The original members of the group were Gary Loizzo on vocals, Charles Colbert, Jr. on bass guitar, Al Ciner on guitar, and Lee Graziano on drums. All members were from the greater Chicago area. As Gary & The Nite Lites, they were somewhat successful in Chicago and released one single. Soon afterwards, the group underwent several changes. They moved to the Acta record label and renamed themselves The American Breed. Two new members were also added by 1968: Kevin Murphy on keyboards and Andre Fischer on drums.
The band enjoyed its greatest success in 1967 and 1968. They released five singles that reached the charts, including "Step Out Of Your Mind", "Green Light" and "Bend Me, Shape Me". The group went through several more name and personnel changes, but with Ciner and Murphy remaining as core members through the changes. First was shortening the name to 'The Breed', then re-naming the band 'Smoke', before evolving to a R&Bfunk sound as 'Ask Rufus'. They added singer Paulette McWilliams, who was later replaced by Chaka Khan, and finally became Rufus, (former American Breed drummer Andre Fisher returned as Rufus's drummer during this period), and the band later scored their first Top 10hit under the Rufus name with "Tell Me Something Good" in 1974. Fischer later marriedNatalie Cole. A compilation album, Bend Me, Shape Me: The Best of the American Breed, was released in 1994. "Bend Me, Shape Me" continues to receive occasional airplay on oldiesradio stations.