Over 50 years ago, Frankie Beverly never envisioned that he would still be singing today, let alone be as popular as he and Maze have become. His raspy voice belted out chart-popping melodies like “Happy Feelings,” “Southern Girl,” “Joy & Pain,” and of course we can’t forget, “We Are One.”
Born Howard Beverly, the 75-year-old Beverly started out singing gospel music in church as a schoolboy in Philadelphia. As time went on he formed and sang with a number of groups. When he was in his early 20’s, his group at the time, Frankie Beverly & The Butlers, went through a reorganization period and formed a new group known as Raw Soul.
It was during this time in 1970 that the “Philly Soul” sound was really starting to get noticed. It was Motown-influenced acts such as The Delfonics and The Stylistics and writers and producers such as future Hall of Famers Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff climbing Billboard’s R&B charts. Unfortunately, for the young “Frankie” Beverly, the City of Brotherly Love wasn’t showing much affection to his band, the very raw Raw Soul. Having recorded some independently produced singles that went nowhere, Beverly boldly decided to pack up the band and head to the then-freewheeling San Francisco. Raw Soul thrived in the multicultural Bay Area.
Music lover Michael Burton first encountered the band in the East Bay, at a 1973 Contra Costa College performance. At the time, the band’s lineup was Beverly, drummer Joe Provost, bassist Robin Duhe, guitarist Wuane Thomas, and percussionists McKinley “Bug” Williams and Roame Lowry. “It was a mixed crowd: black, white, and some Spanish,” Burton recalled of the audience. “Frankie played all his own music. He could either sing Top 40 or stay Raw Soul, and he chose to sing Frankie Beverly. He didn’t veer from his commitment.”
The group also caught the attention of a sister-in-law to Marvin Gaye. Gaye began featuring them as an opening act at his shows. It was also Marvin Gaye who convinced Beverly to change the band’s name to Maze.
“For the next [few] months, we kicked names in the butt,” Burton said. “We go back to Marvin and say, ‘How about Maze Featuring Frankie Beverly’? We did a name check and found out there was a band already called Maze. Marvin said, ‘Don’t worry about it, we’ll take care of that.’ From my understanding, we bought the name. It’s been Maze Featuring Frankie Beverly ever since.”
Maze’s touring success boggles the mind. The band hasn’t had a studio album to promote since 1993, but they sing and play to sold-out shows in city after city, year after year.
“The way this is working is just mind-boggling in what has happened to me,” Beverly shared when asked about Maze’s longevity. “It’s a good thing too because I was raised to be humbled by my gifts and all. From parents, to good people around me, so I understand it from that point that it’s not me up there, that’s a blessing.”
ON HIS FAVORITE SONGS:
“‘Happy Feelings’ and ‘We Are One’ really define who MAZE is. ‘We Are One’ describes how we really feel in our heart as a group and as a family.”
ON BEING AROUND SO LONG:
“I thought we were good enough to make music, but never did we think it would be like this. We thank God for all of this.”
“Longevity is a gift. I think I was called to do this. This isn’t something that I myself can do. I think I was in a position where God placed this gift in my lap. I can write and I do have talent, but the thing that keeps our music relevant–that’s all God.”
“I try to stay out of messes and stay healthy. I really do take pride in what I’ve been given and do the best I can in that.”