The Mad Lads

Band members                             Related acts

  line up 1 (1963)

- William Brown (RIP) -- vocals (baritone) 

- Harold Thomas -- vocals (bass) 

- John Gary Williams -- lead vocals (tenor)


  line up 2 1963-65)

- William Brown (RIP) -- vocals (baritone) 

NEW - Robert Phillips- - vocals (bass) (replaced Harold Thomas)

- John Gary Williams -- lead vocals (tenor) 


  line up 3 1965-66)

- William Brown (RIP) -- vocals (baritone)

NEW - Julius Green -- vocals (tenor)

- Robert Phillips- - vocals (bass)

- John Gary Williams -- lead vocals (tenor) 

  line up 4 (1966-68)

NEW - Quincy Clifton Billops Jr. -- vocals (replaced 

  John Gary Williams 

- Julius Green -- vocals (tenor) 

NEW - Sam Nelson -- vocals (replaced William Brown)

- Robert Phillips- - vocals (bass) 


  line up 5 (1968-69)

- William Brown (RIP) -- vocals (baritone) 

- Julius Green -- vocals (tenor)

- Robert Phillips- - vocals (bass) 

- John Gary Williams -- lead vocals (tenor)


  line up 6 (1969-70)

- Julius Green -- vocals (tenor) 

NEW - Robert Phillips- - vocals (bass) 

NEW - Freddie Rogan -- vocals (tenor)


  line up 7 (1970-73)

NEW - Freddie Durham -- vocals 

- Julius Green -- vocals (tenor) 

- Robert Phillips- - vocals (bass) 

- Freddie Rogan -- vocals (tenor) 






- The Emeralds (William Brown, Julius Green, Harold Thomas and

  John Gary Williams)

- Ollie and the Nightgales (Quincy Clifton Billops Jr.)

- The Ovations (Quincy Clifton Billops Jr.)

- The Premiers (Quincy Clifton Billops Jr.)

- John Gary Williams (solo efforts)




Genre: soul

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  The Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Lads

Company: Volt

Catalog: VOS-6005

Year: 1969

Country/State: Memphis, Tennessee

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: still in shrink wrap (opened)

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 5576

Price: SOLD $50.00


With fighting in Vietnam rapidly escalating, 1966 saw Mad Lads singers William Brown and Johnny Gary Williams drafted.  During their absence Stax kept the group afloat with the addition of Quincy Clifton Billops Jr. and Sam Nelson, but limited recordings to a handful of singles until Brown and Williams had completed their military service in 1968.  Ironically, claiming he was too demanding and bossy, the other two members of the group Julius Green and Robert Philips initially vetoed Williams' return to the lineup, though they were ultimately overridden by fellow member Brown and Stax management.


The reunited group promptly returned to the studio releasing a pair of singles over the next year:


- 1968's 'So Nice' b/w 'Make Room' (Volt catalog number VOA 4003)

- 1968's 'Love Is Here Today And Gone Tomorrow' b/w 'Make This Young Woman Mine' (Volt catalog number VOA 4009)

Produced by Al Jackson, 1969's "The Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Lads" featured a mixture of previously released singles and new studio material.  In addition to being one of the few vocal groups signed to Stax, the twelve tracks were heavily weighted towards old school ballads that reflected the quartet's doo wop roots (check out 'These Old Memories').  That alone was enough to underscore just how different The Mad Lads were from the majority of the Stax roster.  Far more urbane than your typical Stax release, ballads  like 'So Nice', 'Make Room (In Your Heart)' and 'Cry Baby' showcased Williams fantastic lead tenor with the others turning in to-kill-for harmonies.  The downside was that side one of the album sounded quite old fashioned and the heavy emphasis on ballads gave it a sounds-the-same feeling.  Curiously side two was far more varied.  Because they were a nice change of pace, up-tempo numbers like 'It's Loving Time' and 'Love Is Here Today And Gone Tomorrow' were a welcomed change of pace and provided the LP highlights. 'It's Loving Time' was great, their breezy update of Curtis Mayfield's 'Monkey Time '69' was a blast, while the urgent 'Love Is Here Today And Gone Tomorrow' sounded like something Marvin Gaye might have recorded for Motown.  While it was a ballad, 'I've Never Found A Girl' sported a more modern sound and was one of the stronger songs on the album.  


