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Motown 50 - remembering the Rustix


The Rustix' "Bedlam" album from 1969

In a prior article regarding Motown Records’ 50th anniversary, this writer promised to shine a spotlight on folks who either worked behind the scenes or recording acts who may not have had that big hit record, but deserve recognition for contributing to the Sound of Young America. This article will focus on the latter – a band that I heard on the radio while growing up in Rochester NY. This act was my hometown’s contribution to the Motown Sound yet national success eluded them. They were called the Rustix.

Formed in 1966, the group consisted of co-lead singers Chuck Brucato & Al Galich, Bob D’Andrea (guitar), Vince Strenk (keyboards), Bobby Blando – replaced by David Colon (drums). Kit Nelson was their bass guitarist until he was replaced by Bob Sohner in 1968. Bob then left the band a year later & Ron Collins came in before they signed with Motown. George Cochini was their lead guitarist.

The Rustix were known in the Rochester area for Chuck & Al’s tight harmonies and the band’s precision musicianship – the result of a rigid rehearsal schedule where the members encouraged & challenged each other to be disciplined with their craft. They played gigs in the area such as The Airport In at Lake George for two summers (in 1967 & ’68), the Brighton Bowl & Club 45. Businessman Charles Leone & radio personality Ferdinand J. Smith III (of WBBF-AM) took an interest in the Rustix and signed on as the band’s management team.

The group recorded a couple of singles for Columbia Records & the Chess label in 1968. Neither recordings sold much but did create a stir among their fans. A year later, the band along with Leone & Smith heard that Motown was launching a rock label & were looking for acts. Motown was no stranger to the rock market – they had groups from the Michigan area such as the Underdogs & the Ones as well as the Canadian-based now-legendary Mynah Byrds (whose members included Neil Young & the late Rick James). By 1969, with progressive rock radio dominating the FM dial and the Woodstock festival attracting a half-million folks, Motown was ready to dive into the lucrative rock market with their new subsidiary, Rare Earth. That year, the Rustix were signed to the label & songwriter/producer R. Dean Taylor was assigned the task of producing their debut album.

“Bedlam” – the Rustix’ first disc – was released in December 1969 in an album cover that was shaped like the Rare Earth logo (arched top) and tunes that came from the band’s tight music sets. A combination of originals and outside material, “Bedlam” featured their rock-soul versions of “Feelin’ Alright” & “I Heard It Through The Grapevine”, a gritty take on the ballad “Free Again” as well as songs written by Chuck Brucato & Al Galich – “Can’t You Hear The Music Play”, “Country”, “I Can’t Make It Without You”, “Lady In My Dreams”, “That’s What Papa Told Me” & “Wednesday’s Child.” According to drummer David Colon in an on-line interview, the band was happy with the production until the label had overdubbed strings on a few of their tracks, which – in the band’s collective opinion – changed their sound. Even though “Bedlam” charted on Billboard’s album listings & the label released “Free Again” as a single, neither LP nor single moved out of the magazine’s lower rankings.

The “Bedlam” album did make enough noise nationally on radio (due to Ferdinand’s broadcasting contacts) to earn the Rustix some key gigs as the opening act for some major hit-makers. David Colon explained that the group opened for Jimi Hendrix, the Rascals, Emerson Lake & Palmer, Three Dog Night, Grand Funk Railroad, the Four Tops and – yes – the band Rare Earth. The group went back to Detroit in 1970 and recorded their second disc, “Come On People”. This time, no string orchestras or slick horn arrangements – the band took control of the production and came up with a more stripped-down self-contained effort. Their treatments of Aretha’s “Do Right Woman – Do Right Man” as well as Otis Redding’s “Hard To Handle” found Chuck & Al in fine voice while the originals (from Chuck’s pen) – “Billie’s Gone”, “Cry Another Day Away”, “Maple Shade Country Day” & “Dress Colored Lavender Blue” had the band exploring rock, folk, R&B and even a touch of country. The “Come On People” album is considered by fans to be more in line of what the Rustix wanted to do musically.

Unfortunately, “Come On People” and its singles didn’t do as well chart or sales wise. The group had become frustrated with having no hit records and the stress from touring. Meanwhile, Motown/Rare Earth wanted them to try recording “We’ll All End Up In Boxes”, written by Mike Valvano. With Valvano as producer, the tune was released in 1971 (with “Down Down” as the b-side) and did earn some national airplay at first before it fell off radio station play lists a couple of weeks later. By 1972, the Rustix felt that they hit a brick wall with the music career and disbanded.

Although they got back together in Rochester NY for a one-time only concert in 1979, the Rustix have not reunited for any recordings or tours since they disbanded. Chuck Brucato returned to Rochester where he had a successful career producing ad jingles for radio & TV (including the theme music for the CBS Movie Of The Week). When I met Chuck at a local oldies dance in 1986 & showed him my copies of the Rustix’ albums his only response was “yeah – they were all good songs.” I was later told that he was still sad that the Rustix’ didn’t have hit records.

