Whatever Happened To R.B. Greaves?

One of the original goals of the GMC was to provide a place for fans of the music of the past to participate — not only by reading about the music and the performers (and listening to it!) but also by taking advantage of the ‘comment’ feature to have lively and informative discussions.

A good example is one of our most popular pieces, Dave ‘Baby’ Cortez And His Happy Organ, which has over two dozen comments. Those include praise from fans, comments from former friends and bandmates, and even several from his daughter, Taryn, whose presence completely revitalized the discussion. Media folks weighed in with interview requests, one thing led to another, and it appears that Dave is now working again.

All the credit goes to Dave and his family and friends so don’t think I’m trying to claim any, but it’s obvious that the GMC can sometimes be a kind of catalyst in reconnecting people. Which brings us to the original subject of this post, singer R.B. Greaves, who made a big splash in 1969 with “Take a Letter Maria.”

His story is an interesting one. Born as Ronald Bertram Aloysius Greaves III on an Air Force base in British Guyana during World War II, he grew up on a Seminole reservation but then moved to England as an adult. By the early 1960s he was performing as an R&B singer known as Sonny Childe and was leading a group called the TNT’s, but success was elusive even though he had a famous uncle — Sam Cooke.

Within a few years things changed. A song Greaves had written — “Take a Letter Maria” — had sold a lot of records for Tom Jones and Stevie Wonder, and that helped pave the way for the composer’s own record. It was a huge hit and gave a big lift to his career, but even though follow-up records like “Always Something There to Remind Me” and his rendition of Procol Harum’s “A Whiter Shade of Pale” did reasonably well, things went downhill after that.

Greaves made an attempt at a comeback in the 1970s but has not been much heard from since. There is a little information about him at various websites, but it’s mostly repetitive and seems to have a lot of gaps in his later years. Does anybody know what R.B. Greaves is up to these days?

R.B. Greaves – “A Whiter Shade Of Pale”

10 thoughts on “Whatever Happened To R.B. Greaves?

  1. I can’t help you with recent information on R.B. However, this is just another example of our minds running in parallel, I’m featuring him on Sunday in my column, saying pretty much the same as you have. It’s already written but I’ll leave a message asking if they have information and send them in your general direction.


  2. We do seem to cross paths fairly regularly. I don’t know where you get your inspiration, but in this case I clearly remember my own. I was reading one day and had the TV tuned to the cable music ‘oldies’ channel. When they played “Take a Letter Maria” my ears perked up and I said to myself, I wonder whatever happened to R.B. Greaves?. (I often speak to myself and usually answer too, at which point Mrs. BigGeez rolls her eyes.)


  3. The most interesting fact here is that not only does RB Greaves sound like the great Sam Cooke, but he is indeed related to him !…
    “Take A Letter Maria” could have been a late 60s hit for Cooke if he had lived (he was murdered in 1964)- the resemblance is amazing !
    I remember buying the ’45 when I was a young kid and I didn’t even know who Sam Cooke was…


  4. During the late 80’s & early 90’s R.B. was living in the L.A. area and was working for a company in the Glendale area (Applied Graphics Technologies). He was still writing music at that time but more of a country style. After leaving AGT I lost track of him.


  5. I met him once back in the early 80’s in Hollywood when I was working at Paramount Studios. I went out for lunch and ran into him on the street. He was heading back to a little recording studio I think was on Gower st. I can’t remember. I told him that I recognized him from the weekend before when he was performing at the Maracopa Inn in Maracopa. He was very friendly and told me to drop in sometime and watch him rehearse. I never did but I’ll always remember how friendly he was.


  6. I am so danged sad… just finding out he died days ago. My husband and I were close friends with RB… when he and Maura met and we hung out constantly… for 30 years… RB seemed to always call me when he was down or had too much. I loved that man… He adored Fred (who died 7 years ago)… and for 5 years we lost touch. I know I have many photos of our good old days in Hollywood… jammin. Guitars and singing… and more. What fun… we were all young and foolish and it was the best. RIP… it is so nice to see you guys here who knew him. A beautiful voice…. wow


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