"The Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Lads" track listing:

(side 1)

1.) So Nice   (Marvell Thomas - Bettye Crutcher) - 2:40    rating: **** stars

Admittedly the sentiments sound a bit sappy in a day and age where the average marriage lasts about five years ...   That said, I'm a sucker for this stuff and their harmonies were dazzling.  As mentioned, Volt had previously released the tune as a single:

- 1968's 'So Nice' b/w 'Make Room'  (Volt catalog number VOA 4003)

2.) Make Room (In Your Heart)   (John Gary Williams - Allen Jones - Bettye Crutcher) - 2:49    rating: **** stars

Always loved the horns on this one and the sweet backing vocals.  

3.) Cry Baby   (Bert Russell - Norman Meade) - 3:43   rating: ** stars

Never been a big fan of spoke word introductions so' Cry Baby' got off to a slow start for me.   Kind of a blues, county-soul tune, the highlight on this one came in the form of the Steve Cropper guitar moves. 

4.) I Just Can't Forget   (Booker T. Jones - Deannie Parker) - 2:30   rating: *** stars

propelled by some classic--tinged piano, the ballad 'I Just Can't Forget' certainly didn't sound like a mid-'60s Stax soul number; certainly not one written by Booker T. Jones.    

5.) These Old Memories   (Homer Banks - Allen Jones) - 2:45

Another pretty old school ballad with some great backing vocals and nice horns, but at this point it threatened to blur together with the earlier numbers.   rating: *** stars

6.) By The Time I Get To Phoenix   (Jimmy Webb) - 2:49

Jimmy Webb was a hot late-'60s commodity which might explain why this one got recorded.  To their credit, producer Jackson and The Mad Lads managed to inject a bit of Stax soul into the sappy pop tune.  Volt even tapped it as a single, though that decision was beyond understanding given the quality of some of the other tunes..  The only thing you could figure was the company's marketing department wanted the album's  most MOR track in the forlorn hope it might appeal to white audiences ... 



- 1969's 'By The Time I Get To Phoenix' b/w 'No Strings Attached' (Volt catalog number VOA 4016) # 84 pop # 24 R&B     


YouTube has a black and white clip of the group lip-synching the song on Hy Lit's Philadelphia television program:  rating: *** stars




(side 2)

1.) No Strings Attached   (Estelle Axton - Deannie Parker) - 2:30    rating: *** stars

'No Strings Attached' has always sounded like a New Orleans inspired tune, rather than something out of the Stax catalog.   No bad, but hardly the standout performance.  Kudos to William Brown's growling baritone.

2.) It's Loving Time   (Booker T. Jones - John Gary Williams) - 2:21   rating: **** stars

The bouncy, up-beat 'It's Loving Time' made for a nice change in direction, aptly demonstrating The mad lads could easily handle funkier soul as well as anyone else signed to the Stax imprint.   One of the album highlights.   

3.) Love Is Here Today And Gone Tomorrow   (Allen Jones - Bettye Crutcher) - 2:45   rating: **** stars

As mentioned above, 'Love Is Here Today And Gone Tomorrow' was another atypical Stax tune, sounding like something a young Marvin Gaye might have recorded for Motown.  One of John Gary Williams' finest performances.  Another previously released single:





- 1968's 'Love Is Here Today And Gone Tomorrow' b/w 'Make This Young Woman Mine' (Volt catalog number VOA 4009)








4.) Make This Young Lady Mine    (Booker T. Jones - John Gary Williams) - 2:23    rating: *** stars

The guitar accompaniment provided the highlight on this one - kind of a Sam Cooke feel.   

5.) I've Never Found A Girl   (Booker T. Jones - Eddie Floyd - Alvertis Isbell)  - 3:09    rating: **** stars

Gawd only knows how many times this one's been covered, but their version was amongst the best.  Sweet, sweet, sweet  ...

6.) Monkey Time '69   (Curtis Mayfield) - 3:29    rating: **** stars

Such a great song, I don't think you could turn in a bad version ...  by the way, in spite of the liner notes, judging by the lyrics  the song title was actual 'Monkey Time 6 To 9'.  I'm sure radio programmers where horrified to see it listed as 'Monkey Time '69'.   




Genre: soul

Rating: **** (4 stars)

Title:  A New Beginning

Company: Volt

Catalog: VOS-6020

Year: 1973

Country/State: Memphis, Tennessee

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: original inner sleeve; small cut out hole

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 4515

Price: $30.00

Cost: $66.00


They're not very well known outside of soul circles, but Memphis' The Mad Lads have always had a special place in my record collection.  There's just something about their soul moves that's impressive and comforting.



