Stan Devereaux isn’t in any hall of fame, and he’s never topped the Billboard charts. But the R&B singer is an important player in Arizona's rich music history, an unsung talent deserving of his time in the sun.
On July 5, President Gator Records pays homage to Devereaux with Stars of the Southwest, featuring four previously unreleased songs. Devereaux and his band, The Trendsetters, recorded "Merry Go Round" and "All Over Now" at San Diego’s Quad Room in 1967, and later cut two covers of "This Diamond Ring" and "Conjure Woman" with Phoenix percussionist Steve Forman. The EP is rounded out with Devereaux’s only previous single, "Sad Tomorrows" b/w "Know That It's Happenin.'"
Stars contains deeply whimsical music, a blend of funk, soul, folk, and R&B driven by Devereaux’s earnest crooning. More than just some artifact, the EP spotlights Arizona’s dynamic R&B and soul scene of the 1960s. Then enrolled at ASU, local music historian John "Johnny D" Dixon witnessed the era firsthand when he played with Devereaux in 1967.
"His drummer had got some weird thing, and they asked if I got a set of drums," Dixon said. "I was familiar (with his music), so I said yes. A two-week engagement at the Quad Room turned into three months. I didn't come back for my junior year." The pair later became friends as Dixon moved into archival work.
Dixon says the Arizona scene at the time was wholly unique, with "hot summers (doing) something to people’s brains," and the resulting music hummed with a twang and intensity unlike other cities. Dixon remembers Devereaux as being "young and hip," a great vocalist who was "old enough to appreciate doo-wop but also a lot of that funk stuff," helping push the scene creatively.
It was Dixon's archives that drew the attention of President Gator's owner, Jeremiah Gratza, who recognizes the slew of talent from Arizona in the '60s, referencing Eddie & Ernie, Soul Blenders, and Small Paul, among others. However, Gratza says Devereaux's music is "just as good, if not better than, everyone else better known than him in the scene."
Devereaux fondly recalls his early career, noting that Phoenix was composed mostly of musicians and friends from other small Arizona towns. Moving from Tucson to Phoenix, he says, exposed him to opportunities he might not have had otherwise. "I got to go sit in the with The Human Beinz in Hollywood," he says. "I couldn't go to Hollywood and then wanna come back to Safford."
In the late ‘60s, Devereaux took his act international, playing throughout the U.K., Spain, and Brazil as well as working with iconic acts like Sly and the Family Stone and the Doobie Brothers. In recent years, Devereaux's made regular appearances at Phoenix clubs like The Rhythm Room.
Devereaux only released the one single, common for an era marked by lackluster management and discriminatory practices, says Dixon. But as he explains it, Devereaux was happy to entertain.
"I don't have any regrets," he says. "I'm a singer and I've always been a singer. When I die, I'm gonna be a singer."
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At 73, Devereaux lives in Safford with family, still playing infrequently with his band The Funky Suns. He calls performing nowadays "different," which may have just as much to do with age as an increasingly younger fan base. Either way, Devereaux is pleased with this uptick in attention, adding, "I just love singing. As long as people enjoy it, I’m there."
Gratza, meanwhile, says R&B and soul music of the era's always proven inspirational, referencing how Tupac's "If My Homie Calls" samples Dyke and The Blazers' "Let a Woman Be a Woman." Stars, then, could open an entire generation to Devereaux's soulful styling.
"Who knows what spark of inspiration Stan's songs could lend to future musicians?" Gratza says.
Stars of the Southwest will be released as a 10-inch vinyl on July 5 via President Gator Records, and features several '60s press photos. Orders are available at hellomerch.com.