Weather Updates

Popular band found its name in Popular Mechanics

1974: 'Rags Rufus'

1974: "Rags to Rufus"

storyidforme: 21051894
tmspicid: 8060350
fileheaderid: 3624102


1970: The band is formed as Ask Rufus.

1973: Name changed to Rufus.

1974: Release of “Rags To Rufus” album. The hit “Tell Me Something Good” earns Chaka Khan her first Grammy.

1975: Release of “Rufusized,” with the hit “Once You Get Started.”

Named changed to Rufus Featuring Chaka Khan.

1977: Release of “Ask Rufus,” the group’s biggest-selling album.

1978: Chaka Khan goes solo, although she would reunite with Rufus in 1981 for the album “Camouflage” and a concert at the Savoy in New York.

Article Extras
Story Image

Updated: January 4, 2012 3:31PM

Why a band called Ask Rufus? That is the question.

“Actually, the name came from a Popular Mechanics magazine,” Chaka Khan dished in a conversation from Los Angeles. “It was hunting and fishing tips.”

Khan credited original American Breed guitarist and Rufus guitarist Al Ciner for coming up with the name.

Ciner, 64, just returned to the Chicago area after spending a couple years in Texas playing with the late Jimy Rogers of the Chicago rock band the Mauds and Jerry Smith from the Chicago rock-horn band the Flock.

“Actually the Ask Rufus name came from Jimmy Stella, who was the front man with the original Rufus,” Ciner said from his home in Joliet. “The original configuration of the band was myself, Lee Graziano [drums], Kevin [Murphy], Charles [Colbert], he said, citing American Breed members. “And Jimmy, Paulette [McWilliams].

“And Willie Weeks [featured on Chicagoan Donny Hathaway’s epic live 1972 album] was our bass player. In fact, he was in town last year with Eric Clapton.”

© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit To order a reprint of this article, click here.