High School Yearbook Photo

"More than a place, the Shady Dell was and will forever remain a state of mind." - Shady Del Knight

"More than a place, the Shady Dell was and will forever remain a state of mind." - Shady Del Knight

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Of Mice (Dell Rats) and Men (Magnificent) - Part 2

The Magnificent Men released 9 singles on the Capitol label and 2 on Mercury. It's difficult for fans to fathom, but only
3 of those 11 singles made the Billboard chart and one of those, "Stormy Weather," got locked in the Bubbling Under basement. Shady's Law, which states that the greater the song the lower its chart position tends to be, was created with our Mag Men in mind! Remember too that this is the Bilboard Pop chart that we're talking about. It's disappointing to realize that a talented group of guys who had a passion for soul and waxed some of the 60s best never registered a single one of their songs on the Billboard black music chart!

In December of 1967 another Mag Men doublesider found favor with the Dell gentry. “Babe, I’m Crazy ‘Bout You” was chosen to be the push side for radio stations.

Penned by Billy Butler and produced by Carl Davis, two architects of the Chicago soul sound who were friends of Bupp and the boys since the Del-Chords days, "Babe" is a song that's easy to go crazy 'bout.

However, I like the fab flip just as much if not more. It's another Carl Davis produced soul nugget entitled “Forever Together.”

As 1967 came to a close, fans of the Magnificent Men were noticing a subtle change in the group's output. The two songs on their latest single were good, but they were not quite in the same league with "Peace of Mind." The days of back-to-back Dell megahits by the Mag Men were over. Beginning with their next single in 1968 there would be no more soulful double-siders coming from Bupp and company. The Magnificent Men were about to change direction.

Two more Mag Men sides were released on 45 around March of 1968. “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” and “Tired of Pushing” were taken from the group's third Capitol album The World of Soul. To me the name was somewhat misleading. Instead of serving up a heaping helping of sweet soul music the long play was diluted with pop standards and crossover country. “Phoenix,” “September Song,” and “Alfie” were given a soulful treatment with pleasing results, yet those selections signaled a fundamental change. The Magnificent Men began to stray from their traditional Chi-town influenced soul and dabble in other musical styles. Ironically, a white group that had built a reputation and a fan following performing authentic interpretations of black music was doing what certain black artists had done in an effort to win commercial acceptance. They were starting to sound whiter.

I was spoiled, I suppose. The first studio album released by the Magnificent Men was wall-to-wall soul nirvana. "Peace of Mind" set the bar so high that it would be very hard to match and impossible to beat. Maybe that's why The World of Soul was more of an acquired taste. Material that deviated too much from "Peace of Mind" and the other gems on that first LP was bound to be somewhat of a let down.

Don't get me wrong. The World of Soul is a great album. The Mag Men are solid senders and deliver the goods much more often than not. One of my favorite tracks is the seldom heard "It's Got to Be Love," a Bupp-King original that's right in the pocket!

"It's Got to Be Love" would have made a great single release. If "Love" had been paired with "Tired of Pushing" the Dell would have been blessed with yet another Magnificent Men doublesider.

With the release of the "Phoenix"/"Pushing" combination however, it was clear that a pattern was emerging. Soul was being placed on the back burner. Whoever was calling the shots chose “Phoenix” as the A side. “Tired of Pushing,” a much more soulful song, was chosen as the B side.

Mag Men purists began to wonder why Capitol was refusing to promote the type of material that fans had come to expect from their favorite white soul group. Why were the group’s handlers trying to fix something that wasn’t broken?

The trend away from soul continued in the summer of 1968. Ignoring the group's soul roots Capitol execs began to tinker, tamper and tweak the sound of the Magnificent Men, performing misguided experiments with new age country fusion. "Almost Persuaded," a song that left some Mag Men fans scratching their heads, was selected as the A side of their next single. “I Found What I Wanted in You,” a clearly superior song - one that soul survivors at the Dell heavily preferred - and a hit just waiting to happen - was inexplicably relegated to the B side. The decision makers were convinced that a countrified cautionary tale about man’s temptation had a better chance of becoming a commercial success in 1968 than a sweet soul masterpiece. The plan failed. Radio stations were almost persuaded to play the record and consumers were almost persuaded to buy it - almost being the operative word. The Magnificent Men weren't winning many new fans with their new direction and they were in danger of losing some of their old ones.

