They are called “The Friends of Distinction” and for much of the last two decades, this talented four member, sophisticated jazz, R&B styled vocal group has distinguished itself in major entertainment arenas across the US. and Europe.
The original Friends of Distinction was formed in 1968 by Floyd Butler and Harry Elston, both alumni of a group known as the HiFi’s, that for several years opened for Ray Charles. That group also included Marilyn McCoo and LaMonte McLemore of The 5th Dimension, in addition two other members. The Hi-Fi’s
With encouragement and some financial assistance from football great, turned actor, Jim Brown, Floyd and Harry put together a four-member group that rehearsed for nearly a year to polish their act. When they were ready, Brown was totally impressed with what he saw. He put together a group of associates to form a management company called BBC and signed The Friends to a contract.
In late 1969, The Friends showcased at The Daisy (then the hottest disco in Beverly Hills). The result of that showcase was a recording contract with RCA Records.
Their first two singles on RCA Records, “Grazin in the Grass” and “Going in Circles”, both from their Grazin album soared over the million seller mark, earning them two coveted gold records. “Love or Let Me Be Lonely” released from their third album, Real Friends brought them yet another million seller and top 10 single.
While signed to RCA, The Friends were chosen by Record World as that year’s Best New R&B Group. The following year, they tied with Sly and the Family Stone as the Top Vocal Combination in that magazine’s annual R&B Awards.
From that point on, the rest was history. The group headlined in such prestigious clubs as Ceasar’s Palace and The Flamingo Hilton on the Las Vegas Strip, Harrah’s in Lake Tahoe, Reno and Atlantic City, also the world famous Copa Cabana in New York City.
The group toured over 40 weeks a year , and by mid-70s, fatigue had dimmed the excitement of the road. The Friends decided to slow the pace and stop touring so extensively. Eventually, they stopped completely to devote all of their time to songwriting and producing.
During The Friends’ history, its members have changed. The Friends not only looked for superior talent and a common musical rapport, but human beings who cared about the social and spiritual needs of all people. The vocal concept created by its co-founders Harry and Floyd is still influencing their music today.
On Sunday, April 29th 1990, Floyd Butler passed away after suffering a massive heart attack, with his friend Harry by his side. Ironically that day, Floyd and Harry had agreed to revive The Friends. Years have elapsed since that memorable day, and The Friends have now re-entered the music scene.
While working on TV show and movie sets, Ghee Browne constantly urged Harry to revamp the group, and definitely include him. With a fresh new perspective, Harry decided to add in addition to Ghee, two lovely and talented ladies, Pattie Brooks, Van Jewell and Drake Frye, who just happened to be longtime friends and had worked with The Friends before.
The Friends are now Harry J. Elston, original co-founder, producer, songwriter and arranger. Harry wrote the lyrics and sang lead on the first hit “Grazin In The Grass.” He has co-produced such artists as The Emotions, Linda Clifford, J.W. Wade, and co-wrote for Ray Charles w/Billy Osborne of LTD Fame.
Pattie Brooks, is a vocalist, songwriter and arranger, with a long list of credits including the No. 1 disco hit “After Dark” on Casablanca Records. She has written and performed in the hit movie. “Dr. Detroit”. She has also performed and toured with Donna Summer, Ann Margaret, Helen Reddy, Rick James and Teena Marie.
Drake Frye is a noted composer, producer, musician and performer. He has worked with top entertainers such as The Jackson’s. James Brown, Natalie Cole, among others. An artist who also released several single on Bell records, Drake talents as vocal arranger enhance and maintain the style and sound that made the Friends legendary.
Boce Robinson Mitchell is the newest member of the Friends. She started her career in radio and television. A multi-talented vocalist, she also produces, directs and acts. She has appeared in Family Matters, General Hospital and Just Shoot Me, to name a few.
The Friends of Distinction are back, with consummate musicianship, style, fun and excitement; plus top notch artistic support to the delight of their friends and fans everywhere; and to recreate one of the most exciting vocal sounds in the industry.
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