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Episode 47

Grazing In The Grass & 60’s Soul featuring Harry Elston from Friends of Distinction

Episode  47
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Harry Elston is a wonderful Friend of great Distinction and he has had himself some incredible adventures with his chart topping group, The Friends of Distinction, his touring years with Ray Charles and an early stint as limo driver to The Temptations. Harry has dishy stories about Miles Davis, Jim Brown, The Fifth Dimension, Pat Boone and more, and Harry is not holding back. Can you dig it? Plus Fritz and Weezy are recommending The Woman in the Window, Concrete Cowboy, Money Explained and The Underground Railroad.

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Fritz Coleman  (00:04):

Welcome to Media Path. I'm Fritz Coleman.

Louise Palanker (00:06):

And I'm Louise Palanker.

Fritz Coleman  (00:08):

You know, here a media path. It's our job to direct your attention to good viewing, good listening, good reading. We help you cut through the clutter and get right to the quality content. We also have some spectacular guests like we do today. Harry Elston is with us, one of the founders of a powerhouse late sixties group. Friends of Distinction. He's had a really interesting history in the business, as have the other members of the group. We're gonna ask him all about it in just a few minutes. Weezy, what do you have for us?

Louise Palanker (00:37):

So, I've been watching some TV <laugh>. Um, I recommend that. Um, so it, Fritz, I now I know you saw this last night, so we're gonna talk about it. Uh, it's called The Woman in the Window. It stars Amy Adams, Julianne Moore, Gary Oldman, and Wyatt Russell, who may be the child of Kirk Russell. It's entirely possible it's a psychological thriller. Ala rear window just replaced Jimmy Stewart's wheelchair with Amy Adams agoraphobia. She witnesses something horrific in the apartment across the way, and because she's battling mental health issues and balancing meds, no one believes her, which is not good for your mental health. The dialogue is fun and fast. The camera work and the set decoration are rich and delicious. This is an adaptation of AJ Fin's 2018 novel. Don't expect perfection. A lot went on to get this film made and presented to you on Netflix during the Pandemic, but it's packed with scary twists and pillow hugging turns, and I really enjoyed it. You saw it too free.

Fritz Coleman  (01:33):

Yeah. And it's an acting tour of force for Amy Adams. She was unbelievable and great, you know, momentary appearances by guest stars. I'm not a huge fan of this kind of movie. I, I, it was like rear window with lithium <laugh> and, and I love the original by, uh, Alfred Hitchcock. As a matter of fact, there's sort of an homage to it. They do a couple of freeze frames of Jimmy Stewart with a horrible reaction on his face. Yeah. But it was, it was a, it was a sea pants filmed from beginning to end, if you like that kind of movie. Yeah. There's

Louise Palanker (02:04):

Lots of homage and there's lots of sort of foreshadowing <laugh>, you know, where it's like, oh, I think that's gonna factor in later on. <laugh>

Fritz Coleman  (02:12):

The Kid was fantastic.

Louise Palanker (02:13):

The kid was great. Yeah.

Fritz Coleman  (02:15):

Before you understand which side of the, uh, which side of the hush

Louise Palanker (02:20):

The Russell Boy is good. Yeah. You're gonna enjoy it. Alright. It's, it's great.

Fritz Coleman  (02:23):

Well, I'm gonna talk about the Underground Railroad. This is on Prime Video. Uh, this is a limited series 10 episodes based on the Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Colson Whitehead. I listened to the book on tape, which didn't do it any justice. The Underground Railroad was a metaphor for the series of escape routes, save houses set up by anti-slavery collaborators that helped enslave people escape the slave states of the south up to the north. The story that was most recently done that told this story, but more compact, was Harriet with Harriet Tubman. But this story uses what's called Magic realism in that it describes a real railroad with tracks and stations built underground. That's sort of a fantasy, which was the root for the enslaved people to find their freedom. Each of the 10 episodes describes a different struggle born by enslaved people, some that are familiar to us from historical stories.


But some stories are deeper and more profound about the survival and humanity of blacks in the South Pre-Civil War directed by Barry Jenkins who did moonlight. And if Beale Street could talk, this is a beautiful experience from start to finish. Breathtaking cinematography, skilled acting from every character, especially the lead, the Cora Randall character played by Thso Mbdu. This is heartbreaking. Also, Aaron Pierre, who plays the Strong and charismatic Caesar and William Jackson as Royal. But a special shoutout to Joel Edgerton, both disturbing and mesmerizing as the slave Hunter. Ridgeway thi this is a gifted actor, and this may be honestly one of his most powerful roles, yet I love this series cuz it goes deeper than what is commonly known about the Slave experience. I really recommend it.

Louise Palanker (04:16):

Okay. That, that's really, it's, it's hard stuff for me to watch, but you've kind of compelled me that it's like my, my duty. Uh, I watched a movie on the Netflix. Do you get the Netflix rich? Yeah, you do get it. Okay. I do. It's called Concrete Cowboys starring Idris Alba, Caleb McLaughlin and Jerre Jerome, a rebellious teen, is sent to live with his estranged father for the summer. And you're saying, yeah, yeah, yeah. And I'm saying, hold up his father who lives with a horse in his apartment. And yes, of course the angry kid finds kinship in the eyes of a lost and frightened animal. You were right about that. But this film depicts a tight-knit Philadelphia community of black cowboys who keep and ride horses downtown. Downtown horses and cowboys are in the movie and it's shot so beautifully. Every frame is a wonder, especially the ones with Idris Elba.


He is pretty. A couple of years ago I saw a documentary at the Santa Barbara Film Festival about downtown cowboys in Los Angeles called Fire on the Hill, and they brought the Cowboys to the screening. Wow. Yeah. Maybe even a horse. Much like what is depicted in concrete Cowboys Philadelphia neighborhood. For much of the 20th century, south Central LA was an agricultural BoomTown filled with ranchers, farmers, and equestrians. Since the city's establishment, Compton and the surrounding neighborhoods have always had a culture of cowboys. This culture has all but disappeared now in a wash of land hungry developers, apathetic politicians, and subsequent gang activity. Fire on the Hill tells a story of the South Central and Compton Cowboys and the last strongholds that they hold a horse stable known as the Hill that was mysteriously set on fire back in 2012. This documentary is a story of three of those cowboys and their fight to live out their vision of the West. Wow.

Fritz Coleman  (06:04):

That is a piece of history. I didn't know. That's awesome.

Louise Palanker (06:06):

No, exactly. So if you watch the Concrete Cowboys and you think like, this is just mythical, it actually isn't, and it's a lot of

Fritz Coleman  (06:13):

Great suggestion. Yeah.


I'm gonna hang on the Netflix for a minute. Okay. This is a doc, it's called Money Explained. It's a limited documentary series. There are four episodes. I am clueless about all things money. I trust other people to steer me in the right direction with my money and just pray that they have my best interest at heart. This series is a fantastic primer about some basic issues concerning money. What I need is a ninth grade level explanation of all things fiscal. And this is it. There's an episode about credit cards, how they work, how Not to Get Screwed. Another episode about one of our most important current discussions, student loan debt. It's fascinating. There's a separate issue about gambling. There's one about retirement and saving and not being screwed in the retirement savings area. Each episode explains how things work and suggests how not to stay in trouble. It uses very famous narrators like Edie Falco from the Sopranos and Nurses. It's got just enough snark to keep your attention and there's lots of valuable information. I think it ought to be required viewing for high school students. It was really well done.

