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.