With Dale Warren handling most of the production work and sporting backing from the cream of Stax's studio musicians (Donald 'Duck' Dunn, Al Jackson, Bobby Manuel, etc.), 1973's "A New Beginning" stands as one of Stax's last classic albums.  While it's clearly billed as a Mad Lads effort, I've always wondered about this album in terms of who actually sings on it.  I think the line up was composed of mainstay John Gary Williams, along with Julius Green (who'd actually quit the group back in 1969) and Freddie Durham.  The last two at least get a special thanks in the liner notes.  Musically this set was simply top-notch.  Admittedly the album gets off to a slow start.  The first couple of minutes of 'Pass the Word (Love's the Word)' were devoted to seemingly endless jive talking, but when the song actually kicked in, it was worth the wait.  Similarly, 'I'm So Glad I Fell In Love with You' starts out with a psychotic spoken word intro and some truly bizarre sound effects, before breaking out into a classic soul ballad.  From there on tracks such as 'Seeing Is Believin'' and 'I'll Still Be Lovin' You' are much more conventional, if no less enjoyable.  


"A New Beginning" track listing:

(side 1)

1.) Pass the Word (Love's the Word)   (John Gary Williams - William Brown - Dale Warren) - 6:00   rating; **** stars

Admittedly the first three minutes of 'Pass the Word (Love's the Word)' were wasted on seemingly endless gabbing "what's the word?, what's the word ...."  Thankfully at the three minute mark the song's underlying melody broke loose of the clutter.  About all I can tell you is the Gospel-tinged, piano-powered song was worth the wait.  Recalling The O'Jays on steroids, this was one of those melodies that you simply could not shake out of your head.  Without the first three minutes this would have been a five star performance.  

2.) I'm So Glad I Fell In Love with You   (John Gary Williams - William Brown - Bobby Manuel) - 2:12   rating: ** stars

With a bouncy, carefree melody, 'I'm so Glad I Fell In Love with You' was clearly geared for maximum radio exposure.  And that may explain why this one irritates the hell out of me.  It sounds forced and canned to my ears.  Naturally Volt tapped the song as a single:





-1973's 'I'm So Glad I Fell In Love with You' b/w 'I Forgot To Be Your Lover' (Volt catalog number VOS 4098)








3.) Seeing Is Believin'   (Fred Briggs - Darryl Carter - Michael Williams) - 5:54   rating: *** stars

Interesting to hear the group re-recording one of their older singles.  The remake was pretty enough, with another dynamite chorus, but the grittier 1970 45 version was superior.  

4.) I'll Still Be Lovin' You  (Fred Briggs - Darryl Carter) - 3:40   rating: **** stars

Classic  mid-'70s soul moves ...  maybe a little short in the originality department, but the harmonies and title refrain were simply awesome.  Always loved the guitar riff on this one.  This was one of the tracks that should have been tapped as a single.


(side 2)

1.) Gone! The Promise of Yesterday   (Dale Warren - Kent Arnold - Robert Dunson) - 3:41   rating: **** stars

Another remake (it had previously appeared as a 1971 single), 'Gone! The Promise of Yesterday' was the album's most interesting performance, mixing a standard soul ballad with an arrangement that included touches of jazz, funk, and psych.  It's become a sampler's favorite.

2.) I Forgot To Be Your Lover    (William Bell - Booker T. Jones) - 4:45   rating: **** stars

With  John Gary Williams turning in one of his most intense vocals, the ballad 'I Forgot To Be Your Lover' has always reminded me of one of those Temptations songs produced by Norman Whitfield.  Like those Whitfield produced efforts, this one blended a nice soul ballad with a barrel full of psych influences, including the shrieking refrain.  Another track that's been repeatedly sampled.

3.) I'm Afraid of Losing You   (Darryl Carter - Helen Washington) - 3:52   rating: *** stars

I'm not a big fan of spoken word introductions, but once you got through the introduction, 'I'm Afraid of Losing You' turned out to be a decent, if somewhat conventional soul ballad.

4.) Destination   (Dale Warren - Joan Albright) - 4:52   rating: *** stars

'Destination' was one of their prettiest ballads, showcasing how good their voices blended.  Pretty, but also somewhat lost in the overall, ballad heavy set.