Louise Palanker (07:26):

Well, I have this fiscal question. Does it teach you whether or not you should spend money on Netflix to teach you about Money? <laugh>?

Fritz Coleman  (07:34):

You can plug that into the credit card discussion

Louise Palanker (07:36):

Because that should be part of the core curriculum.

Fritz Coleman  (07:37):

And if you watch as much as we do as, as much as the student loan debt discussion <laugh>,

Louise Palanker (07:42):

It starts to pay for itself. <laugh>.

Fritz Coleman  (07:45):

Alright. We have a great guest today. We're so happy to have Harry Elston with us. Harry was one of the founding members of the hugely successful late sixties hit group. Friends of Distinction. They had hits on both the pop and r and b charts, like Grazing in the Grass Lover, let Me Be Lonely, going in Circles. They recorded and performed basically from 1968 to 1975. And there's a lot of other great music history connected with the members of Friends of Distinction that we're gonna talk about. Harry, we're so happy to talk to you. How are you?

Harry Elston (08:16):

Pleasure seeing y'all. I hadn't heard about your show until they told me about it, but I I knew you Fritz. I didn't know Miss Lady there.

Fritz Coleman  (08:23):

Well, she, she's a, she's a monster with a great career in radio. Back when you guys were hits and Is that for me? All kinds of stuff. Yep.

Louise Palanker (08:32):

No, I was a child.

Fritz Coleman  (08:34):

Oh, wait, I, I'm sorry. That's right.

Louise Palanker (08:37):

But I was, I was rocking out to W Wk, BW Buffalo, New York Friends of Distinction. That was me.

Harry Elston (08:41):

Buffalo. Buffalo. I got some friends in Buffalo. Yeah.

Fritz Coleman  (08:44):

Yeah. I worked at w Kbw from 1976 to 1980. I did afternoon drive in that 50,000 white Clear Channel monster. But

Louise Palanker (08:53):

I wanna ask you a specific question about, uh, grazing in the Grass, because it seems to me that you wrote the most iconically sixties lyrics in the history of sixties lyrics, grazing in the Grass. It's a gas baby. Can you dig it? So did you create this groovy lingo or were you reflecting the language of the times?

Harry Elston (09:12):

Both. I was, I was, I was kind of, you know, I was riding the mix. Drug sex and rock and roll. I was right in the middle. <laugh>,

Louise Palanker (09:18):

I can dig it <laugh>.

Fritz Coleman  (09:19):

But tell that story about driving. You were on the road and you're in a bus and you're driving by cows and you say, what a great way to live. Just grazing in the grass out there, <laugh>. What was that a phony story you made up to not talk about marijuana

Louise Palanker (09:33):

<laugh>? Oh, that's the kind of grass. I'm just now getting this Harry.

Harry Elston (09:38):

Well, it depends. <laugh> back in, back in the day, I, I had a lot of grazing than the grass experience. Cause I could tell you one day, but, uh, it's all, it's all connected. It's all connected. Okay. It's like I used to, I was on a, on on tour with Ray Charles. We, we had a group, uh, called the High Fives, and in that group it was Marilyn Mcco and Lamont McLemore of the Fifth Dimension. And, uh, we would, you know, we'd be traveling with Ray and I would see these cows, you know, eating and, and stuff coming out of the, can I talk how, how freely can I talk cow

Louise Palanker (10:12):

Freely? No, you can say, you can say the sh

Harry Elston (10:15):

Okay, so the, the, the, the cows eating, grazing, and hitting. Sure. <laugh>.

Louise Palanker (10:22):

It's a full day <laugh>.

Harry Elston (10:26):

That, that's kinda natural, huh? <laugh>.

Louise Palanker (10:28):


Harry Elston (10:29):

But, uh, anyway, that's, that's where it kept sticking in my mind, sticking in my brain. So when, when I, when, when we, we, we, uh, we disbanded a couple of years later and, uh, I was writing a song and grazed than the Grass, you know, by Humas Kayla.

Louise Palanker (10:46):


Harry Elston (10:46):

And, uh, I just took his melody and stuff, the trumpet part, and I put words to it. But, but in the back of my mind, it was this cows eating and shouldn't on the road

Louise Palanker (10:57):

<laugh>. So,

Harry Elston (10:59):

So I went and I recorded the song, but I called it Flaking in the Grass. Okay. Remember when you people used to say, you flake? Yeah. And I had, I had flaking in the grass and, uh, I brought it back and they, well get outta here with that stuff. I said, yo, okay. I said, well, can I use the same grazer than the grass Forwards? They say, sure. I use that. And every, everything was a gold, gold record since then.

Fritz Coleman  (11:20):

Let me ask you this, I mean, Humas had a hit record with the instrumental. Was that the first time that a second hit record had been made by somebody writing lyrics to a preexisting hit? I can't think of another example.

Harry Elston (11:33):

You know, I heard, but I can't think and knowledge. You guys can, but I can't think of, of of another artist that, you know, maybe some,

Louise Palanker (11:42):

I might be the only one Summer place, the Letterman.

Fritz Coleman  (11:44):

Oh, there we go. That's a good, maybe. What was that? Was that an instrumental first?

Louise Palanker (11:48):

Wasn't, its, there is a summer place, wasn't it?

Harry Elston (11:51):

No. Yeah. But that instrumental first

Louise Palanker (11:53):

Thought, so maybe Henry Mancini or was from a movie, I don't know, maybe I have the the wrong thing, but also like, things like Born Free or, uh, moon River, you know, Henry Mancini and then Andy Williams, moon River.

Fritz Coleman  (12:04):

But were, they see what

Harry Elston (12:06):

A lot of those songs, when they came out, they had lyrics, you know, to to them. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, uh, Greyson was, was, you know, he just had the instrumental and then I lucked up and, and wrote some words,

Louise Palanker (12:16):

Boy, and what, what a sma what a record. What a smash that is. Oh, yeah, yeah. That gets you

Fritz Coleman  (12:20):

Moving. It just, it was the attitude of the time too. Yeah. Let's go back. Before Friends Harry, you were, uh, even before the High Fives, you were a backup singer for Ray Charles. And then just for historical purposes, you and Floyd Butler started your own group called The High Fives. And then you started opening for Ray, and out of the High Fives came Marilyn Macu, you mentioned in Lamont Macklemore, who went on to start the Fifth Dimension. So it's a great tree of growth there. Talk about the Ray Charles experience. I opened for Ray Charles at the Universal Amphitheater Wow. Time. And I went to get my picture taken with Ray and I got tackled by four security guys who said, nobody gets their picture taken with Mr. Charles. I said, how could he tell, I'm just gonna stand there and get my picture taken <laugh>. Wow. And they, they wouldn't let me get near him. I, I, uh, you know, it was the biggest honor of my life. But, but I heard that, and I heard this from members of the Tonight Show band that played with him. He was a stickler for perfection. His hearing was so finely tuned because of his blindness. He could pick out somebody that was a quarter note off and would find you and jump on your case during earn rehearsals. It was not easy. Right.

