The distinctive Maze and its charismatic lead singer, founder, producer,
and songwriter Beverly didn't have many pop hits, but they were
extremely popular among soul and urban contemporary audiences and
enjoyed at least six or seven gold albums.
Beverly was born Howard Beverly in Philadelphia, PA, on December 6,
1946; he started calling himself Frankie after hearing Frankie Lymon
& the Teenagers (a major doo wop group) when he was only nine years
old in 1956.
When Beverly was 12, he joined the Philly doo wop group The
Silhouettes (who were known for their hit "Get a Job") and
went on tour with them in 1959. Then, in the early '60s, he founded and
led a short-lived doo wop/soul vocal group called The Blenders.
After the Blenders' breakup, a 17-year-old Beverly founded another vocal
group in 1963: The Butlers, who favored a Northern soul approach.
The Butlers never became well-known nationally, although they did
provide a few singles (including "The Sun's Message" and "She
Tried to Kiss Me") and recorded for small, Philly based labels like
Fairmount, Liberty Bell, and Guyden. The Butlers also recorded for
Gamble Records, a small label that was named after producer/songwriter
Kenny Gamble (who went on to co-own a huge R&B empire when he ran
Philadelphia International Records with fellow Philadelphian Leon
Huff in the '70s).
It was in 1970 that Beverly founded the band that eventually came to be
known as Maze Featuring Frankie Beverly. Originally, Maze went by
Raw Soul; using that name, it recorded three singles for Philly's
small Gregar label in the early '70s (one of which was a cover of
bluesman Taj Mahal's "Today May Not Be Your Day").
Although Beverly was born and raised in Philly, he has been quoted as
saying that he never thought of himself as part of the Philly sound, and
while his band does have Philly influences, it didn't fit into either
the Gamble & Huff/Philadelphia International school of Philly
soul or the Thom Bell/Linda Creed school (which the Delfonics,
the Moments, and the Stylistics were a part of). Further, Raw
Soul's sound owed as much to Marvin Gaye and the Isley
Brothers as it did to any of the soulsters who came out of Philly in
the '60s or '70s.
Raw Soul had been playing the San Francisco/Oakland scene for several
years when Beverly's idol, Marvin Gaye, became aware of the band.
Quite impressed by Beverly's singing and songwriting, Gaye sang Raw
Soul's praises to Capitol and helped them land a deal with that major
label in 1976.
One thing Gaye didn't like about Beverly's band was the name Raw Soul.
Gaye insisted on a name change and after considering a few other names
(including Karma and Charisma), Raw Soul officially became
Maze Featuring Frankie Beverly in 1976. (The name Karma wouldn't have
worked because an obscure, L.A.-based funk/jazz outfit called Karma was
recording for A&M around 1976-1977).
Maze's self-titled debut album was released by Capitol in 1977; that
album (which contains the hits "Happy Feelin's," "While I'm
Alone," and "Lady of Magic") went gold and earned Maze an
extremely devoted following. The band's 1977 lineup consisted of Beverly
on lead vocals and rhythm guitar, Wayne Thomas on lead guitar,
Sam Porter on keyboards, Ronald "Roame" Loary and McKinley
"Bug" Williams on percussion and background vocals, and Joe
Provost on drums.
In 1978, Provost was replaced by Ahaguna G. Sun, formerly of a
little-known soul/funk group called Sunbear; subsequently, Sun
was replaced by Billy "Shoes" Johnson. There were other personnel
changes along the way; keyboardist Phillip Woo (formerly of
Roy Ayers' band Ubiquity) joined Maze in 1980, and Ron
Smith was the guitarist who replaced Thomas. But regardless of who
was coming or going, Maze always reflected Beverly's vision.
Beverly was to Maze what George Clinton was to Parliament/Funkadelic.
1978 saw the release of Maze's second album, Golden Time of Day,
which contains the number-nine R&B hit "Workin' Together."
Golden Time of Day went gold, as did 1979's Inspiration and
1980's Joy and Pain (the album that gave us the major hit "Southern
In the late '70s, Maze earned a reputation for having one of the best
live shows in R&B and their first live album, Live in New Orleans
(a two-LP set), came out in 1981. Another live double-LP, Live in Los
Angeles, was released in 1986, which was the year after Maze's funky
"Back in Stride" reached number one on Billboard's R&B singles
chart and became their biggest hit ever.
In 1989, Maze left Capitol for Warner Bros. and recorded Silky Soul;
the title track, an ode to Marvin Gaye, was a major hit. By that time,
Maze was receiving a lot of attention from the rap world as their
recordings were being sampled extensively by hip-hoppers.
In 1988, rapper Rob Base used the chorus of Maze's "Joy and Pain"
on a single that had the same title unfortunately, Base did so without
permission and Beverly threatened legal action. Just the same according
to whosampled.com Maze has been sampled at least 39 times.
Wikipedia, Biography, whosampled.com, and Freebase (Alex
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