The Mad Lads

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The Mad Lads
Also known asThe Emeralds
OriginMemphis, Tennessee, United States
GenresR&B, soul music,[1] doo-wop
Years active1964–1972
occasionally after 1984
LabelsStax, Volt
Past membersJohn Gary Williams
Julius Green
William Brown
Robert Phillips
Sam Nelson
Quincy Billups Jr.
Daryl Grandberry

The Mad Lads were an American rhythm and blues vocal group, who recorded on the Stax subsidiary label Volt in the 1960s. Their biggest hits were "Don't Have to Shop Around" (1965) and "I Want Someone" (1966).


The group was formed at Booker T. Washington High School in Memphis, Tennessee, USA. The original line-up comprised John Gary Williams, Julius E. Green, William Brown and Robert Phillips. They were originally called The Emeralds, but changed their name because there was another group of that name; the name "Mad Lads" was suggested by Stax employee Deanie Parker in response to the group's behavior and also in recognition of local disc jockey Reuben "Mad Lad" Washington.[2][3] They first recorded for Stax in 1964, releasing "The Sidewalk Surf", co-written by Isaac Hayes under the name Ed Lee, which was not a hit. However, their second record, "Don't Have To Shop Around", rose to no. 11 on the Billboard R&B chart, and no. 93 on the pop chart.[4] Featuring organ by Hayes and piano by Booker T. Jones,[2] it has nonetheless been described as "curiously anachronistic, owing more to doo-wop than southern soul,"[5] and featured "the high, innocent tenor of John Gary Williams."[6]

They followed up with "I Want Someone", "I Want A Girl" and "Patch My Heart", which were all R&B hits in 1966. However, towards the end of the year Williams and Brown were drafted. The group continued to make live appearances with the pair being replaced by Sam Nelson and Quincy Billups Jr., but the new line-up's recordings were not as successful.[6] After Williams returned from military service, he was reinstated in the group, over other members' protests, at the insistence of record company co-owner Jim Stewart.[5][6] The group continued to have R&B chart hits through to 1969, their final hit being a version of "By The Time I Get To Phoenix" which also reached the pop chart. In 1972, the group continued for a while and finally split up.[3]

Williams recorded a solo album, John Gary Williams, at Stax in 1973. He later worked outside the music business in Iowa and Los Angeles, before forming a new touring version of the Mad Lads in 1984.[3] The new group recorded an album, Madder Than Ever, in 1990.[5]

Julius E. Green died on January 14, 2013.[7] William C. Brown III died on July 24, 2015, aged 69.[8] John Gary Williams died in May 2019, aged 73.[9] The Mad Lads were inducted into the National Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame Class of 2014.

Chart singles[edit]

Year Single Chart Positions
US Pop[10] US
1965 "Don't Have to Shop Around" 93 11
1966 "I Want Someone" 74 10
"I Want a Girl" - 16
"Patch My Heart" - 41
1968 "Whatever Hurts You" - 31
"So Nice" - 35
1969 "By the Time I Get to Phoenix" 84 28

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The Mad Lads Retrieved 10 December 2021
  2. ^ a b Bowman, Rob (1997). Rob Bowman, Soulsville, U.S.A.: the story of Stax Records, Music Sales Group, 2003, pp.71-73. ISBN 9780825672842. Retrieved 2014-03-03.
  3. ^ a b c "The Mad Lads at Stax Museum". Retrieved 2014-03-03.
  4. ^ a b Whitburn, Joel (1996). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-1995. Record Research. p. 281.
  5. ^ a b c "Colin Larkin, The Encyclopedia of Popular Music, at". Retrieved 2014-03-03.
  6. ^ a b c The Mad Lads. "Biography by Richie Unterberger at". AllMusic. Retrieved 2014-03-03.
  7. ^ "R.I.P Julius Green (Original Member Of The Mad Lads)". Retrieved 2014-03-03.
  8. ^ "William Brown was Mad Lads singer, 'Shaft' engineer", Commercial Appeal, July 27, 2015
  9. ^ "John Gary Williams of R&B group The Mad Lads dies at 73". Star Tribune. Retrieved 30 May 2019.
  10. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2003). Top Pop Singles 1955-2002 (1st ed.). Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. p. 432. ISBN 0-89820-155-1.

External links[edit]