As of now, only the Rustix singles have been reissued as part of Motown’s Complete Singles collections (for 1969, 1970 & 1971). T.W. Collins – the son of bassist Ron Collins – has an excellent set of Rustix photos posted through Flickr as well as David Colon’s fine overview of the group’s career. This writer does hope that Universal Music Group (owners of the Motown catalog) will someday reissue the Rustix’s two albums.

The Rustix was and is a band that is treasured by those that remember them. With their music, they certainly earned their place in the history of Motown Records.

(Thanks to T.W. Collins’ site for much of the information regarding the Rustix)
 

Chuck's MySpace page - http://www.myspace.com/chuckbrucato
T.W. Collins' Flick site - http://www.flickr.com/photos/twcollins/sets/72057594077213882/
The Rustix Feelin' Alright - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u8QU1hOCcTo 
We All End Up In Boxes - http://www.imeem.com/rnbmusic4/music/lNRS0vOP/the-rustix-we-all-end-up-in-boxes/
Come On People - http://www.imeem.com/rnbmusic2/music/9kbva_bl/the-rustix-come-on-people/

Comments

  • Ralph Terrana 5 years ago

    Nice piece, Kev. I remember talking quite a bit about the group with Mike Valvano as he went through the production process with them.

  • Doug Shirk 5 years ago

    Nice article. The Rare Earth label sure was an odd duck. As I understand it, Motown wanted to get into the White rock market witout compromising their Soul labels, thus Rare Earth Records. The sad part was that they appeared to have no clue on what they were doing, how to market to this audience, and how to sign and promote its bands, acting like a pop label in a non pop world....

  • Ms. M 5 years ago

    Wow Kev, I wasn't familiar with the Rustix. Thanks for bringing this to the light.

  • Cindy 5 years ago

    Nice job, kiddo! I remembered the name of the band but not the details. Thanks for providing the background and updates on a cool band.

  • Chuck Brucato 5 years ago

    Kevin:
    Thanks so much for your nice article. I still am in touch with the remaining Rustix members and R, Dean Taylor. MIke Valvano is sadly missed. The Motown experience was quite a ride.

  • Mike Barnes 2 years ago

    CHUCK, EVERYBODY FROM ROCHESTER BACK THEN STILL REMEMBERS YOU AND THE BAND AND THE AIRPLAY IT GOT ON BBF

  • AL Galich 5 years ago

    Thank's Kevin, I can't beleive that after all these years people still remember our band! It's good for the soul.

  • TW Collins 4 years ago

    Hey Kevin, I just came across your blog by chance; what a cool surprise and an awesome article!

    I'm very happy to hear that my flickr photographs were helpful too. Thank you for the shout-out.

    Being a kid during the band years was an amazing thing. I hope Al and Chuck see this again beacuse I would like to thank them along with my dad and the rest of the band for being the foundation that my huge love of music was built upon.

    Thanks again, Kevin!

    Best regards,
    Todd

  • Mike Fox 4 years ago

    I have met the all of the members over the years. I am a friend to Chuck's son Joey. There are a few inaccuracies: Free Again was a B-Side release to Come On People from the second album. Chuck and Al (The leaders of the group) were VERY happy with the first album and dislike the second one. Though tye agree there are a few gems. Finally, Only Chuck and Al appear on We All End Up In Boxes. The Funk Brothers back them up as on the follow up My Piece Of Heaven. Down Down (The flip for both) is an outtake from the sessions for the second album. Nice article though!

  • Kevin Goins 4 years ago

    Thanks for the comments, Mike. If you read the article I did mention that the group members were happy with the first album and the comment regarding the overdubbing of strings/horns came from group member David Colon's excellent write-up which was posted on T.W. Collins' site - so it seemed to be a concern from that point of view. Also, the comment regarding the Rustix' "Come On People" being a fan favorite is not inaccurate because I had spoken with many Rustix listeners who felt that "Come On People" was as good if not better than "Bedlam" - which had a more slick production. Overall, from Chuck & Al's comments they seemed happy with the article and I do thank you for your comments.

    Kevin Goins
    Milwaukee R&B Music Examiner
    (formerly of WVOR-FM/WHAM-AM of Rochester NY, 1983-1990)

  • Mike Barnes 4 years ago

    i"m a Rochester native,and i used to be a disco DJ in the 70's
    and always used to play free again as a slow dance.
    I had, but over the years lost, a couple of copies of
    Bedlam on vinyl Are there any CD's
    available outside of the Motown compilations?
    If no, why not? loved the sound..
    I still have the can't you hear the music play single,
    I got wilmer and the dukes and the soul brother six on CD,
    why not a reissue of Bedlam?

