Maze

Combining a Philadelphia soul sound with a strong appreciation of Marvin Gaye, Maze featuring Frankie Beverly was among the top R&B acts of the late '70s and '80s. 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. Before that, Beverly had been singing gospel in church, and it was Lymon who made him realize that he wanted to perform secular music. That isn't to say that Beverly's appreciation of gospel ever went away; the gospel influence remained when he was in his forties and fifties, but secular R&B would be his main focus. 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.