Monday, June 28, 2010
Jango Song Of The Day-The Friends Of Distinction
Song:Grazing In The Grass
Album:The Best Of The Friends Of Distinction
Grazing In The Grass was one of the biggest hits of the summer of 1969 and the biggest hit for The Friends Of Distinction. If you think they sound like The Fifth Dimension, that's not a coincindence. The Friends Of Distinction were led by Harry Elston and Floyd Butler along with Jessica Cleaves and Barbara Jean Love. Elston and Butler were part of several Los Angeles vocal groups but the most significant of these was Ray Charles' mid-60s backup singers The HiFis. They also recorded for Charles' Tangerine label as The Vocals in 1964. The other members of that group were Lamonte McLemore and Marilyn McCoo. When they disbanded in 1966, McLemore and McCoo formed The Fifth Dimension and Elston and Butler formed The Friends Of Distinction. I wouldn't say that The Friends Of Distinction were a copy of The Fifth Dimension but the mix of pop and soul is identical. Both groups had the same idea but The Fifth Dimension recorded first. The Friends Of Distinction's big break came when pro football living legend Jim Brown became their manager and he got them a contract with RCA Records in 1968. Grazing In The Grass was their first single and reached #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 in August 1969. The song was written by South African singer Philemon Hou and originally recorded as an instrumental by trumpeter Hugh Masekela and released as a single in 1968. Harry Elston wrote the words and sings the lead. Grazing In The Grass has been covered by many artists, sampled by hip hop guys and turned up in many films and TV shows. Going In Circles and Love Or Let Me Be Lonely were also big hits so I recommend this comp from RCA. Jessica Cleaves and Barbara Jean Love left in 1972 and Jessica would sing with Earth, Wind & Fire and Parliament/Funkadelic. Elston and Butler disbanded the group in 1976 and apparently didn't speak to each other for many years. They finally reconciled and were about to reunite Friends Of Distinction when Butler died of a heart attack in 1996. Elston did subsequently reunite a version of The Friends Of Distinction. Here's The Friends Of Distinction performing Grazing In The Grass 1970.