The group Gary and the Knight Lites was formed in 1958 by Gary Loizzo and Al Ciner on guitars, Charles Colbert, Jr. on bass guitar, and Jim Michalak on drums. All of the members except the drummer also shared vocals, with Gary usually singing lead. They played part-time as a band while keeping busy in school and their day jobs for nearly a decade.
In 1967 the group was signed to a contract with Acta Records and forced to change their name to The American Breed. The group recorded Step Out Of Your Mind and the single promptly rose to #24 in the Hot 100. Their next single, Don’t Forget About Me, barely missed the Hot 100. Their third single that year was a cover of a sound previously recorded by the Outsiders, Bend Me, Shape Me. The American Breed’s version reached number five and went on to sell over a million copies.
Keyboard player Kevin Murphy joined the group
From 1965 to 1969, Coca Cola paid an impressive list of bands to record jingles to use on radio ads that featured the line, “Things go better with Coke.” The American Breed recorded two jingles for them that sounded better than many songs currently on the radio. The second jingle contained complex harmonies but it was the first jingle that turned into a regular recording. The group simply changed the line, “Let’s go get a coke,” to “Girl, we’re not alone,” and extended the song to two minutes and included Cool It (We’re Not Alone) a year later on their third album.
They also recorded jingles for several other companies.
Paulette McWilliams joined the group after their third album to provide a more R&B vocal sound, but the single Hunky Funky did not impress anybody.
When it became clear that no hit singles would be forthcoming, Gary left the group and opened his own recording studio to produce commercials and other recording acts. He eventually was nominated for a Grammy for his work with Styx.
The remaining members of the group changed their name to Smoke, then to Ask Rufus, and finally to Rufus. In 1974, Paulette left the group and she was replaced by Chaka Khan. Their single Tell Me Something Good jumped to #3 on the charts and the group was renamed Rufus Featuring Chaka Khan. That group sold a lot of records.
Chaka Khan became a solo act in 1983. The original members of the American Breed reformed in 1986. They recorded a new album before splitting up permanently.