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Harry Elston

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Information about Harry Elston

Profile image of Harry Elston

Profession

Category:
MusicMakers
Occupation(s):
R & B Singer
Songwriter

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Blue
Favorite Food:
Soul Food
Favorite Time of Year:
Thanksgiving
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Idlewild, Michigan
Favorite Quote:
Ain't Nuttin'.

Birthplace

Born:
11/4/1938
Birth Location:
Dallas, Texas

Profession

Category:
MusicMakers
Occupation(s):
R & B Singer
Songwriter

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Blue
Favorite Food:
Soul Food
Favorite Time of Year:
Thanksgiving
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Idlewild, Michigan
Favorite Quote:
Ain't Nuttin'.

Birthplace

Born:
11/4/1938
Birth Location:
Dallas
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Biography

R&B singer Harry James Elston was born on November 4, 1938 in Dallas, Texas to the musical family of Ernestine Cooksey and Leonard David Elston, Sr. Elston grew up in San Diego, California and attended Midway Elementary School and Point Loma High School. Elston began his career in the music industry around the ages of sixteen or seventeen with the Johnny Otis Caravan. Elston and the group he was in, Cel Foster and The Audios, came to San Diego to a talent search. The group was chosen for the Johnny Otis Caravan, which included other musical acts like Etta James and Jacki Kelso. By age twenty-five, Elston began working as the limousine driver for The Temptations. In 1963, Elston formed a R&B group called the Hi Fi’s with Lamonte McLemore, Floyd Butler and ex-Miss California Bronze Talent Award winner, Marilyn McCoo. As a member of the Hi Fi’s, Elston sang at local night clubs while taking lessons from a vocal coach. The Hi Fi’s came to the attention of Ray Charles in 1964, and the following year, he decided to take the group on tour with him. Ray Charles went on to produce the group’s single “Lonesome Mood”. In 1966, due to internal disagreements, Elston and Floyd Butler decided to depart from the Hi Fi’s and along with Jessica Cleaves and Barbara Jean Love they formed the Friends of Distinction.

Originally, Elston came up with the name Distinctive Friends, but Barbara Jean Love decided to reverse the words. In 1968, Hall of Fame football player Jim Brown met the group and introduced them to the staff at RCA Records. In 1969, Friends of Distinction released their first album entitled Grazin’ on RCA Records. The album included the songs “Grazing in the Grass”, of which Elston wrote and sang lead on, and “Going in Circles.” Grazin’ peaked at number five on the R&B charts. “Going in Circles” preceded the album, and it landed at number three on the charts. Friends of Distinction also released the songs “Love or Let Me Be Lonely”, “Time Waits for No One” and “I Need You.” When Barbara Jean Love became pregnant in 1970, Charlene Gibson replaced the vocalist, and the Friends of Distinction released Real Friends on RCA Records. Another change in Friends of Distinction occurred when Jessica Cleaves decided to leave the group and joined the R&B group Earth, Wind and Fire.

During the 1960s, Elston was also a prominent figure in the urban night life. Alongside, Jim Brown and John Daniels, Elston was instrumental in opening the Mavericks Flat, a well-known L.A. night club that is often referred to as the Apollo Theater of the west coast. In addition, Elston was instrumental in the formation of the N.I.E.U. (Negro Industrial and Economic Union). In 1992, Elston was co-writer of “It’s Over,” a single for Friends of Distinction. The current members of the group are Dorian Holley, Wendy Smith Brune, Berlando Drake and Harry Elston.

Elston lives in Studio City, California and Henderson, Nevada.

Elston was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on November 6, 2007.

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  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Harry Elston's interview
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Harry Elston lists his favorites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Harry Elston describes his mother
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Harry Elston describes his father
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Harry Elston describes his stepmother
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Harry Elston describes his maternal grandparents
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Harry Elston describes his stepfather
  • Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Harry Elston describes his paternal grandmother
  • Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Harry Elston describes his earliest childhood memory
  • Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Harry Elston lists his siblings
  • Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Harry Elston describes his neighborhood in San Diego, California
  • Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Harry Elston describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood
  • Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Harry Elston remembers Midway Elementary School in San Diego, California
  • Tape: 1 Story: 14 - Harry Elston recalls his early personality
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Harry Elston recalls playing sports as a child
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Harry Elston remembers the Bethel Baptist Church in San Diego, California
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Harry Elston describes Dana Junior High School in San Diego, California
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Harry Elston recalls his early singing experiences
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Harry Elston describes the Point Loma neighborhood of San Diego, California
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Harry Elston describes his peers at Abraham Lincoln High School in San Diego, California
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Harry Elston remembers performing with The Belvederes
  • Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Harry Elston remembers recording with Cell Foster and the Audios
  • Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Harry Elston remembers the music community in California
  • Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Harry Elston remembers the popular hairstyles of his youth
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Harry Elston remembers straightening his hair
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Harry Elston describes the Five Four Ballroom in Los Angeles, California
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Harry Elston recalls joining the U.S. Air Force
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Harry Elston remembers being stationed in Seattle, Washington
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Harry Elston recalls his assignment to Travis Air Force Base in Solano County, California
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Harry Elston recalls his arrest in the U.S. Air Force
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Harry Elston describes his discharge from the U.S. Air Force
  • Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Harry Elston remembers Oakland, California
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Harry Elston recalls working for Kaiser Permanente in Los Angeles, California
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Harry Elston remembers living with Lamonte McLemore
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Harry Elston recalls his friends in Los Angeles, California
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Harry Elston remembers founding the Hi-Fi's
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Harry Elston recalls singing in Los Angeles Clubs with the Hi-Fi's
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Harry Elston remembers touring with Ray Charles
  • Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Harry Elston describes The Hi-Fi's vocal training
  • Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Harry Elston recalls being arrested with his bandmates, pt. 1
  • Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Harry Elston recalls being arrested with his bandmates, pt. 2
  • Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Harry Elston remembers the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles, California
  • Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Harry Elston describes the formation of the Versatiles
  • Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Harry Elston recalls founding The Friends of Distinction
  • Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Harry Elston describes the Negro Industrial and Economic Union
  • Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Harry Elston recalls serving as a driver for The Temptations
  • Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Harry Elston describes the Maverick's Flat club in Los Angeles, California
  • Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Harry Elston remembers his experiences at Maverick's Flat
  • Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Harry Elston describes his return to The Friends of Distinction
  • Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Harry Elston remembers writing the lyrics to 'Grazing in the Grass'
  • Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Harry Elston recalls signing a contract with RCA Records
  • Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Harry Elston talks about The 5th Dimension
  • Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Harry Elston recalls The Friends of Distinction's early hits
  • Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Harry Elston remembers meeting Miles Davis
  • Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Harry Elston talks about working with RCA Records
  • Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Harry Elston remembers Earth, Wind, and Fire
  • Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Harry Elston recalls leaving RCA Records
  • Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Harry Elston describes the Magic Cookie Company, pt. 1
  • Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Harry Elston describes the Magic Cookie Company, pt. 2
  • Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Harry Elston remembers Floyd Butler's death
  • Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Harry Elston describes The Friends of Distinction reunion
  • Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Harry Elston reflects upon his life
  • Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Harry Elston describes his advice to aspiring entertainers
  • Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Harry Elston reflects upon his future
  • Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Harry Elston describes his hopes for the African American community
  • Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Harry Elston reflects upon his values
  • Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Harry Elston describes how he would like to be remembered
  • Tape: 7 Story: 10 - Harry Elston narrates his photographs