Prior to becoming "The Sylvers", the four eldest members (Olympia, Leon, Charmaine, and James) recorded as the Little Angels, appearing on variety shows such as "Make Room For Daddy" and "You Bet Your Life," and opening for such acts as Johnny Mathis and Ray Charles.
During 1972 the act was joined by brothers Edmund and Ricky. The sextet changed their name from the Little Angels to the Sylvers and released three albums on the MGM/Pride label, titled simply "The Sylvers," "The Sylvers 2," and "The Sylvers 3." Released between 1972 and 1974, these LPs were composed of solid soulful numbers written by Leon and produced by R&B legends Jerry Butler (of the Impressions) and Keg Johnson. Four singles from these self-titled albums were popular enough to be recorded on the Billboard R&B charts, starting a sequence of successes for the siblings.
"Fool's Paradise" was a thought-provoking song that reached number 14 in the autumn of 1972. The single featured Charmaine, Edmund, and Ricky as lead singers, backed by the sumptuous harmonies of Olympia, Leon, and James.
"Wish That I Could Talk To You" (# 10) was the next single and during early 1973 became the siblings' first top 10 song. The track, featuring Leon and Ricky on lead, is considered a classic by old-school R&B fans. "Stay Away From Me" (# 33) and "Through the Love In My Heart" (# 50) followed; and album tracks such as "I'll Never Be Ashamed" and "Cry of a Dreamer" received significant airplay at R&B radio outlets.
The Sylvers consisted of nine siblings:
Olympia-Ann "Olan" Sylvers (b. October 13, 1951) - Vocals
Leon Frank Sylvers III (b. March 7, 1953) - Bass, Vocals
Charmaine Elaine Sylvers (b. March 9, 1954) - Vocals
James Jonathan Sylvers (b. June 8, 1955) - Keyboards, Vocals
Edmund Theodore Sylvers (b. January 25, 1957, d. March 11, 2004) - Vocals, Percussion
Joseph Richard "Ricky" Sylvers (b. October 13, 1958) - Guitar, Vocals
Angelia Marie "Angie" Sylvers (b. April 11, 1960) - Vocals
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.