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).


The Friends of Distinction formed in 1968 in Los Angeles with original members Floyd Butler, Harry Elston, Jessica Cleaves, and Barbara Love. Butler and Elston had worked together in The Hi-Fi's in the mid 1960s, often opening for Ray Charles. Other members of the Hi-Fi's were Marilyn McCoo and Lamont McLemore, who would later co-found The Fifth Dimension.

The Friends of Distinction were discovered by American football player Jim Brown, who also discovered Earth, Wind & Fire, and were signed to RCA Records.

The Friends' first major hit, "Grazin' in the Grass", was an Elston-sung vocal cover version of an instrumental hit by Hugh Masekela, with lyrics written by Elston. Released in March 1969, this gold record went Top 5 on both the pop and soul charts in the U.S., peaking at #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 in June.[1] The follow-up ballad "Going in Circles" also charted highly, hitting #15 in November.[1]

When Love took time off during her pregnancy, Charlene Gibson replaced her, singing lead on the Friends' third hit, "Love or Let Me Be Lonely", which peaked at #6 on the Billboard Hot 100 in March 1970. The Friends were prolific between 1969 and 1971, releasing five albums, with a sixth in 1973. They also released numerous singles, including "Check It Out" and a cover of Neil Sedaka's "Time Waits For No One".

The group quit touring in 1975, and broke up soon afterward. Cleaves sang with Earth, Wind & Fire for a number of years. "Going in Circles" has been covered by The Gap Band and Luther Vandross, and "Love or Let Me Be Lonely" by Paul Davis. "Grazin' in the Grass" was redone by Disney television star Raven-Symone.

In 1990, Elston and Butler planned to revive the Friends of Distinction, but Butler suffered a heart attack and died at the age of 48. He had already written songs for the group and one composition he co-wrote, "Check It Out", was a hit for the group Tavares. Elston formed a new quartet, also called the Friends of Distinction, and the group continues to give live performances.

Jessica Cleaves died on May 2, 2014, at 65.[2]


Studio albums[edit]

Year Album Chart positions[3] Record label
1969 Grazin' 35 10 RCA
Highly Distinct 173 14
1970 Real Friends 68 9
Whatever 179 42
1971 Friends & People 166
1973 Love Can Make It Easier
1975 Reviviscence – Live to Light Again
"—" denotes the album failed to chart

Compilation albums[edit]

Year Album Chart positions Record label
1973 Greatest Hits RCA
1989 Golden Classics Collectables
1996 Best of The Friends of Distinction RCA
2005 Going in Circles Sony BMG
"—" denotes the album failed to chart


Year Single Chart positions[4]
1969 "Grazing in the Grass" 3 5
"Going in Circles" (A-side) 15 3
"Let Yourself Go" (B-side) 63
1970 "Love Is the Way of Life"
"Love or Let Me Be Lonely" 6 13 9
"Now Is the Time"
"Time Waits for No One" 60 37
1971 "I Need You" 79 28
"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


  1. ^ a b Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p. 259. ISBN 0-214-20512-6. 
  2. ^ "Former Earth Wind & Fire and Friends of Distinction singer Jessica Cleaves dies at age 65". Retrieved May 3, 2014. 
  3. ^ "The Friends of Distinction albums chart history". Retrieved 2011-04-19. 
  4. ^ "The Friends of Distinction singles chart history". Retrieved 2011-04-19. 

External links[edit]