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Chaka's World Articles, Vol.I
'Rufus Talks Frankly About Fame And Stardom'
{Part I}
(Written By Doris Elkins For The January 1975 Issue of Black Stars Magazine)

www.come.to/chakasworld


About a year ago, I ran across Rufus in a local after hours discotheque. At that time, the group was doing a variety of music from country & western to gospel, from jazz to acid-rock. Chaka Khan, the young lady who did most of the lead vocals, and hard-playing drummer, Andre' Fischer, left a most unforgettable impression on the crowd in general (and me in particular).

There are a lot of singing groups on the street and on record making music trying to get over, but Rufus seems to have a special magic about it; a certain individuality. A spell they cast on their dancing audience. An energy they offered insweet and funky phrases that pulled people to their feet and inspired crowds to sing along and hand clap.

It was Andre', the drummer, who arranged the interview for BLACK STARS. The group and I met at the Los Angeles ABC/Dunhill Recirds Studio. They struggled in one and two at ther time, until nearly forty-five minutes later, we were seated around a long, hardwood table in the conference room.

Nate Morgan, piano player with Rufus, did not come, but all the others were there, in addition to a girlfriend & their business consultant.

The night before, I reviewed their opening at the Whiskey-A-Go-Go, a popular night spoton Sunset Strip. They were dressed very similarly off stage as they were on stage; casual, relaxed, ands unpretentious in jeans, floppy hats, and sport shirts. Everyone looked fresh and seemed to have an abundance of energy.

I noticed right away that Chaka and Andre' were the only two of three early members of Rufus that were left. There was an obvious personnel change. Sweeping their faces, I recognized the third person, Kevin Murphy, who goes back even further, and in fact, is considered the only original member.

Kevin is an all-around, get-down keyboard man, playing a variety of keyboard instruments, and playing all of them well. He was a member of the Chicago-based band when Chaka Khan used to hang out back stage, and listen to the innovative, versatile sound of the new group, who called themselves Rufus. One night, the regular female vocalist with the group didn't show up.Chaka stepped into the vacant spot, and has been with them ever since.

I asked them how they got their record contract with ABC/Dunhill. Andre' took the lead answering confidently. "Through Bob Monaco.He was associated with the early Rufus, and came out to listen to our new group at a club, went back, and told the company that he dug it, and came backout again with a work budget".

Their first ABC/Dunhill recorded effort certainly did get it on, and was called simply 'Rufus'(1973). It featured Chaka, Kevin, bassist Denny Belfield, guitarist Al Ciner, keyboard man Ron Stockert, and of course the powerful drummer, Andre' Fischer. That was the group that I was first familiar with.

Andre' explained that during the first part of 1974, Denny, Al, and Ron left Rufus to persue writing & studio work. They had become tired of tours & one-nighters, and wanted to explore other musical directions. With the addition of guitarist Tony Maiden and Bobby Watson on bass (both formerrly with Billy Preston), and also charismatic Nate Morgan on electric piano, a rich new sound was born. A brand new Rufus took shape.

After spending time with these six talented musicians, it does, not take long to realize that Rufus is a group of humble, beautiful people who have paid their dues, and are seeking to reach their star; to twinkle a while. They are quick to pay tribute to those whohave helped them along the way, like Bob Monaco (their producer) who allowed them freedom to arrange and record their material in addition to making creative changes without feeling threatened or hassled.

However, more than occasionally, the wear and tear and bright lights of the entertainment industry has a tendency to rip quite a few groups apart. I was inquisitive as to what the magic of the law was within the new Rufus that would keep it together, functioning as a unit. Once again, Andre' ansered with authority:

"We're minstrels, so to speak", he said. "We carry a message, not a supreme message, but simplya means of expressing ourselves to others.After all, music is communication.We don't like unhappy songs.We don't like unhappy things.We like songs that make people happy, because we're reflecting in our music, how we want things to be".

If you ask Rufus what they attribute their indiuality to, the five men of the group are quick to answer;"Chaka Khan!". Chaka, the sixth member, is a petite, sexy lady who acts as the featured vocalist (also friend, mama, and confidant!). Her hair flies electrically around her face and both excitement & appreciation of life radiate from her, and reaches across the room at you. Professionally, Chaka Khan has been involved with music from age four. She is also multi-talented, and plays several instruments in addition to having a distinctive vocal style very much her own. She and business consultant Bob Ellis (married to Diana Ross), told me that in the near future she would be seen on stage playing a bass. Additionally, she plays drums, piano, guitar, tambourine, and other percussion instruments.

"They used to call me Lil' Aretha", she laughs, letting her head fall back, and shaking that crazy natural hair style in attractive disarray. They may have called her Lil' Aretha once, but today there is little doubt that Chaka stands alone in style & presentation. She and Aretha do have a few things in common. That is, they are both born under the fire sign Aries, and they wereraised in fast Midwest cities; Aretha in Detroit and Chaka in neighboring Chicago.

"I'm really kind of jazz oriented.I think of myself as a horn.A saxophone", she confided. Certainly if you are familiar with the 'Rags To Rufus' album, or their hit single 'Tell Me Something Good', you will agree that Chaka blows her vocal horn with taste & ease as she slides up & down the scale singing the Rufus interpretation of another Stevie Wonder original.

{Continued in Part II!}