The Friends of Distinction

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The group in 1973.

The Friends of Distinction are an American vocal group best known for their late 1960s hits, "Grazing in the Grass", "Love or Let Me Be Lonely", and "Going in Circles". Founded by Harry Elston and Floyd Butler, The Friends of Distinction also included Jessica Cleaves and Barbara Jean Love (plus Charlene Gibson, who replaced Love during her pregnancy).


Elston and Butler's involvement in music entailed several groups, including the Hi-Fis, Ray Charles' backing band. The Hi-Fis also included Lamont McLemore and Marilyn McCoo, who would go on to be members of The 5th Dimension. When the Hi-Fis disbanded in 1966, Elston and Butler recruited Cleaves and Love for a new band; initially, Elston came up with the name of Distinctive Friends, but Love suggested reversing the words to Friends of Distinction.

After polishing their act for a few months during 1968, the group hit the local tour circuit in Los Angeles, California. With the support of a well-known manager, former football star Jim Brown, the group signed with RCA Records. In 1969, they released their first single "Grazing in the Grass", produced by John Florez, arranged and conducted by Ray Cork Jr. Originally recorded by trumpeter Hugh Masekela, Elston wrote the lyrics to Masekela's trumpet lead and the song became a hit. It remained on the US R&B chart for 17 weeks, peaking at #5. It stayed on the The Billboard Hot 100 chart for 16 weeks, peaking at #3. The record sold over a million copies, gaining a RIAA gold record.[1] Four months later, the third release, "Going in Circles" surpassed its predecessor. It climbed to #3 R&B after 19 weeks and also reached #15 on the Hot 100. It too sold over one million copies, giving the group their second gold record.[1]

Three more singles charted for the group---"Love or Let Me Be Lonely," "Time Waits for No One" and "I Need You". Although none were as successful as the group's first two hits,[2] "Love Or Let Me Be Lonely" gave the group a second Top 10 pop hit and its only entry on the adult contemporary singles chart. The group encountered some personnel changes following the hits, with Cleaves and Love both departing. Cleaves joined up with other R&B acts, Earth, Wind & Fire and Parliament. After the release of their fifth and final single, the decline of The Friends of Distinction began.

By the mid 1970s, more than five years after their first release, Elston and Butler disbanded the unit. The two parted and did not speak for several years.[3] When they finally overcame their differences, however, Butler died of a heart attack in Elston's arms.[4] It was 1996 before Elston finally accomplished what he and Butler had agreed to do: he reformed the group with some new members Pattie Brooks, Van Jewel, and Drake Frye.


Studio albums[edit]

YearAlbumChart positions[5]Record label
Highly Distinct17314
1970Real Friends689
1971Friends & People166
1973Love Can Make It Easier
1975Reviviscence - Live to Light Again
"—" denotes the album failed to chart

Compilation albums[edit]

YearAlbumChart positionsRecord label
1973Greatest HitsRCA
1989Golden ClassicsCollectables
1996Best of The Friends of DistinctionRCA
2005Going in CirclesSony BMG
"—" denotes the album failed to chart


YearSingleChart positions[6]
1969"Grazing in the Grass"35
"Going in Circles" (A-side)153
"Let Yourself Go" (B-side)63
1970"Love Is the Way of Life"
"Love or Let Me Be Lonely"6139
"Now Is the Time"
"Time Waits for No One"6037
1971"I Need You"7928
"It Don't Matter to Me"
"Long Time Comin' My Way"
1972"Jenny Wants to Know"
"Thumb Tripping"
1973"Ain't No Woman (Like the One I've Got)"
"Love Can Make It Easier"
1975"Love Shack (Opened Up a Shop) Pt. 1"
"—" denotes the single failed to chart


External links[edit]