Rare Earth

The roots of what would become Rare Earth began when saxophonist Gil Bridges and drummer Peter Rivera formed their first R&B band, The Sunliners in Detroit in 1961. Bass player John Parrish joined in 1962, guitarist Rod Richards and keyboards player Kenny James followed in 1966. Other members who drifted in and out of the band included Ralph Terrana (keyboards), Russ Terrana (guitar) and Fred Saxon (saxophone). After years of playing in local clubs and releasing unspectacular records on Hercules and Golden World, they signed with MGM / Verve to record their first album "Dreams Answers" as Rare Earth in 1968. A single called "Land Of Nod", which combined Rock, Soul and Physcedelia, was chosen as their first 45. Eventually they caught the ear of session-man Dennis Coffey who recommended them to his bosses at Motown Records. The group signed with the label in 1969 and in a brilliant marketing move by Motown executives, it was decided to match the band's name with their new record label: Rare Earth. Their first single release, "Generation" was chosen as the theme song to the movie of the same name which starred David Janssen, Kim Darby and Pete Duel. The film was a flop and the LP that had been recorded to be issued as "Generation" was scrapped in favor of a third LP, "Ecology".

The band finally found a breakthrough hit with a Rock-flavored version of the Temptations' "Get Ready" which reached #4 in the U.S. The single was edited down from a twenty minute recording that occupied one side of their debut Motown album and not only showcased the band's instrumental prowess, but also typified their tendency towards artistic excess. Following the same formula, their second single was a cover version of another Temptations' classic, "I'm Losing You", which brought them a #7 hit in 1970. The following year saw "Born To Wander" climb to #17.

As is the case with so many Rock groups that taste success, disputes between band members plagued Rare Earth. The band had suffered the first in a bewildering series of personnel changes that dogged their progress over the next decade as Rod Richards and Kenny James were replaced by Ray Monette and Mark Olson respectively and Ed Guzman was added on percussion. This change in line-up led to a complete revamp of the band's style. Rare Earth proved that they could also write original material when "I Just Want To Celebrate" made it to #7 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the Summer of 1971. Early 1972 saw them back in the Top 20 with "Hey Big Brother".

In 1973 The Temptations' mentor Norman Whitfield was brought in to produce the highly regarded LP "Ma", but if failed to produce a hit single. Motown recorded a double live set in 1974 "Live In Chicago", which was not released due to poor quality. By the time that "Back To Earth" was issued in 1975, another series of personnel changes had swept through the group, as lead singer / drummer Peter Rivera had left the band. The new line-up made a brief visit to the Billboard Top 40 when "Warm Ride" peaked at #39 during a two week run in the Summer of 1978, but subsequent singles proved commercially unsuccessful.

When Peter Rivera re-joined the band in 1980, they signed to RCA and recorded an album called "Tight & Hot". Oddly, the album got a Canadian release only and quietly faded away. Rivera left the group again in 1983 and for a time, the band appeared lifeless. In 1985 a new line up with Gil Bridges, Ray Monette, Eddie Guzman, Mark Olsen, Jerry La Bloch and Randy Bergdoff resurfaced and began playing live dates. Rare Earth toured Europe for the first time with yet another line up, with Mark Olson being replaced by Rik Warner and Wayne Barracks joining as lead vocalist. Recording a live CD, "Made In Switzerland" in 1989, showed what a great live band that Rare Earth still was. That was followed by the studio album "Different World" in 1992. Both efforts showed that Rare Earth could still turn out top quality performances and recordings.

For over forty years Rare Earth continued as a working outfit which has seen many members come and go. While being semi-retired from the music business, Peter Rivera later appeared with a touring group known as Classic All Stars, which also featured former members of Sugarloaf and Iron Butterfly. Sadly John Persh, Mark Olsen and Eddie Guzman have passed away. In 2005, Rare Earth was inducted into the Michigan Rock and Roll Legends online Hall of Fame. The band's first big hit, "Get Ready", was voted a Legendary Michigan Song in 2011. Rare Earth still had a light touring schedule in America that stretched into 2016 and 2017.

For a behind the scenes look at Rare Earth, be sure to read Gary James interview with Peter Rivera