..around 4 a.m., October 17, 1974, when the last, great, sweet falsetto soul singer of the South eased into a bath after a long night of recording, he got a pan of boiling-hot grits poured on him by a spurned lover. The woman who chose grits as her revenge was 29-year-old Mary Woodson, just another notch in a long line of ladies, and not even the one who occupied the greater portion of Al Green's erotic imagination (that would have been Juanita, a whore he'd proudly pimped to white businessmen), nor the one who troubled him most at the time (that would have been Linda Wells, a former "secretary," who had charged him that summer of assaulting her with a bottle). In 1974 Al Green had behind him 20 million records sold and five consecutive hits. He had crooned and moaned the soundtrack the previous two years of American romance, with a voice later described as the "lovingest" ever to turn to the tradition of Southern soul.

So? Mary Woodson snuck into his Memphis split-level and found some grits boiling or boiled them herself while he washed and she came up on him just as he was getting out of the tub and dumped the whole pan on his skinny bones, that slinky S of biceps and pects and stomach later pictured on the "Greatest Hits" album beneath his strange, beautiful mug, the hangdog eyes and the missing chin and the teenage boy's beard and the earnest, love-me smile so at odds with the seduction of his bare-chested glory. She scalded it all. Shoulders, back, belly. Burning grits probably dripped down into every crevice. He must have bellowed, raw and deep, no falsetto when your skin is sizzling off of you. Mary Woodson had done what she'd come to Memphis do and so she went into the bedroom and retrieved Al Green's .38, and tried to shoot herself. She missed twice and got lucky the third time. The police found in her purse a note declaring her intentions and her reasons. "The more I trust you," she'd written, "the more you let me down."

Pretty much anyone who's ever heard "Love and Happiness" in a bar or in some cheesy movie or in an elevator knows some basic outline of this story. They know, too, about how Al Green understood the grits and the burns all over his body and the suicide of one of his conquests not so much as a sign that he had sinned, grievously, against a whole lot of females, but rather that God wanted him to raise up a church, which he did, the Full Gospel Tabernacle, in Memphis, which church he then filled with sacred music instead of sex music.

Not such a stretch as it might have seemed; Al Green grew up on gospel, started singing it at age nine in the tiny town of Jacknash, Arkansas, toured with his brothers until as a teenager he discovered Jackie Wilson, and his father discovered that he'd discovered Jackie Wilson, and kicked him out of the combo for listening to music that did not honor the Lord. A man inclined to read worldly events as divine portents might look at that expulsion from Godly music, into what became a spectacularly successful career of singing about fucking and loving and staying together and making it simmer a long time, as fated.

Al Green did not. Even as success thickened around him he lived a life of the blues and sang soul and somewhere deep in his heart, or in the back of his mind, or maybe down there in his crotch, saved up some piece of himself for his return to the gospel.

In greater or lesser detail, every Al Green fan knows this legend. They probably know, too, that Al Green is what is called, on therapeutic television, a "survivor." Consider his peers: Sam Cooke, shot to death by a motel clerk in 1964 after he'd barged into her office, half naked, searching for the girl he may or may not have raped minutes before; Marvin Gaye, shot to death at age 41 by his own father on April Fool's day, 1984; Otis Redding and his band gone down in a plane; the long, awful dwindling of Curtis Mayfield. Michael Jackson, who bears mentioning in the company of Al Green for the sake of his falsetto, has his own damn problems.

But Al Green -- the Reverend Al Green -- he survived. Everything, in fact, has worked out just splendidly. He lives modestly, in both the spiritual and sexual sense, in a house behind his church, which stands at 787 Reverend Al Green Road, just off Elvis Presley Boulevard. He still dances. "He wears out Bibles like he does shoes," one of his flock told a Memphis stringer for the A.P., on the occasion of his silver anniversary in the pulpit. After eight years in the gospel desert, his back turned on his hits, God has even given him leave to sing his early, sexy songs again. Al Green has lived to see himself ossified in Cleveland's Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame, to cameo on Ally McBeal, to duet with Lyle Lovett. Starbucks canonization cannot be long in coming.

This is all as it should be, the artist as a comfortable older man. Maybe the best thing that ever happened to Al Green's career was that panful of boiling grits that burned him. The story has become a folktale. The grits are Al Green's crossroads, only instead of selling his soul to the devil, he gave his to God. Al Green did not gain knowledge of the world and its weaknesses, he abandoned it, left it behind when he checked out of the hospital, raw-skinned and born-again.

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Comment by Edie Antoinette on February 14, 2008 at 9:10pm
Leave po Al lone' Sole!! He was working his mojo on us wimmenz...lol
Comment by Shelley "SoleMann" King on February 14, 2008 at 8:08pm
I can't believe i ain't notice this before...What in the Bloody Blue Heck kinda pants is Al wearing in that main pic....UGH/LMBO
Comment by Edie Antoinette on January 25, 2008 at 6:36pm
And my heart truly appreciates that mellO..truly. Thank you.
Comment by mellOtypOfellOw on January 25, 2008 at 6:26pm
Truly a great blog. Job well done.
Comment by Edie Antoinette on January 19, 2008 at 9:47pm
Klu, thanks! glad you enjoyed it girl!!! Plenty more where that came from too...

I really, really appreciate your comment. Al tore it UP didn't he?
Comment by Edie Antoinette on January 19, 2008 at 9:45pm
That ain't his teef mayne! That's a speckle of grits!

*holdin in laugh*
Comment by Shelley "SoleMann" King on January 19, 2008 at 12:54pm
Ohhhh Lawd i had to look closer at that top pic, those are his Teef....ROFLMBOOOO

Buddha Al Green....LMBO
Comment by The Steppin Zone on January 18, 2008 at 8:04pm
He looks like Ray Charles in the bottom pic..and I love that pounch..Mmmmm LOL
Comment by The Steppin Zone on January 18, 2008 at 7:40pm
I don't see nothin on his lips BOI...pap pap!!! You betta lee-mah Al green lone!!! hmph...LOL
Comment by Shelley "SoleMann" King on January 18, 2008 at 7:12pm
Whats that on his lips....LOLOL. You know me i spot errrrrrthang....LOL

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  1. play Norman Brown — Night Drive
  2. play Norman Brown — Feeling
  3. play Norman Brown — Still
  4. play Miles Davis — miles 1
  5. play miles 2
  6. play miles 3
  7. play miles 4
  8. play miles 5
  9. play Marvin Gaye — I Met A Little Girl
  10. play Santana — 01 Singing Winds, Crying Beasts
  11. play Santana — 02 Black Magic Woman-Gypsy Queen
  12. 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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