“Almost Persuaded” might have been pushed on the public as the designated “plug” side, but sagacious radio jocks and die hard Mag Men followers had other ideas. The uplifting “I Found What I Wanted In You,” a classic Mag Men ballad that picked up where “Peace of Mind” left off, became the runaway cult favorite.

In the fall of 1968 the Magnificent Men released their last single for Capitol. Once again, core fans had to flip "Save the Country" if they wanted to hear the pure, unadulterated Magnificent Men sound that they had grown to love.

As their affiliation with Capitol records came to an end the Mag Men finished strong. They came through for their fans with one last soul saturated killer bee, “So Much Love Waiting.”

Perhaps the grass looked greener when the Magnificent Men left Capitol and signed with Mercury - but it turned out to be crab grass.

In an effort to adapt to the changing times and latch onto that elusive success formula the Magnificent Men continued to change their image and explore different types of material including jazz and prog rock, but their Mercury recordings were uneven and sold poorly.

With continued fan support and encouragement the Magnificent Men returned to the basics years later and began delighting audiences with an ongoing series of reunion concerts in Harrisburg and York and a series of doo-wop/classic soul CD releases as part of The Class of 60-Something.


As a white group performing black music in 1960s America, the Magnificent Men had two strikes against them. It was a sign of the times when some "white" radio stations declared that the Mag Men sounded too black and some "black" radio stations who dug the sound refused to play their records after they found out that the Men were white. As Dave Bupp's story goes some black deejays even busted up their promo copies of "Peace of Mind" and shipped them back to Capitol. When you factor in record label politics and ineptitude and the fact that sweet soul, the kind of music the Magnificent Men and their fans loved best, was no longer "cool" by the late 60s, it's easy to understand why our hometown heroes never attained superstar status.

That said, it's gratifying to realize just how far the Magnificent Men were able to go, how much they were able to do, and how indelible a mark they made on American music and on society.

The Magnificent Men were giants among us. They were gods. The Magnificent Men gave us peace of mind and changed our lives for the better. By means of their uplifting music they healed old wounds and broke down the walls that separated white from black. At a time when other music acts were polarizing us...the Magnificent Men were unifying us.

In a world filled with problems...
the Magnificent Men were and still are
a part of the solution.

I could be so happy if someday the whole world knows
the extent of their contributions and these men...
these Magnificent Men get the recognition they richly deserve!

One more for the road:

Have a Shady day!


  1. I just finished Part 2 of the Magnificent Men. Both parts were a treat, and your critique was quite interesting. I don't know if I would have said it the same way, but I can't disagree with it either. It has a little bite, but not in a bad way. Kind of like a good salsa needs some jalapenos.

    The Emperors was very good, but my memories of them are better live at the Oaks than their recordings. The Mag Men was ever so much better, just because I followed their recordings more.

  2. Thanks, Ron! My lukewarm reaction to some Mag Men recordings can perhaps be better explained if you think of it this way. When a kid opens Christmas presents he's hoping every one of them is a toy. When a couple of them turn out to be socks and underwear he's appreciative but not thrilled. Thanks again for your comment, my friend!

  3. Very good summary of Mag Men to date. However, I did like parts of their last album. Still Good and I Like It. But you are right, their soul sounds were always the best. I agree with Ron's statement about the Emperors and White Oaks. My favorite White Oaks band, believe it or not, was the Invictas. They had a great lead singer and did Jive Five songs. They also had a great version of Valerie. Jerre

  4. Thanks for your comment, Jerre! Somehow I always enjoyed listening to the studio recorded sound or watching a conceptual music video clip more than I liked attending a live concert performance. I realize that puts me in the minority but it's how my brain is wired. Maybe it's the producer in me - intent on controlling every aspect of the production. At any rate I thank you as always for reporting in and sharing your memories of those Wildwood days, party lights, and Dell and White Oaks nights!

  5. I must defend our performing and recording standards. We had to make a living and SUPPER CLUBS paid very well.
    Adults at supper clubs wanted to hear song they were familiar with. You don't go into the Copa doing COLD SWEAT by James. This was the era of the RAT PACK, and they were not doing FUNKY BROADWAY at such clubs. Maybe some adult might like our versions of standards, and might buy our album. If we wanted to eat we had to do ADULT SUPPER CLUBS. I defend our recording and performing pop standards. Dave Bupp


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