Harry Elston (13:31):

That is definitely true. That is so true. Can you imagine? Now we, we were like, I don't know, maybe I was 2019 or 20. Marilyn was about 17. Lamont was a little older than me, but us as teenagers and, and Ray hurt. We, we used to sing around LA at, at the jazz clubs, Mr. Cantons on the Strip and all, you know, and then, and then after they had, when a, when a act would come to town like Miles Davis or they would all play at the Adams West over in the hood. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And, and we were, we sang jazz. So we were always on the bill there. So that's where I met everybody. But now Ray heard about us and, uh, we went down and we had to audition. We, we didn't, you know, we, it was Mr. Mr. Ray Charles. Mm-hmm. Heck, we went there, we tore it up and he hired us right then and there. Wow. And, uh, we were on the road a couple of years with Ray. We, we, our first recording was on his, on his label Tangerine labeled song called Lone Samu. A jo a jazz song. So then we, we, which out with Ray, you know, we opened the show, crashed a couple times in the plane and stuff like that. <laugh>, but everything. Oh wow.

Louise Palanker (14:42):

He wasn't flying. It was he

Harry Elston (14:44):

Yes. <laugh> no act. Seriously. Then when you had the pilot Ray and the co-pilot Ray sat in the middle, I guess he was the engineer, but I wouldn't feel comfortable and unless Ray was up there. Cause he knew what he was doing. Like he was saying friends, he's a genius. Yeah,

Fritz Coleman  (15:01):


Harry Elston (15:02):

So you could, you could see him up there in the front. Click, click, click, click. And then he would, he would, he would, when he got on the plane, you know, back in the day when we was Ray, Ray was, was on heroin straight up, you know? Mm-hmm. <affirmative> <laugh>. So he walked on that plane. He said he, he hit his, hit his, he hit his leg. Let's get this mother sucker off the ground. <laugh>.

Fritz Coleman  (15:21):

Oh my God.

Harry Elston (15:22):

Ray was funny.

Fritz Coleman  (15:23):


Louise Palanker (15:24):

Oh, wow. Wow. That's so cool. So then what happened from what happened from there?

Harry Elston (15:30):

Well, from, from there, we, we, we, we toured a little bit more. And then we had, I like to call 'em internal differences, you know, groups. Right. It

Louise Palanker (15:37):

Happens. So,

Harry Elston (15:38):

Yeah. So Floyd Floyd took, uh, Lamont's Place, and then we had a, another girl who took, uh, Marilyn's place. And, uh, you know, we, we, we, we, we did a little work, but not too much. Then we just disbanded. But I lived on a street called Ninth Avenue in Jefferson. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> and Ron Townson, the big guy in the fifth Dimension, lived on 11th Avenue. Okay. And we were friends, but I would see them going over there. I said, what the hell are they doing? I come to find out that, hey, they were putting a group together. So Floyd and I said, well, hey, let's, let's, let's do our thing. So we put a group together and we became the Friends of Distinction. They became the fifth, fifth dimension. And we're still friends to this day.

Louise Palanker (16:18):

Wow. The

Fritz Coleman  (16:19):

Original group was you, Floyd, Jessica Cleves, Barbara Jean Love. Yes. And then when Barbara left to have a baby, Charlene Gibson came in.

Harry Elston (16:28):

Charlene came in and, and sang, love Let Me Be Lonely. Yep. Yep.

Fritz Coleman  (16:31):

And that was the follow up. Hit de Grazen at a time when you guys thought, who knows if we're gonna survive the leaving of Barbara. Charlene came in and knocked it out of the park with her second hit.

Harry Elston (16:41):

Well, no, actually, actually the second hit was going in circles full.

Fritz Coleman  (16:45):


Harry Elston (16:45):

Mm-hmm. <affirmative> and then Charlene. Oh,

Fritz Coleman  (16:47):


Harry Elston (16:47):

But Charlene was a, Charlene was a godsend cause she could sing her butt off. Oh yeah. For like, somehow she was doing one take. And then Jessica, Jessica, after sh Jess, Jessica left the friend, she went with Earth Wind and Fire. After she left Earth Wind Fire, she went to George Clinton, parliament Funkadelic. And she passed away in 2014. And Floyd passed away in 2000, in 1990.

Fritz Coleman  (17:11):


Harry Elston (17:12):

So, Barbara, love Charlene and I, you know, the remaining members.

Louise Palanker (17:17):

So you guys were all kind of parts of sort of the great, the great artists that sprung out of the Southern California area. Yep,

Harry Elston (17:24):

Yep. Exactly that. And it was, it was because we, we, we, you know, they had the, what is the, the, the wrecking crew? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Yep. Well, we had a record crew in California. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, you know, and Jim Gordon and, and all the, you know, the crusaders, they used to play on all our records and stuff. So it was great. We, we were the record crew within in LA back in the day. Mm-hmm.

Louise Palanker (17:45):

<affirmative>. And now, what would go on after the shows? Because I'm picturing that you guys are all kind of like a tight unit and that you're all friends of friends and all dating each other. What, describe what would go on after the shows?

Harry Elston (17:58):

Well, you know, Jim Brown was our manager, Chris.

Louise Palanker (18:01):


Fritz Coleman  (18:02):

That, that itself was a fantastic story. Talk about how that happened.

Harry Elston (18:06):

Jim Brown, let's see, uh, prince, you might know this guy. His name was Booker Griffin. That name Ring, ring, ring a bell. No,

Fritz Coleman  (18:13):

I'm sorry. Okay.

Harry Elston (18:13):

Anything was on Kg. <laugh>. Kgfj, he was a jock and he was my roommate, but he knew Jim. So Jim was on the, on the verge of retiring from football. And, uh, he'd come to LA and he took us all to the, to the, uh, pro Bowl, you know mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And then there was a beauty pageant called Miss Bronze California. Right. That we kind of, we sang there. But Lamont was a pH photographer for the House photographer. So after the, after the beauty pageant, the party was at our house. Did I say more?

Louise Palanker (18:46):

Okay. Wow. <laugh>, I think you need to say more.

Fritz Coleman  (18:49):


Harry Elston (18:50):

<laugh>. Okay. And then that's where I got got, you know, got to be good friends with Jim. As a matter of fact, Jim, Jim brought my first Cadillac. So he, he said, he says, uh, well, what, what, what are you doing man? What, what, what are you gonna do with yourself? I said, well, I'm trying to put this group together. He said, are you trying to do it? I said, yeah. I said, I need a little help. He said, well, I'll help you. You, you get it together and you come see me. I got it together. Went and saw Jim. We paid our arrange of $50 a week, and we rehearsed for maybe eight months. Went to the, remember the Daisy Club? Uh, first, yes. The DA went to the, Daisy did a showcase at the Daisy, and the rest is history.

