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Comment by Edie Antoinette on October 23, 2019 at 11:42am

The Regal Theater, was a night club and music venue, popular among African-Americans. Located in the Bronzeville neighborhood in Chicago, Illinois. The theater was designed by Edward Eichenbaum. The theater opened in February 1928. Part of the Balaban and Katz chain, the lavishly decorated venue, with plush carpeting and velvet drapes, featured some of the most celebrated African-American entertainers in America. On what for a time was known as the Chitlin' Circuit, the Regal also featured motion pictures and live stage shows. Nat "King" Cole, Cab Calloway, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Lena Horne, Dinah Washington, Miles Davis, Sammy Davis Jr., Lionel Hampton, Dizzy Gillespie, and Duke Ellington performed frequently at the theater through the 1920s and 1940s.

Other acts who have performed at the Regal over the years have included such icons as Sam Cooke, Jackie Wilson, The Supremes, Wayne Cochran, The Temptations, The Four Tops, Herbie Hancock, Della Reese, Les Paul, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Lola Falana, Louis Jordan and his Tympany Five, Solomon Burke, International Sweethearts of Rhythm, Dionne Warwick, James Brown & The Famous Flames, The Isley Brothers, John Coltrane, Dorothy Dandridge, Revella Hughes, Five Stairsteps, Peg Leg Bates, Dave Peyton and Martha and the Vandellas. Closed in 1968, the theater was later demolished in 1973.

The Regal was a major complex that featured films, dance, music, and comedy. The theater was a prominent entertainment venue for over four decades in Chicago, Illinois. This theater opened on February 4, 1928 and was located in the “Bronzeville” area of Chicago. The theater was designed by Levy and Klein and was influenced by the Harlem Savoy Ballroom located in New York City and was owned by a white business association in Chicago. This complex was able to seat about 3,000 people and had several big names come through to perform. The theater was one of the first entertainment complexes that was available for black audiences and also employed black staff members (other than the musical acts). This theater featured silent films, musicians of all types of genres—mainly jazz and blues, and some of the biggest names throughout music history.

With the ability to see black performers, films, and shows, African Americans were immediately drawn to the theater. Several big names were brought in to perform the popular music of that era. Some of the performers that were brought in included: Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, Stevie Wonder, Ella Fitzgerald, The Temptations, Miles Davis, Nat “King” Cole, Duke Ellington, Paul Robeson, the Jackson Five, and several others. Typically the shows featured at the Regal consisted of an opening musical act followed by a silent film—which was accompanied with music for dramatic effects. The owner strategically placed the theater in the area because of the Savoy Ballroom and South Center Department store that were both up the street—which was a nightclub and shopping center for blacks, respectively.

The feel of the theater was elegant and formal. Velvet seating, large pillars, and beautifully decorated—the Regal was definitely a site to see. Costing $1.5 million to construct, the Regal opened new doors for African Americans in the entertainment business. Before the Regal, blacks (in Chicago) were usually not able to find jobs other than the typical low-income jobs, but new employment opportunities were beginning to come about. The Regal eventually had a black manager, hired black entertainment, ushers, dancers (only light-skinned women), and coat checkers which at the time was highly unheard of.

One of the house bands that got recruited for the Regal was Fess Williams and his Royal Flush Orchestra. They had been an opening act at the Savoy Ballroom and had begun to gain a following. Aware of their increased popularity, Balaban and Katz hired Fess Williams and his Royal Flush Orchestra to act as a house band for the theater. The Regal Theater and the nearby Savoy Ballroom created an atmosphere for families to go out and have a good time in the city—which was a helpful business factor.

With the great influx of people coming into the theater, more and more complexes began to open in big cities. The Regal Theater has been often compared to the Apollo Theater in Harlem when considering the best quality of entertainment for an African-American audience. However, the Regal opened six years before the Apollo came into running (which opened in 1934). In addition, the Regal was designed in the first place to be the very best in African American entertainment, unlike the Apollo, and had double the seating capacity. Both theaters were able to attract several big names, but there were a greater amount of big names that performed at the Regal.

Prior to the opening of the Regal, Chicago endured The Great Migration, which brought a large number of blacks from the south into the city looking for a new life and work. After the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, blacks began to slowly move from their southern homes. Once blacks had the ability to move away from their slave owners and find industrial jobs, the north was able to provide this “new life” for them. Over a 20-30 year period, waves of thousands of blacks left the south and entered major cities like Chicago, New York City, Detroit, and so on.

For most of its time, the Regal thrived with business by bringing in musical talents from across the country. People had some of the best times at the theater which helped spread the word about it and bring in more business. Eventually, with developments in technology like with the radio and cable TV, business began to decline. With the repercussions of all these factors, the Regal began losing more and more business which eventually led to the owner having to file bankruptcy and close down the theater in 1968. The building was later demolished in 1973. The site is now occupied by theHarold Washington Cultural Center.

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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) 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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