We show that a small subset of two to six subesophageal neurons, expressing the male products of the male courtship master regulator gene products fruitless Male (fru M), are required in the early stages of the Drosophila melanogaster male courtship behavioral program. Loss of fru M expression or inhibition of synaptic transmission in these fru M(+) neurons results in delayed courtship initiation and a failure to progress to copulation primarily under visually-deficient conditions. We identify a fru M-dependent sexually dimorphic arborization in the tritocerebrum made by two of these neurons. Furthermore, these SOG neurons extend descending projections to the thorax and abdominal ganglia. These anatomical and functional characteristics place these neurons in the position to integrate gustatory and higher-order signals in order to properly initiate and progress through early courtship.