Fritz Coleman  (19:30):

Well, it was interesting cuz Jim Brown was finishing his football career. He went into show business. He, he ended up managing you and managing Earth, wind, and Fire.

Harry Elston (19:39):


Fritz Coleman  (19:39):

And there's a great story, cuz this is so different than the way the music business is now. Jim Brown got you these great showcases, and you had an embarrassment of riches. You had many record companies that wanted to sign you. You had to go around town and decide which one you wanted to take. <laugh>. Which is not the way it happens now, I'll tell you that.

Harry Elston (20:00):

I know it was, it was, it was so, it was so weird. And I, you know, I knew a little bit about the business, but the next day I didn't look. They said, Harry, you gotta go talk to these people. I said, what? <laugh>? And talking to these record companies since I got in my mode, you know, my cool mode. Like I knew what I was talking about <laugh>. And, uh, but, but when we, we got to, I, I, I don't remember all the record companies, but I remember RCA record, John Flores, and he was a laid back young kind of a cat. And I got a good vibe with him. So we chose RCA and we, we, our whole career was on RCA Records. So we did, we did. Okay. We made him some money.

Louise Palanker (20:36):

Now, you had one group that did not get along so well, and then you put together another group. What, what are the secrets that you've learned to having a healthy group? Camaraderie and having every voice be valued or, you know, what have you learned about how everyone can feel at home and a significant member of a group? It's complicated, isn't it?

Harry Elston (21:00):

No, no, no, no. That's a, that's a, as they say on tv. That's a wonderful question.

Louise Palanker (21:04):


Harry Elston (21:06):

Matter of fact, I got that from Joe Biden. Okay.

Louise Palanker (21:09):


Harry Elston (21:11):

But, but no, it was like, um, fortunately when you name hit Records, well, okay, we had Grazing In the Grass. I performed that one. Floyd Sang Lover, uh, Gordon Circles, Charlene sang, um, lovely, let Me Be Lonely. And Jessica sang a song called, I Really Hope You Do and You Mind Remembering this song. It was on kj, uh, K J L h Great Day. And Barbara sang that. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So everybody had a hit song to sing mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So I would just say, you sing this one, you sing that one, you sing that. And they would, that took care of the Ego thing, <laugh>. You know what I'm saying? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And, uh, because, you know, when they sang it, the audience knew the song. So, you know, they felt good about it. Right. And, uh, so that's how we handled that. And we, it was, it was, it was really cool because we had no egos. I don't know why. I don't know why. But there was no ego tripping in this group.

Louise Palanker (22:02):

So it's about they were really distinctive friends.

Harry Elston (22:05):

Exactly. Very good. Very good.

Fritz Coleman  (22:08):

<laugh>. As a matter of fact, that was the name of the band before somebody changed it to forensic Distinction. It was called The Distinctive Friends. Am I right, Harry?

Harry Elston (22:15):

Yes, sir. Prince is doing his thing.

Louise Palanker (22:18):

Oh yeah. He studies

Fritz Coleman  (22:19):

Up What was the person that decided to change it to forensic distinction?

Harry Elston (22:23):

Barbara, I, I came up with print. I came up with, uh, distinctive Friends and she came, she said, we, we should, we should try Friends of the Station. I said, you got it, baby. And that's, that's how it, that's how it went down.

Fritz Coleman  (22:36):

Yeah. You were talking about RCA Records and, um, when you got to the end of your string of hits and things started to taper off a little bit. Uh, it it was, it, it it was a conundrum for rca. Cause as you have said, they didn't have that many black acts and they really didn't know how to market black acts. And you think that's why things began to soften up for you a little bit after

Harry Elston (23:00):

77? Yeah, it was like, uh, and then see, to see the, the pop department and the r and b department, they would've fights, you know, because we had pop records and r and b records and we were cut, like caught in the middle of it. But, uh, and then they didn't know how to market, you know, a crossover group like we were at that particular time. You know, there wasn't a whole lot of crossover groups, you know, the fifth did, did it, you know, and, you know, Ray and, and established artists like that, but knew and up and coming, you know, they didn't know exactly what to do. I mean, they were good. They were, they were nice people. And, and, and they took care of us since send us some six week tours and all that stuff, and took care of us. But like I said, they were internal, internal differences in rca in terms of what records we want to put out. And, and we got caught up kind of in the middle of it.

Louise Palanker (23:50):

Yeah. Wow. That happens. But you did a lot of work that was important in the community. Tell us about the Maverick's Flat.

Harry Elston (23:58):

Maverick's Flat. You got any, any of you guys ever been there?

Fritz Coleman  (24:02):

I have not.

Harry Elston (24:03):

Maverick's Flat was, was, was, was, it's, it's still there as a matter of fact. But it was like, uh, the Apollo, west Coast, Apollo, all kind of groups would come there and perform. And I was, Jim was instrumental and, and Jim put some money in, in, in the, in the, the Maverick Flat. But I was kind of like to do, I would do everything when the, when the Mavericks opened, I was a limo driver for The Temptations.

Louise Palanker (24:31):

Yeah. I wanna get back to that, because I wanna know if you saw what I saw in Ain't Too Proud to Beg?

Harry Elston (24:37):


Louise Palanker (24:38):

Oh, there's a lot that went on with that group.

Harry Elston (24:40):

I know a lot went on, but I ain't too proud to beg Uhuh. I didn't,

Louise Palanker (24:43):

Not the, not the song, the Broadway show. Broadway show has everything, the whole story. And I've read Otis's book. So, you know, when we talk about group dynamics and how it's difficult to keep a talented, creative people together in cohesive, you know, their story is, is a, is a good example of that.

Harry Elston (25:03):

Wow. And then, and when I was, uh, the Limo driver, it was the original guys, I mean, with David and Eddie and Paul Otis mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And, uh, I got, that's, that's a whole nother story, I'll tell you about that one day. But Yeah. But, but I got along good with them, those guys. And then, and then one day they saw me somewhere and I, and they said, you on stage, man? I said, yeah. So we, we had a good time. And then I remember when Blue Blue, remember when Blue got shot in the stomach up on Doheny? Ooh, the bass singer.

Louise Palanker (25:37):


Harry Elston (25:38):

Melvin Franklin.

Louise Palanker (25:39):


Harry Elston (25:40):

They call him Blue. Right. But Blue never, he never, he never, uh, got over that gunshot rule in his stomach. And I, I would go through the sh they'd come to Vegas and I'd come back, you know, see the show, and I could see him going downhill, going down. And a few days later he was gone. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Yeah. So I got, I got some history with them.

Fritz Coleman  (25:57):

Well, they were kind of like the friends. Everybody had a hit record. I mean, uh, yeah. Da I mean, what I mean is David had hit records. Eddie had hit records, and then Paul Williams, everybody Yeah. Had a, at a different time.

