Wayne Bickerton and Tony Waddington knew they had a hit when they wrote Sugar Baby Love. But without an act to record it, they did what many others were doing at the time and put together a group of session singers and went into the studio.
With Paul DaVinci on lead vocals, it became a bigger hit than they ever imagined, and a group was quickly put together – minus Paul, who had settled on a solo career achieving just one Top 20 hit in the same year with (the very Rubettes-like) Your Baby Ain’t Your Baby Anymore.
With a lineup including Alan Williams (vocals), Tony Thorpe (guitar and vocals), Bill Hurd (organ, piano and vocals), Pete Arnesen (piano), Mick Clarke (bass and vocals) and John Richardson (drums and vocals), The Rubettes went on to have several other Top Ten hits across Europe during the mid-1970s, such as Tonight, Juke Box Jive and I Can Do It, mostly written by the Bickerton/Waddington songwriting team.
Arnesen left the band in early 1975, and The Rubettes became a quintet. They abandoned their glam/nostalgia image in 1976 and embraced more serious material. Under One Roof (1976) was a portrayal of a gay man disowned and later murdered by his father (one of the few songs that tackled the topic of homophobia) and their most successful self-composed hit was the country-rock ballad Baby I Know, which reached #10 in the UK and Germany in 1977.
Keyboard player Bill Hurd left in 1976, and The Rubettes trimmed down to a four-piece outfit, concentrating their attention on Continental Europe, where their career went from strength to strength. Hurd resurfaced in 1979 in Suzi Quatro‘s band, recording and touring alongside her into the early Eighties.
Guitarist Tony Thorpe and the band parted ways over musical differences in 1979, and the group’s success began to dwindle. The band replaced Thorpe with Bob Benham, but he departed shortly thereafter, and the band dissolved in 1980.
The Rubettes reformed in 1982 to exploit the German market for 1970s nostalgia with a line-up consisting of Williams, Clarke, Hurd, and drummer Alex Bines. This line-up remained relatively stable until 1999, with the only line-up changes being the departure of Clarke in 1987, to be replaced first by Steve Kinch and then by Trevor Holliday, before returning in 1993.
Following the dissolution of the original band, Bill Hurd formed a version of the group with drummer Alex Bines, vocalist Paul Da Vinci, bassist Billy Hill and guitarist Rufus Ruffell. In 2000, Alan Williams formed his own version of the band along with Clarke, Richardson, and ex-Kinks keyboardist Mark Haley
In 2002, the group hit the headlines following an acrimonious split and legal action where the court ruled that both Alan Williams and Bill Hurd could tour as The Rubettes as long as it was made clear which member was fronting the band.
To add to the confusion further, founding members John Richardson and Mick Clarke decided to break away from Alan Williams and formed ‘The Rubettes featuring John, Mick, and Steve (Etherington)’ in 2019.
Guitar, keyboards, vocals