  • Kevin Goins 4 years ago

    Mike Barnes:
    Thanks for posting. I have been lobbying Universal Music Group in my own quiet way about reissuing the Rustix recordings. "Can't You Hear The Music Play", "Come On People" & "We All End Up In Boxes" have been reissued as part of Motown's Complete Singles Collections 1969-1970-1971 (along with B-sides) but that would require purchasing each anthology by year and each one has a TON of Motown's singles by their roster. The best thing to do is emailing Universal Music Group and lobbying.

    Kevin Goins
    Milwaukee R&B Music Examiner

  • Mike Fox 4 years ago

    Mike Barnes: I had a friend burn the albums onto CDa few years back. They sound OK. I'd be happy to copy it for you as a favor to someone who appreciates good music for nothing in exchange because I love the music that much.

    Otherwise if you are on ITunes ever, you can buy the 7 songs from the motown Comps on their own. Bolume 9 has Cant You Hear The Music Play (Short Version) & I Guess This Is Goodbye. Volume 10 has Come On People & Free Again (Short Single Edit). Volume 11 has We All End Up In Boxes, My Piece Of Heaven & Down Down. I can be contacted via myspace at www.myspace.com/redsoxqueen1. If you are interested, send me a mail on there and in the subject line put Rustix.

  • Kathy Maher 4 years ago

    I am a Rochester native and BIG fan. It was great to see your article. Grew up with AQ sock hops and LIVE bands. Rochester has brought up several great muscians. Thanks for the memories
    Would love to see the albumns re-released !

  • Mike Barnes 4 years ago

    to Mike Fox, I just ran across this column again
    If your offer still sytands I would love to take up your offer
    of a CD copy of Bedlam...I certainly appreciate your kindness call me at 770-906-5194 thanks again

  • Darrell 4 years ago

    I still have a (poor) copy of the 4/27/71 Rustix set opening for ELP & Procol Harum @ the Stanley Theatre in Pittsburgh, recorded on a small cassette recorder. Yes, it still plays. It was 5 songs and about 35 minutes long. I've been curious, for almost 40 years, what the set list was. The first two I have no idea of. I think the third is "Nowhere to Run?" The fourth keeps repeating "Compared to What?" The fifth is definitely "Gimme Shelter." Any input would be appreciated.
    dfrydlewicz@hotmail.com

  • Kevin Goins - KevGo 3 years ago

    "Compared To What" was a popular jazz-soul tune from 1969 recorded by pianist Les McCann with sax man Eddie Harris. They performed it at the Montreux Jazz Festival which was recorded & released on the album "Swiss Movement" on Atlantic Records. The record is worth having.

  • Gary 3 years ago

    I am a Rochester native, also. Grew up with all the great Rochester bands in the mid to late 60's. The Unbeatables, Invictas, Showstoppers, Brass Buttons etc. and one of my favorites, The Rustix. I knew Chuck Leone and did some bouncing for the Rustix when they were at Brighton Bowl and Gates Bowl. I always regretted turning down the opportunity to "go on the road" with them, but my "real job" came first. A lot of great memories. Like the night at Gates Bowl and a fight broke out. Tom Torpey was there, didn't know anyone, just walked around swinging at the guy next to him. It took 4 of us to get him outside. Great band though, always loved "Free Again" every time I got divorced especially.

  • Alf 3 years ago

    I remember the Rustix, when I was in Greece Olympia High School they played at several functions
    held @ School. As i remember they were the hottest group between 69-72 I seem to think they played
    at our Jr Prom. They were the best at that time. While Gap Manjoine played a lot at school in concerts
    and so forth and a hit among the school I prefered the harmony of the Rustix. In fact I was so taken
    with the group I purchased the Album Bedlem and stil have it to this day. tho I haven't played it in ages
    its like a blast from the past.

  • MR HITWAVE 2 years ago

    i WAS A TEENAGER IN ROCHESTER NY WHEN BEDLAM CAME OUT. i'VE HAD 2 VINYL COPIES OF THE ALBUM...BOTH LOST OVER THE YEARS......I'M NOW WAITING FOR A DIGITAL REISSUE...CAN ANYONE UPLOAD "FREE AGAIN" & "FEELING ALLRIGHT" SO I CAN DOWNLOAD IT..i ALREADY FOUND "CANT YOU HEAR THE MUSIC" BUT A DIGITAL VERSION OF THE LP WOULD BE GREAT.

  • Deb Vasile 2 years ago

    Man does this bring back memories. I was trying to download FREE AGAIN and came across this article. Would love to get my hands on that album again. Good times in Rochacha

  • Leadfoot 10 months ago

    I was in the legendary 'House of Guitars' in Rochester, recently, and they have CD copies available of the complete album 'Bedlam', with the additional tracks "Leaving Here" (one of my favorite Rustix tunes), and "We All End Up In Boxes"....

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