Louise Palanker (26:09):

Yeah. But according to Otis's book, Otis is the only one who kept everything together. Yes. Everyone else was sort of problematic. And he was kind of the glue. And it was, that was like trying to keep plates spinning, you know, on the, on the Sullivan Show,

Harry Elston (26:22):

<laugh>. Yep, yep, yep. And, and then with, with, with, with Paul, with his problems, I didn't know about that till I saw the movie. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, you know, but, uh, a I never saw nothing. And they didn't, so I couldn't say nothing.

Louise Palanker (26:36):

<laugh> understood. Now, tell us a bit, uh, tell us about N I E U

Harry Elston (26:43):

N I U that stood for Negro Industrial and Economic Union. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, that's Jim's organization. That's what Jim wanted to do when he retired from football. Now, aside from the Mavericks, the, the Ma Mavericks pla that was entertainment. If you could understand that. Fritzie <laugh>, we had the most beautiful girls after the fashion show. And then Mavericks. Mavericks was a monster. I mean, you would see Marlon Brando, you would see Kareem, you'd see Mike Warren, all kind of actors and actress of Gene Seaberg, Tony Curtis. No.

Fritz Coleman  (27:18):

Where is your, where was the Mavericks?

Harry Elston (27:20):

Crenshaw. Oh,

Fritz Coleman  (27:21):


Louise Palanker (27:21):


Harry Elston (27:22):

Cool. You know, you know, Crenshaw Stocker were ma were, uh, magic, magic Johnson Theater in that area. Right, right, right, right down the street from Baldwin Hill. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. It's still there. It's on Crenshaw. Yeah. So

Louise Palanker (27:33):

It was all going, it was all going on there. Right. Oh.

Harry Elston (27:35):

Oh. It was definitely going on at Maverick's Flat, where they, they call it Maverick pla, where it's at. It was started by a guy named John Daniels. John made some movies and stuff, and he started in the movies. But, uh, uh, he had the, he was the, the, the brain thrust behind, you know, Maverick Flat. And he was also a friend of Booker Griffins, and Booker was the guy who knew Jim Brown. And so Booker brought Jim on the scene and hooked us all up. And, and that's, he went from there.

Fritz Coleman  (28:03):

Let let me ask you something. You, you brought it up earlier. Uh, the West Adams area was, as you called it, the hood and that whole series of, uh, jazz clubs there and performance venues. And, and that was, uh, a predominantly black neighborhood, but they had jazz clubs and entertainment venues down there. And did they, Dr isn't it like New York and like the Cotton Club in Harlem, they drew white audiences. So it was, even though we were at a time of a lot of unrest in the fifties and sixties, that was a place where white and black audiences could mix. Is that right?

Harry Elston (28:37):

That's definitely, definitely the, yep. Yep. I mean, if you figure like this, uh, Disney Gillespie or, uh, I don't know, uh, miles Davis, anybody would come to town to play, you know, they would play, you know, uh, Hermosa Beach, the Lighthouse, and different various clubs, the ed club. But they would always come to the Adams West after hours, and it opened at two o'clock. So they, you see all kinds of people from different walks of life and different, different venues where they were coming from, they would come there and hang out at, at, at the place you're talking about. It was called the Adams West. And then they changed it to the Kabuki Theater.

Louise Palanker (29:16):

Hmm. When you say two o'clock, are you talking about 2:00 AM

Harry Elston (29:21):


Louise Palanker (29:22):

And and that's when it opened.

Harry Elston (29:24):

Oh, that's, that's when it opened. Yeah. After the other, after the other clubs closed.

Louise Palanker (29:28):

Wow. Okay. And then, so how late, how late did, or how early, shall I say, did you go,

Harry Elston (29:34):

We might stay the six o'clock that morning,

Louise Palanker (29:37):

And then when would you sleep? I'm asking as your mother <laugh>

Harry Elston (29:42):

<laugh>. See, we, we would do a show, you know, where we would do our little show out on the strip at, at Mr. Cantons, and then we would come to Adams West. So we, we were, we were up 24 7, and we'd go home with sleep.

Fritz Coleman  (29:57):

Did you do what the jazz players do, where you do your show, the show you're being paid for, and then show up to somebody else's gig and, and sing there for a while and jam with them. And I just, I, I just wish I was around for that era of the music

Harry Elston (30:11):

Business. <laugh>. Yeah. It was fun. Yeah.

Louise Palanker (30:13):

Would you jam with a lot of acts there that you weren't in their act and they weren't in your act, but you'd get on stage together and just see what happened?

Harry Elston (30:20):

No, not, not really. Because it was, it was structured because they had a time limit. And, and then the, the guys who were on the show, they, they had played, you know, their two sets at another club. So they, they did their little 15, 20 minutes and, you know, and then they went home. But it was like, it was, it, you could all, all the people that you could see there, I mean, God, we big bands Count Bassy. Oh, man. It was, it was great.

Louise Palanker (30:46):

So it was a mix of generations.

Harry Elston (30:48):

Yes. Yes. And we were blessed. You know, I was thinking the other day, I was just, I had played with Count, count Bassy.

Louise Palanker (30:57):

Oof. Wow.

Harry Elston (30:58):

Did a show with, uh, did a, did you hear you hear that commercial, um, uh, watts. Hundred third Street Rhythm Band Express Yourself, <laugh>. Yes.

Fritz Coleman  (31:08):


Harry Elston (31:09):

Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. That's Charles writing. Hundred watts. Hundred three Street Rhythm Band. Yep. We did a concert with Watts account, basically, and the friends, oh, that was, I, I'll always remember that. Wow. But we were, we were, I mean, we used to Laura Niro, uh, uh, Ricky Nelson, Kenny Rogers, all those, you know, we do.

Fritz Coleman  (31:28):

Kenny was an RCA Act too. Did RCA send a lot of their acts out together?

Harry Elston (31:33):

Yes. Yes. Uh, uh, let's see. The guess who,

Louise Palanker (31:37):

Oh, yeah. Briton,

Harry Elston (31:38):

Jesse, John Denver. Yeah. Um, and a few other, uh, RCA acts that we would tour with.

Louise Palanker (31:44):

That's cool. So,

Fritz Coleman  (31:45):

Well, your, your, your music had legs Beyond the Friends too. For instance, going in circles was covered by Isaac Hayes, the Gap Band, Luther Vandross. And, uh, it just kind of keeps the memory alive down through the ages. There's also an interesting story. You guys were gonna get back together in 1990, but of course, Floyd passed away. Right. And one of the songs you had written for your reunion was called Check It Out, which turned out to be a great hit for Tavaris, which was one of the premier bands of the Disco era.

Harry Elston (32:20):

Yeah. Floyd. Floyd. Remember l t d the group called L t D? Yes.

Louise Palanker (32:24):

Yeah. Mm-hmm.

Harry Elston (32:25):

<affirmative>. Well, Floyd and Billy Osborne up l t d wrote Checking Out and Tavarez covered it. But, you know, we were, we were blessed. I mean, like some, a lot of people did grazing in the grass. A lot of people did circles. A lot of people did. Lovely. Let Me Be Lonely. Uh, and then we had this song called, when A Little Love Began to Die, and they, they, it was a big hit in Japan. I didn't know that. <laugh>, my, my wife's from Japan, and I, and I had to show her, you know, <laugh>, but, uh,

Louise Palanker (32:54):

You need some cred with the wife,

Harry Elston (32:57):

<laugh>. Yeah. She said, who?

