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friends of distinction

Friends Of Distinction

Formed in 1968, Los Angeles California. Disbanded 1973.

The Friends Of Distinction comprised of:

Harry Elston (4th November 1938, Dallas, Texas, U.S.A.)

Floyd Lawrence Butler (b. 5th June 1937, San Diego, California, U.S.A. d. 29th April 1990, Los Angeles, California, U.S.A.)

Jessica Cleaves (b. Jessica Marguerite Cleaves, 10th December 1948, Los Angeles, California, U.S.A. d. 2nd May 2014, Los Angeles, California, U.S.A.)


Barbara Jean Love (b. 24th July 1941, Los Angeles, California, U.S.A.)


Charlene Gibson

The Friends of Distinction are an R&B group formed in 1968.

They are, probably, best remembered for the hit songs, ‘Grazing in the Grass’, and ‘Going in Circles’.

The group were founded by Harry Elston and Floyd Butler.

Floyd had served as a Corporal in the United States Marine Corps, and wa a member of the musical group, 'The Vocals' from 1963 until they disabanded in 1965.

Other group members included Jessica Cleaves, Barbara Jean Love and Charlene Gibson.

Floyd Butler and Harry Elston were once part of the Sixties group, The Hi-Fi’s.

The Hi-Fi's line-up included Marilyn McCoo and Lamont McLemore, and the group opened at times for Ray Charles.

Friends Of Distinction

lonesome road b/w somebody's gotta lose - 1964

Thanks to Ray they were signed with the Liberty Records imprint, releasing their first single, 'Lonesome Mood,' b/w 'Somebody's Gotta Lose' in 1964.

Marilyn McCoo and Lamont McLemore later co-founded The Fifth Dimension.

The American football player Jim Brown, orginally discovered The Friends of Distinction (he also discovered Earth, Wind & Fire), and Jim became their manager.

Friends Of DistinctionFriends Of Distinction

grazin in the grass b/w i really hope you do - 1969 / going in circles b/w let yourself go - 1969

After a six month period of performing sessions, the group toured the local circuits of Los Angeles, California.

The groups first major hit, came with a Hugh Masekela song entitled ‘Grazing In The Grass’ b/w ‘I Really Hope You Do’ In The Grass’ (which reached the Top 5 on both the pop and soul charts in the U.S., also climbing to number 3 on the Billboard Hot 100).

Hugh’s original being an instrumental tune, the Friends adding lyrical content, penned by Harry Elston.

Their follow-up song was the ballad ‘Going in Circles’ b/w ‘Let Yourself Go’, which reached number 15 on the charts.

‘Going in Circles’ has been covered by several artists including The Gap Band and Luther Vandross.

Friends Of Distinction

During this timeframe Barbara Love became pregnant.

The group drafted in Charlene Gibson to cover for her.

Charlene sang lead on the Friends' third single, ‘Love or Let Me Be Lonely’ b/w ‘This Generation’.

The single reached number 6 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1970.

Between 1969 and 1973, The Friends of Distinction released six albums.

Friends Of DistinctionFriends Of DistinctionFriends Of DistinctionFriends Of Distinction

highly distinct - 1969 / grazin' - 1970 / real friends - 1970 / whatever - 1970

These were ‘Highly Distinct’ (in 1969), ‘Grazin’ (in 1970), ‘Real Friends (in 1970), ‘Whatever’ (in 1970), ‘Friends and People’ (in 1971) and ‘Love Can Make It Easier’ (in 1973).

They also released several singles, including ‘Check It Out’ and ‘Time Waits For No One’.

Friends Of DistinctionFriends Of Distinction

friends and people - 1971 / love can make it easier - 1973

The Friends of Distinction stopped touring in 1975.

They disbanded that year, with Jessica Cleaves joining Earth, Wind & Fire for a few years.

In 1990, there were plans to reunite the Friends of Distinction, however Floyd Butler had a heart attack and died at the age of 48.

Floyd had already written songs for a new version of the group.

One of these songs, namely ‘Check It Out’, was passed on to the group Tavares.

A new version of the Friends of Distinction (fronted by Harry Elston, also featuring Pattie Brooks, Van Jewel and Drake Frye), was later put together, and group continues to perform to this day.

Floyd Butler passed away in 1990 from a heart attack, apparently being held by Harry Elston.

Jessica Cleaves passed away in May 2014 at the age of 65.

Friends Of Distinction

Real Player


Highly Distinct (RCA Records 1969)

Grazin' (RCA Records 1969)

Real Friends (RCA Records 1970)

Whatever (RCA Records 1970)

Friends and People (RCA Records 1971)

Love Can Make It Easier (RCA Records 1973)

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