Originating in Cleveland, OH, S.O.U.L. stood for "Sounds of Unity and Love." The members were Lee Lovett (bass), Gus Hawkins (sax/flute), Paul Stubblefield (drums), and Walter Winston (guitar). Larry Hancock (vocals/organ) was added in 1971 and Bernard (Beloyd) Taylor (guitar) replaced Winston in 1972. All had been involved in music before the formation of S.O.U.L. The fellows entered a battle-of-the-bands contest in 1970, sponsored by the May Company department store in Cleveland, WHK radio station, and Musicor Records. The group won the first prize of 1,000 dollars and a recording contract with Musicor. They traveled to New York City in 1971 and recorded a 45 entitled "Down in the Ghetto Parts I & II" which exceeded the expectations of Musicor by doing so well regionally. They cut a second single, then were invited back to New York to record an album. What It Is consisted of seven tracks and illuminated the versatility of the band. They did covers of jazz and funk tunes to augment their two singles. It did quite well, cracking the Top 40 album spot on Billboard's soul album chart and nesting there for two months. The album was released in the United Kingdom and other European countries in the early '90s on the BGP label where S.O.U.L. is a cult figure.
Bassist Lee Lovett was born in Detroit but moved to Cleveland in the late '50s. He led a popular band entitled Lee Lovett and the Dynamic Sounds in the '60s who played live gigs and backed some local acts in the studios.
Sax/flute player Gus Hawkins was born in Oakwood, where minorities were as scarce in the '50s and '60s as Dixie Peach hair dressing. It was an upper-middle-class village about 13 miles from Cleveland. He learned to play tenor sax in Oakwood's schools as a member of the band. Leaving school in the '60s, he moved to Cleveland and joined the Futuretones.
Around the time S.O.U.L. began work on their third LP, Winston quit the group and was replaced by Bernard "Beloyd" Taylor. Beloyd's birth place is a mystery, but he grew up in Cleveland. With Taylor, they enjoyed their most successful single, "This Time Around," which made the Top 50 R&B. The next release, "The Jones," written by Lee Lovett, entered the Top 100 and hung around for ten weeks.
After a few more releases the guys split up, going their separate ways. Gus Hawkins went to school and became a phlebotomist, then worked at the Cleveland Clinic before moving to Atlanta, GA, to work and raise his family. Paul Stubblefield joined a ten-member group called the Rasts, recording and touring before becoming a member of the Murphys (a lounge act). He also toured with various versions of the Ink Spots and the Platters before moving to Phoenix, AZ. Taylor moved to Los Angeles and wrote "Get Away" for Earth, Wind & Fire in 1976. He also recorded solo for 20th Century Records and later toured with Earth, Wind & Fire. Lee Lovett stayed in Cleveland and recorded tracks with other groups.
Hancock has been active since the breakup of S.O.U.L., recording with two versions of Truth. The first group featured Hancock, Al Boyd, Leo Green, and Russell Watts. Al Boyd later co-wrote "Shakey Ground" for the Temptations (it was redone by Phoebe Snow). Truth recordings failed to chart and two members left, leaving Hancock and Green as Truth's only members. The two recorded an album on Devaki Records as Truth, entitled Coming Home, that fail to grab the public when released. Interestingly, Dennis Edwards had been kicked out of the Temptations and was hanging around Cleveland and played a big part in the Coming Home album. Hancock ventured back out to California and recorded for Decca Records including a duet with Alfie Silas before returning to Cleveland. He also sang with one of the Platters groups. Lead singer Sonny Turner ("With This Ring") is a Clevelander and they knew each other well.