Fritz Coleman  (32:59):


Louise Palanker (33:00):

She says, sing a little. How does it go?

Harry Elston (33:02):

She knew the Osmonds. She knew the Osmond, but she didn't know my

Louise Palanker (33:04):

Group. <laugh>. Yeah. They know the Osmonds.

Fritz Coleman  (33:06):

Did you do a lot of international traveling when you guys were in the midst of your hits?

Harry Elston (33:10):

Yeah. Yeah. We did. We did some, we did some, you know what? We did real good in the Philippines.

Fritz Coleman  (33:16):

Wow. Hmm.

Harry Elston (33:18):

Yeah. The Philippine Filipino people can get down and sing mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And, uh, we had a lot of hit records over there. And, uh, you know, we went to it. Not, where do you go to Italy? Greece, of course England and stuff like that. We, we, we did a little, little, little international traveling. Yeah.

Fritz Coleman  (33:38):

I, I, I'll tell you, I, uh, I, I, I look back at the sixties and for lots of reasons, it was, I think, a more interesting musical time, because stuff could be more experimental on the, on the radical side, the raw side. You had Jimmy Hendrix, which expanded blues, blues oriented rock and roll to its endpoint. And then you had the Friends of Distinction, and you had The Fifth Dimension, which had these beautiful, almost orchestral songs that were so sophisticated in their composition and beautiful lyrics. I don't know that, that the music that you did would find traction today, like it did back then. There's some, just some beautiful orchestrations in in your music that seemed bigger than anything we have now.

Harry Elston (34:32):

Well, you know, fortunately, fortunately, uh, you know, you know, when you write a song, it, it's, it's a little different today than it was back in the day. But, uh, I didn't even know. I, I didn't even know I had royalties from, from Grazing In The Grass. Oh, my, the first check I got, I went out, brought a Bentley

Fritz Coleman  (34:53):

<laugh>. There you go.

Harry Elston (34:55):

But, uh, it's, it was a lot different. It was a lot different back then. And to now they say that, that, that, that period, that era was like the, in terms of United States music transition, that was very, very instrumental. The sixties and seventies music. So I, and then, and then the cold thing about it, here comes the Grammys. And I didn't, we, we didn't know nothing about no Grammys <laugh>, you know, and I'm, look, look up and we're, we're, we're nominated, but we're nominated with the Beatles, the Stones, the Fifth Dimension, <laugh>, you know, we did okay. I can't, I can't complain because Grazon, Grazon did pretty good. And it was like, I got a lot of awards for Grazon is the most performed song and stuff like that. So I ain't, man, I God has good, been good to me.

Louise Palanker (35:43):

Yeah. I like your attitude. You know, just be grateful. And, and Grayson is just iconic. That song is iconic. And, uh, I'm wondering, because I love listening to the harmonies, and, uh, clearly you guys put a lot of thought into the harmonies. Did you grow up? Were you a, a Harmony fan growing up? Yeah.

Harry Elston (36:00):

Yep. Growing up, I grew up in San Diego. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And, uh, I went to Lincoln High School and Po Loma High School. And, uh, we had an octet at Po Loma. We had an octet, and we would sing acapella and, and classical sas and, and, you know, eight part harmony. So that's where, that's where I got my ear from. And then I was, I was a big fan of the four freshmen.

Louise Palanker (36:24):

Yeah. Mm-hmm.

Harry Elston (36:25):

<affirmative>, Ross Barber, you know, his tenor. That, that's what I love. I could tell his voice, you know, I saw him one day somewhere down south. I went to see the show. But, uh, yeah. And, and then Dew Whopping. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> at school. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, you know, we, you know, everybody had a group. And, and is, we had, there was this song called Night Out. Ooh, ow, <laugh> <laugh>, what did I do? I changed the words to it. And it was, he was a, the girls was all over me, <laugh>, you know? So that's, like I said, hold that. You can do that. That's pretty cool, you know. But, uh, I did grow up Dew Wapping singing Octet, and with groups of, that's, that's where I got my ear from. What about

Louise Palanker (37:06):

Church? Church start?

Harry Elston (37:08):

Oh, yeah. Gospel. Yeah, definitely. Church. Definitely Church. The, the, the, my daddy, my daddy played a little keyboard. So, you know, when you go to church, you see the, the, the deacon in the, the pasture. Everybody's so refined and stuff. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. But they would come to my house, my daddy's house, <laugh>

Louise Palanker (37:24):

Let it fly.

Harry Elston (37:26):

And the, the, the, the, the deacon over there drinking a beer, uhoh. Is that, did you see him drinking that beer? Whoa.

Louise Palanker (37:32):

That's like seeing your teacher in the supermarket. You're just like, wait, I didn't know that you could exist outside of school, but, okay. So both, both your folks were musical though, right? Harry?

Harry Elston (37:42):

Well, my mom, my mom. Just my dad. Just my dad. Oh, okay. Yeah. But my brother, my brother, my brother had a song out called, Hey, Singita, back in the day, he had a hit record. Really? My sister could sing. So, you know, we had some in internal talent, you know?

Louise Palanker (38:00):

Yeah. So when you would get into the studio, would you, would you work closely with the producer?

Harry Elston (38:06):

Oh, sure. Sure. See, with, with, with, uh, we, we had, uh, like I said, John Flores was a, a producer. And then John, John John from Phoenix. And he had a good friend. His name was Ray Cor Jr. Junior. And Ray Ray was an arranger. Now, figure this, we go on this, we go and we rehearse for nine months. We go, we do this demo on Grazon and the Grass. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, then we hook up with rca. We'd never met John Flore. We never met Rick Ray, uh, Ray Corp Jr. So we didn't know what the hell, you know, they could do. They came in. Ray was a beautiful arranger. John was a beautiful producer. And then they, we had internal people in our group, too. Uh, Clarence McDonald, uh, uh, Rex Middleton. And, uh, so we had intern. So they could relate. They could relate. And it made it a lot easier. But we still didn't know how to, the or orchestration would come out. But we walked in the studio. Now you figure this, you know, you, I'm used to going in the studio, maybe five or six people in there. We walked in there, it was a hundred people

Louise Palanker (39:15):


Harry Elston (39:15):

Really? It was strings and cellos and basses and stuff. Ooh. Oh my God. So we, we did our little, you know, they, we sang what they call a scratch track, so they would get a feel for your music. But, uh, I was still, we were still nervous, you know, with all those people in there and, and a hundred people, musicians and stuff, <laugh>.

Louise Palanker (39:34):


Fritz Coleman  (39:34):

Yeah. This won't mean anything to anybody outside of Los Angeles, but this is my own historical curiosity. Where did you record that first? Uh, the Graze that in the first RCA sessions in town,

Harry Elston (39:46):

Uh, uh, sunset and Vine. No, sunset and Kanga. Mm-hmm. At the RCA building. Uh, 80, I forget the, I forget the address. Yeah, it's the same building across from the theater. Right. It just, the home theater.

