The American Breed – “Bend Me, Shape Me”

Short career summation of The American Breed

The American Breed was a 1960’s pop rock band formed in Illinois in 1966 under the name of Gary & the Knight Lites. A short time later they changed their name to The American Breed and signed a recording contract with Dot Records subsidiary Acta Records, where they made four albums in two years and had four songs reach The Billboard Hot 100 singles chart. The band started at a time when Chicago was home to a number of talented young groups lead by the Chicago Transit Authority (Chicago), which helped the band get national exposure. The original band consisted of Gary Loizzo (Vocals, Guitar) Al Ciner (Guitar), Chuck Colbert (Bass) & Lee Graziano (Drums). Kevin Murphy (Keyboards) joined the band later. The band (minus Gary Loizza) later reformed as the 1970’s R&B band Rufus, recruiting Chaka Khan to be their lead singer.

The American Breed lasted only a little over three years, but left us with one very recognizable Top Ten hit (#5 Billboard) “Bend Me, Shape Me.” Their other Billboard Hot 100 hits include: “Green Light,” “Step Out of Your Mind,” “Ready, Willing and Able” & “Anyway That You Want Me.” Their biggest selling album was the 1968 Acta Records “Bend Me, Shape Me” (#99 Billboard 200) release.

As Gary and the Knight Lites

The origins of American Breed came from Cicero, Illinois in 1966. Originally they started as Gary and the Knight Lites. The first lineup consisted of Gary Loizzo (vocals), Charles Colbert Jr. (bass), Al Ciner (guitar), and Lee Graziano (drums). who all came from the greater Chicago area. They gained much attention in Chicago and released one record.

The group underwent several changes. By the time they were signed to Dot Record’s subsdiary Acta, Gary and the Knight Lites renamed themselves as The American Breed. Moreover, they welcomed two new members into the fold: Kevin Murphy (keyboards) and Andre Fischer (drums).

Turning into American Breed; their biggest hit with “Bend Me, Shape Me.”

As The American Breed, they enjoyed their first chart success with “Step Out of Your Mind” which went to Billboard Hot 100 at #24 in 1967. It was followed by “Don’t Forget About Me” which became only a minor hit.

Later that same year The American Breed released another single “Bend Me, Shape Me” which was written by Scott English and Larry Weiss. The song gave The American Breed their biggest hit, peakinga at #5 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #24 on the UK singles chart in early 1968. “Bend Me, Shape Me” sold over a million copies, and was awarded a gold disc. The album, also titled Bend Me, Shape Me was also a Billboard 200 album chart hit (at #99). They also had a Top 40 pop hit with “Green Light” (at #39) in 1968.

From American Breed to Rufus

After their big hits, the group underwent several changes. First with the names — “The Breed,” “Smoke,” and later “Ask Rufus.” They also added a female singer named Paulette McWilliams, who was later replaced by future star Chaka Khan, who also to be McWilliams’ friend. With Khan, the group settled on Rufus. Fischer, who had quit the American Breed earlier, joined the band after it became Rufus.

Other songs by the American Breed

Other songs by The American Breed include: “Keep the Faith,” “Mindrocker,” “Don’t Forget About Me,” “Short Skirts,” “I Don’t Think You Know Me,” “Can’t Make It Without You,” “When I’m With You,” “Give Two Young Lovers a Chance,” “Private Zoo,” “Same Old Thing,” “Cool It (We’re Not Alone),” “Master of My Fate,” “The Brain,” “Don’t It Make You Cry,” “Take Me If You Want Me,” “Hunky Funky,” “Bird,” “River of No Regrets,” “Walls” & “Enter Her Majesty.”