as the title track on the group's next album. Ware collaborated with Minnie Riperton and Richard Rudolph on "Inside My Love," which was featured on her Epic Records album Adventures in Paradise, also released in the spring of 1975. Issued as a single that summer, the song became a Top 40 R&B hit and reached the pop charts.
Ware had two projects in progress at Motown during this period. He was producing songs for T-Boy Ross, and he was recording his own solo album. But when label president Berry Gordy heard one of the proposed Ross tracks, "I Want You," he decided that Marvin Gaye should cut it instead. And when Gaye heard the material Ware had done for his album, it was turned into a Gaye LP instead. Ware produced what now became Gaye's I Want You album, released on Tamla in March 1976, having co-written all the songs on it. The title tune (co-written with Ross) topped the R&B charts and made the Top 20 of the pop charts. It went on to become a standard, covered by Herb Alpert, Gato Barbieri, Madonna, and Michael McDonald among many others. Robert Palmer's medley of it with "Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)," another Gaye hit, reached the pop Top 20 in 1991. The I Want You album went to number one on the R&B charts and the Top Ten of the pop charts. It spun off a second single, "After the Dance," co-written by Ware, Ross, and Gaye, that made the R&B Top 20 and was a pop chart entry.
Having given away the material for his album, Ware began again on a solo effort for Motown and produced Musical Massage, released on Motown's Gordy Records subsidiary in September 1976. He has suggested that Motown wanted him to give this album's songs to Gaye, too, and that when he refused, the label released the LP but gave it no promotion, resulting in its commercial failure. So, he went back to being a songwriter for others. During the late '70s, he placed songs on albums by Minnie Riperton, Marlena Shaw, Melissa Manchester, and Bobby Womack. He issued his third solo album, Inside Is Love, on Fabulous Records in 1979. It reached the R&B charts in December, along with its single, "What's Your Name," establishing him as a recording artist for the first time. He was represented on Melissa Manchester's 1980 album For the Working Girl on Arista by "Lovers After All," which he and Manchester wrote and which Manchester sang with Peabo Bryson. Released as a single in early 1981, it reached the Top 40 of the R&B charts and was a pop chart entry as well. Meanwhile, Ware had signed with Elektra Records as a recording artist, and he released his fourth solo album, Rockin' You Eternally, which spawned two R&B singles chart entries, "Baby Don't Stop Me" and the title song, but did not itself reach the charts. Nevertheless, Elektra financed a follow-up, and Ware's second album to be called simply Leon Ware was released in 1982. But the label dropped him when the disc failed to sell.
Nevertheless, Ware still had his songwriting to fall back on, and in the early and mid-'80s he had cuts on albums by Jeffrey Osborne, Loose Ends, Teena Marie, and James Ingram. In 1987, he pacted with Slingshot Records and released his sixth solo album, Undercover. In the late '80s and 1990s, while he continued to work on various sessions as a musician, arranger, and producer, he placed fewer new songs with other artists, though he did have cuts on albums by the Isley Brothers, John Martyn, Fred Wesley, and Chico DeBarge, among others. The chief exception to this relative drought was "Independence," which was recorded by Lulu and became a hit in England in 1993, just missing the Top Ten. But Ware's career benefited in two respects in the 1990s. First, his work was discovered as the source of sampling by rappers and hip-hop artists. Montell Jordan's 1999 R&B chart entry "When You Get Home," for example, sampled "I Want You," as did tracks by EPMD ("It's Going Down"), Ice Cube ("What Can I Do"), and Prince ("Mr. Happy"), among others. A Tribe Called Quest's "Lyrics to Go" sampled "Inside My Love," as did 2Pac's "Me Against the World" and Aaliyah's "Heartbroken," and 2Pac also sampled "Body Heat" on the number one pop and R&B hit "How Do U Want It." Such success didn't increase Ware's exposure as an artist, but it did increase his publishing income substantially. At the same time, he was being discovered as a soul music progenitor, particularly in England, where the Expansion label began reissuing his solo albums. He helped his cause by putting out his seventh album, Taste the Love, on his own Kitchen Records label in 1995. In 2001, Candlelight, a jazz album he recorded with Don Grusin, came out on Kitchen in the U.S. and Expansion in the U.K. Love's Drippin', a more characteristic collection of soul music, followed in 2003. ~ William Ruhlmann, All Music Guide
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"
"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.