Louise Palanker (40:01):

It just says BMG now, but it's the same building.

Harry Elston (40:04):

Same building. Yeah. That's it. That's it. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. That's ITing.

Louise Palanker (40:08):

Yeah. Um, I wanna talk to you about the choreography, because you guys, you guys are up on YouTube and you guys, you guys would move. So <laugh>. Yep. Tell us about the thought that went into that, that presentation.

Harry Elston (40:21):

Well, in terms of the choreography, we were, we were, like, we were, we were geared to Vegas when we first came out. D during the, the, uh, the audition, the showcase at the Daisy, a lot of buyers from Vegas were there. So we had to get think Vegas, and, uh, but we had to hire choreographers. The choreographers made a lot of money on us, because they would, we would practice here. Then when you go to Vegas to open the show, they gotta go in there to make sure everything is cool and you gotta pay, you know, hotel salary and airfare and all that kind of stuff. But, uh, so we were, we were, we were all geared for Vegas. We, when we went to Vegas, we were there with, uh, Steve Allen and Jane Meadows. Oh, cool. We, we, we, yeah, we hung with them. We went to, uh, a club in, in Vancouver. I can't think of it right now, but we, we, we showcased for 30 days. We worked there, you know, the iron out, the Kinks, and then we went to Flamingo. We're there for 30 days. And we played the Flamingo, Caesars Palace, uh, all of 'em clubs. We played 'em in Vegas.

Louise Palanker (41:30):

Talk about a time where you got to meet an idol, someone that you had admired growing up,

Harry Elston (41:38):

<laugh>. I can, I can say anything, right? I'm cool. Yep. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. All right. My idol was Miles Davis. Okay. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> Miles Davis. And, uh, when I got outta the Air Force, and I was, I was stationed at Travis Air Force, basically na, in, uh, Northern California. So when I got out of the Air Force, I hung in Oakland with my, my East Oakland. And, uh, I used to jam with these guys. I couldn't play. I, I had, I bought a flute. I couldn't play a lick <laugh>, but I would be there with jamming with these guys. And, uh, that's when I said, that's when I really, really discovered Miles Davis. And I would buy all, anything about Miles, I would buy, I'd go to San Francisco and see Miles at the jazz workshop or any of the clubs there. And then one time I was in Boston at a club called the Sugar Shack. And who comes backstage after the show? Miles Dewey Davis. Oh my gosh. I was, I was, I was in heaven.

Fritz Coleman  (42:40):

This was after one of your shows?

Harry Elston (42:42):

Yes. Oh, that's great. Yes. And he was, he was giving us appoint, you should, you should have more instruments. You should be playing this and playing that. He was Right. You, you know, you know, cause Miles has, his bands are always full. Yeah. And then we brought out the cognac.

Louise Palanker (42:57):


Harry Elston (42:58):

<laugh> Miles. Well, yeah. He said, well, let me bring this out. He brought out the blow. <laugh> <laugh>. So, so we was cognac and Blow. I was in heaven because he was telling us some of the experiences. And then, miles, miles, I'm, I'm trying to be as tactful as I can, but, uh, there was a girl who sang with us, and he was, he, he kind of had the hots for her. And, uh, so I kind of, you know, blocked

Louise Palanker (43:28):

<laugh>. Yeah. Protection.

Harry Elston (43:30):

So after we did the little cognac and the little blow thing, okay, man, it was nice meeting you, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. We go back to the hotel, I'm going to my room. And who's two doors down? <laugh>. This is my, oh. And the girl is with me and Miles down there. Oh, Lord. I had to protect her. Of

Louise Palanker (43:50):

Course. <laugh>, you're right. And a gentleman.

Harry Elston (43:54):

Yeah. But that was, that was this my miles, miles, miles story. Oh, I 

got a, I got a, uh, uh, another story, but I'll tell you at another time.

Louise Palanker (44:03):

Oh, come on here. Now you can't

Fritz Coleman  (44:05):

Do that. Harry

Harry Elston (44:06):

<laugh>. Well, no, we did show Pat Boone.

Louise Palanker (44:09):

There you go. Okay.

Harry Elston (44:10):

Oh, in Lawton, Oklahoma. So they were building, they were remodeling. So we wanted to do a sound check, and you step on the stage and there's, uh, what do you call those thin boards? Ply, plywood. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And you, and you, you're walking and you're going like this <laugh>, damn, what is this? And they hadn't finished the stage. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So we we're, we're doing a sound check. And you go, wow. <laugh> you. Cause the stage is vi Oh my God. Is bouncing. Yeah. So we did our little bit on, we did our little show. We did, we went on and, uh, I hadn't met Pat, so we did the show. And after the show, the kids ran over to see us. And, and the old folks, <laugh> said, just see Pat. But the dressing room was surrounded by kids and, and we're in Martin, Oklahoma. So the cops said, well, I don't know what you're going to do, but y'all just follow men. And, and, and we'll get outta here. <laugh>. Yes, sir. Yes. We got outta this, we ran out of the dressing room. It was in the gymnasium. We ran out of there, and we were running, not real fast, but you running, your kids are behind us. What do we do? We run into a six foot ditch.

Louise Palanker (45:23):

Oh. Oh.

Harry Elston (45:25):

Put Muds up. We were laughing and the kids pulled us out of the, out of the, the brink. You know, we, it was, it was just sloppy, you know, messing our uniforms and stuff. Oh. But that was my story. So I, I saw Pat a few weeks ago at, at an Affair, and I told him, every time I see him, I tell him about that story. Yeah. <laugh>. But that, that's my pat boom story.

Louise Palanker (45:48):

That's awesome. So when, when kids discover you, uh, on YouTube or online, what are, you know, kids are, music is brand new to them. Right? So what do they, what do they tend to say to you?

Harry Elston (46:00):

Well, a lot of See, see, Grazon and those, those songs are 50 years old, at least 50 years old. So these kids, um, Reverend Simone did Grazon and The Grass. She did a nice job on it, really. And Yeah. Yeah. Try to check it out. Yeah. And, uh, but the kids, I see little kids, it's high singing, grazing in the grass, <laugh>, you know, so evidently it left some, some sort of an impression, you know, from, for, for all these years. And I still get a little rolly check, you know, I'll get a little, little something, something, something. I, if not, I'd be working for Prince <laugh>. Yes. But, yeah, that'd be refresh

Fritz Coleman  (46:42):

Seeing retirement, if you start working for me. Can I let, let me ask you a question, uh, only because this is fresh in my memory from having heard, um, recently I watched the Rat Pack making of Oceans 11, and they talked about what Sammy Davis had to go through in Vegas until, uh, Frank Sinatra busted the doors open. And then I heard Smokey Robinson talking about the bus tours with all the Motown bands having to do the chitlins circuit and, and the threats that they had to undergo. Did, did you and your touring experience any of the awful racism that happened in the South and, um, all the heartbreaking situations that, uh, black Acts had to go through at that, that point in the sixties?

