The Friends Of Distinction formed in Los Angeles in 1968 and secured a record deal with RCA thanks to their manager, Jim Brown, a star football player who had recently retired and was advancing his acting career. The male members were Harry Elston and Floyd Butler, who were members of a group called The Vocals, which toured with Ray Charles as part of his revue. After about three years, the group split, and Elston and Butler formed The Friends Of Distinction with Jessica Cleaves and Barbara Love.
"Grazing In The Grass" was their first single, and a huge hit. The follow-up, "Going in Circles," made #15 US, and in 1970 they had another hit with "Love or Let Me Be Lonely."
Group member Harry Elston wrote the lyric, which was inspired by his time on Ray Charles' tour when he would look out the window and see cows as they proceeded to the next stop. These cows got it made, he thought.
Harry Elston does the lead vocal, with every line answered by the other three singers with, "Grazin' in the grass is a gas, baby, can you dig it?"
This refrain incorporates two popular sayings of the era: "It's a gas" and "Can you dig it?"
This song is packed with vocal hooks, as the Friends scat-sing some very catchy lines:Rock it to me, sock it to me
I can dig it
He can dig it
She can dig it
We can dig it
They can dig it
You can dig it
Oh, let's dig it
It was the first big hit to incorporate "dig it" into the lyric, preceding "Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)
" ("dig it for a starter"), "Theme From Shaft
" ("can ya dig it?) and "Saturday In The Park
" ("Can you dig it? Yes, I can.).
When Elston came up with the lyric, he called the song "Flaking In The Grass" because he thought he had to choose a title of distinction. He learned that it was OK to use the same title as the song he was covering.
This was recorded at RCA Studio A in Los Angeles with a full orchestra, but no cowbell as heard on Masekela's original. The group was shocked when they saw how many musicians were there to record the song.
This was used in the following movies:
Game Boys (2008)
Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004)
I'm Gonna Git You Sucka (1988)
Raven Symone covered this for the 2004 direct-to-video Disney release The Lion King 1½. Others to cover it include Paul Young (1994), Boney James & Rick Braun (2000), and Dexys (2016).