This four-piece outfit from Chicago (originally called Gary & The Knight Lites) enjoyed many hits in the late 60s, including Bend Me, Shape Me; Green Light; Step Out Of Your Mind and Ready, Willing and Able.
Their sound was sophisticated rock with an emphasis on harmonies (every band member sang), which also made the group in great demand in the lucrative radio jingles market, recording commercials for Coca-Cola, the US Navy and Bell Telephone, among others.
Their television commercial for American Airlines (“Fly the American Way”) was also a big success, and their songs were featured on the soundtrack to the films No Way to Treat a Lady (1968) and The Brain (1969).
Kevin Murphy joined on keyboards in 1968 with singer Paulette McWilliams added to the lineup in 1969 in a move towards a more R&B funk sound. The band dissolved shortly afterwards.
Bassist Chuck Colbert, drummer Lee “Buddha” Graziano, McWilliams, and Murphy regrouped as Smoke, who then changed their name to Ask Rufus (the title of a column in a mechanics magazine) and eventually simply ‘Rufus’ when vocalist Paulette McWilliams was replaced by Chaka Khan.
Ciner, Loizzo, Colbert, and Graziano briefly reunited in 1986 and recorded the album Once Again, featuring a new version of Bend Me, Shape Me.
Vocalist Gary Loizzo died of pancreatic cancer on 16 January 2016. He was 70.
Lee ‘Buddha’ Graziano
Drums, trumpet, vocals