Harry Elston (47:30):

Well, you know, fortunately, fortunately, we didn't. Um, and I, I, it was, I think it was the timing, the, the, the, the atmosphere was, was kind of right during that, that, during that period I'm talking about in those certain years. And there was always some bullshit going on. Like one time we're doing this concert at, uh, Ole Miss with Roberta Fly. So AC Act actually, uh, it, that was kind of, that was kind of touch and go, because some of the kids, I mean, it was two black acts, but they, they wanted us to go with them. And some wanted us to go to Roberta Flag, you know, after parties and stuff like that mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So I said, well, I'm going with these guys over here. And all of 'em had a, had a half a pound of whiskey bottles <laugh> in their back pocket. Okay.


You know, so, but I went with those guys and I walked into this, I don't, this hall or whatever it was, and the first thing I see is a conf Confederate flag. Oh. About 12 by 12 <laugh>. Oh, wow. I said, oh shit, what the hell? <laugh>, you know, but those, hey, those guys turned out to be the coolest. We drank and had fun and had a good time, good time. And, but, but other than that, now with Ray Charles, there was a little, little, little funny stuff came on. 1, 1, 1 time, the cop came on the bus, and the white people on this bus, <laugh>, we had a guitar player named Donald Peak. He was white Jewish cat. And Don Don had his guitar in front of him. And he said, what about him? Ask Ray, what about him? Ray said, oh, he's Mexican <laugh>. Wow. But that was the only, that was the only, uh, and then there were a couple of riots when we were with Ray that we had to get out of Dodge. They were throwing bricks and bottles at the bus. We had to get the hell out of there. Wow. But other than that, well,

Fritz Coleman  (49:29):

You know, and, and friends was a crossover act. I mean, you were in the top five on both pop and r and b charts. And so you probably had a larger white audience than many r and b Acts would have. And maybe

Harry Elston (49:41):

You're right, you're right. Yep, yep, yep. Yeah.

Louise Palanker (49:47):

But you still, you have to travel all over the country, and you're, you're kind of, uh, adrift. All you have is your bus and no, they don't let you into a hotel, or they don't let you have, have, go into a restaurant. You

Harry Elston (49:59):

Know, it's so weird. Now. We didn't, we didn't have that. I mean, it was there, it was there now, maybe, maybe because Ray had been on the RO road so long, you know, open doors and stuff. Now with the, with the, with the forensic of distinction. We, we, I, I can't remember anything like, you know, a problem like that. I remember, uh, doing a concert somewhere down in, in, in, in Texas, and a guy, a guy went to Vietnam and he came back to the concert, and his girlfriend was just this guy, and he blew him away. And, uh, we got out of Dodge a little bit. <laugh> Oh my. Packed, oh my goodness. Packed that bus and got outta the hell outta Dodge. Oh,

Louise Palanker (50:38):

That's terrifying.

Harry Elston (50:40):


Louise Palanker (50:40):

Wow. We have to end on something a little bit more upbeat than that for no

Harry Elston (50:44):


Fritz Coleman  (50:45):

This, this whole thing has been upbeat. I'm so, you know, Harry's had an amazing history of music. It's such a treat to talk to him. I love the old stories and how members of the original WiFi's branched out and started these other groups. It's all another piece in the history of American music. I just love learning that new stuff.

Louise Palanker (51:03):

Yeah. Now there's wifi in every home and Starbucks, <laugh>. Harry, it's just a, a joy to have you with us. Is there anything you would like us to promote, uh, on your behalf or mention while you're, while you're here with us, that people can check out?

Harry Elston (51:16):

Well, not really. Uh, I am in retirement. I, I, I hung it up in 2016. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, I did a tour over in the Philippines. And, uh, I, I, I was just tired, you know, because see, people don't realize when you, when you have a group, you gotta, when you get new people, you gotta audition 'em, you gotta train 'em. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, you gotta pay 'em. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, you know, and that, that's, that, that was getting old.

Louise Palanker (51:45):

Yeah. The way they keep wanting a paycheck, I just <laugh> kids.

Fritz Coleman  (51:49):

Kids and you know, after a certain age, the road will wear you out. Oh my gosh. You know? Yeah. So it's a, it's

Harry Elston (51:55):

A Halloween. Yeah. I mean, the, the road is so much different than it was, but you know that back in the day mm-hmm. <affirmative>, we'd get on a plane and we'd, we'd smoke a pipe, <laugh>, bring our own alcohol and, and, and, and have 'em open the door for if the plane is fixing to take off. Hey my friend. Hold, hold 'em, hold the plane. They open the door. You run on the plane. Oh

Fritz Coleman  (52:14):

Yeah. No more. Now you'd be tackled by the, uh, what is it, the security? That

Louise Palanker (52:19):

Far? No, if you're a sea, you have to get in the sea line and then that it's gonna be a while. You're gonna have a middle seat.

Fritz Coleman  (52:24):

Thank you, Harry. What a treat to talk to you. Stay healthy, my friend. It was right here.

Louise Palanker (52:28):

It was great. It was a pleasure. Here come our closing credits. We would love for you to join us online on Instagram and Twitter, where we are at Media Path Pod, and on Facebook where we are. Media Path Podcast. You can find full episodes with all kinds of bonus visual content on our YouTube channel Media Path Podcasts. We would love to know what media you've been enjoying. You can contact us at our social media or write to us at Media Path We wanna thank our guests, Harry Elston. Our team includes Dean of Friedman, Francesco Demond, John Maddox, Sharon Beo, bill Fiac, Thomas Hubble, and you. Our theme music is by me and John Maddox. I am Louise p Planker here with Fritz Coleman, and we will see you along the media path. Fritz says, one more thing to tell you

Fritz Coleman  (53:10):

And listen, if you enjoyed this episode of Media Path and we know you did, it would help us to be more discoverable by potential new listeners. If you leave us a quick review on Apple Podcasts, and if you're new here and this is your first time with us, please check out our catalog. You may find some real binge worthy stuff in there. We've had Diane Warren recently, Oscar nominated. We had Tony Dow from Leave It to Beaver, bill Mumey, who's been all over television at its inception. We had Harry, we've had all kinds of great, uh, uh, people on here, Gary Puckett, the Sils, uh, you know, people who were part of your, uh, early life. So we're, we're going back to the very beginning. You'll hear exciting and exclusive interviews with Henry Winkler, Keith Morrison, thank you for spending an hour with us and we would be overjoyed if you took a moment to share your thoughts with us or recommend us to a friend. Be safe. Thanks for listening.

Harry Elston (54:03):

Thank you so much. It was my pleasure.

Louise Palanker (54:06):

Thank you, Harry. You were wonderful. You

Fritz Coleman  (54:07):

Were awesome, Harry. Sorry about the

Harry Elston (54:08):

Technical stuff. No problem. No problem. We'll talk again.

Louise Palanker (54:12):

Yeah, absolutely. We'll see you in person soon. Bye-bye. All right.

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