The Mad Lads (1964–1972)

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The Mad Lads were vocalists of soul/funk, R&B from Memphis, Tennessee. They were led by founding members tenor John Gary Williams who was born in the city on September 15, 1946. Other members included bass/baritone Julius Eichenfeldt Green, born October 30, 1947, in Memphis, tenor William C. Brown III, born June 30, 1946, in Perth Amboy, New Jersey, and Memphis native baritone Robert Phillips born on July 19, 1945. The quartet were students attending Memphis’ Booker T. Washington High School. They were first called the Emeralds. However, the Stax/Volt Records’ publicity director created a new name for the teenagers, the Mad Lads.

During the 1960s when the United States was engaged in an expanding conflict in Vietnam, Mad Lads members Williams and Brown were drafted into the United States Army. In 1968 when Williams and Brown were honorably discharged, after fulfilling their military obligation Williams was reinstated as the lead vocalist and his velvet tone voice added to the group’s success. 

The Mad Lads have a string of single recordings that reach the Billboard Hot 100 R&B chart in the 1960s. These included their Volt label debut, “Don’t Have to Shop Around,” which peaked at #93 in 1965, “I Want Someone,” with the flip side called “Nothing Can Break Through” (1965) which peaked at #74 and remained on the charts for six weeks. “Patch My Heart” peaked at #41 and stayed charted for two weeks in 1966. That same year, “I Want A Girl” peaked at #16, and remained on the charts for seven weeks. It was followed by “So Nice” that peaked at #35, staying on charts for four weeks, and “Whatever Hurts You” that reached 31 and on the charts for seven weeks in 1968. In 1969 they recorded the country music hit, “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” that reached #84 and stayed on the charts for two weeks in the shadow of Isaac Hayes much bigger hit of the same name.  

The Mad Lads disbanded in 1970 but reunited in 1984 because of the ongoing demand for their stellar performances and exciting choreography. The group and continued to record and perform off and on for many years afterward. They produced four albums during the 1980s ending with Madder Than Ever released by Volt Records in 1990.

Julius Eichenfeldt Green died on January 14, 2013, in Amsterdam, Holland, at the age of 66; William C. Brown III died in Memphis on July 24, 2015, at 69, and John Gary Williams died on May 28, 2019, in East Memphis. He was 73.