Rufus Wonder

July 2003, and an email arrives from someone asking if I had a spare copy of a certain record...nothing new with that, as I get mails of this kind all the time. After the initial exchange of informing the guy of the current value and rarity of the disc in question, I then enquired as to why exactly he was after a copy in the hope that he was in some way associated with the recording...and on this occasion he most certainly was!

The disc in question is a quality slab of mid-60's Detroit soul at it's very best, and the only release the artist had..."Under the moon" by Rufus Wonder & The Additions on Lando Records. In answer to my mail on whether the mailer was in the group, I got the following reply,
"Yes, I was in the group, I am Rufus Wonder!"

Now, I must admit I was a little surprised as the mail was from a gentlemen with the name Mathew Breckenridge, of whom I'd never seen the name noted on any labels. So, naturally I enquired as to how he came to record uder the name Rufus Wonder;
"I was born in Bossier City, Louisiana and lived with my father, Rufus Harris, and mother Louise (Breckenridge} Harris, until I was three months old. My birth name is Arthur Lee Harris, or Matthew Breckenridge, depending on what side of the family you were on! I didn't like or want an MC calling me on stage as, 'Now Ladies, and Gentlemans, here is Breckenridge!', so I decided to change it. I was down South in Shreveport, Louisiana one Winter, when I saw this name on a ski equipment store, 'Wonderland Ski Supplies'. I kinda liked that, so at first I tried Rufus Wonderland! My father's name is Rufus, but I wasn't too happy with the 'land' bit, so I thought about it for a while longer. So, after graduating from High School I named myself Rufus Wonder."

Rufus found this site as he was after a copy of the 45, as he no longer had one, and someone told him to tap in his name into Google and see what happens. Fortunately the track was included within a playlist on here, so he dropped me a mail. My next question to him was about his backing group;
"When I signed up with Lando Records in Detroit, Michigan there was a group called the Editions, that according to the label manager had been hanging around the studio for quite some time without getting signed up. Since I was a vocalist I told the president that I wanted to hook up with the group, so that's how we got together; they then changed there name to the Additions. The members of the group were Horace Parker, Lionel Brown, Carl Johnson, and Kenneth (surname unknown)". 

Rufus wrote both sides of the 45 on Lando...the label being owned by Frank I. Robinson and Clifton Dickerson Jnr. Frank, who still resides in Detroit, had been a child-star, playing the piano on the Edd Sullivan TV show at the age of 4 or 5, using the name 'Sugar Chile Robinson'.
"I met Mr. Dickerson before I met Mr. Robinson. I was in a shoe shine parlor on Mack Avenue on  Detroit's Eastside, when someone introduced me to him. He invited me to his studio in the Fox Theater building, also in the Eastside at that time, and that's where and I also met Mr.Robinson. Also there were Carl Carlton, Edd Henry, and a writer producer by the name of Othea George, whom we called 'Billy'".

Rufus' personal manager at that time was Herman Davis, who was an excellent organ player, as he recalled, and also produced both sides of the 45 too. Rufus could be booked through the Rodgers & Rodgers Theatrical Enterprises at that point, where Mrs.Rodgers would book a lot of artists for Motown and other studios around Detroit, and that's where he met up with one a man from Motown;
"I met Mr. Charlie Atkins, one of the choreographers from Motown, there. He told me that I should get my songs choreographed too, and quoted me $125 per hour, but I never got back to him. To me that was a lot of money at that time, and I didn't know how many hours that it would have taken me, but now I wish I had taken him up on his offer!"
 
The very first gig that he got via Rodgers & Rodgers was at the Pinwheel Lounge, in Cleveland, Ohio. Before that though he worked through a theater group out of Chicago, Illinois;
"I did a lot of cabaret parties and concerts and worked with the promoter Jimmy Daniel, from the Shaw Artist Agency, out of New York. I worked with such artists as, The Mar Keys, William Bell, Christine Kitterell. I'd do one niters in Missouri, Indiana, and Illinois, and can recall being in Wisconsin, and Illinois with Harvey Scales, & The 7 Sounds, being booked via Dale Warren's agency out of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Dale picked me up in Chicago from the theater group that I was with at that time; we performed at the Saint Francis auditorium, and the pre-game show for the Chicago White Socks base-ball game in Chicago!" I have also been on shows with the Temptations, Billy Preston, and Joe Williams, and of course some with my friend Carl Carlton, too".

Rufus was not aware of the spelling variations of the label copies of his 45, as some state 'Lando' (blue stock copies and WDs) whilst others spell it 'Lendo' (WD's only). On further investigation by Rufus, Frank told him the 'Lendo' spelling was down to a typographical error. Initially they recorded the tracks at United Sound in Detroit, but all didn't go to plan;
"I did something that I was told not to do. I was told to make sure that I got proper rest before coming into the studio, but I thought that I could stay up all night long and party! It was hard to sleep any way, because I was excited about making the record! However, I found out that does not work well! We were recording with a live band, and there were other artists also awaiting their time slot that day. I didn't do a  good job, and learned my lesson the hard way!"

They tried again later that week, this time at another legendary Detroit studio, Golden World, where they took merely four takes to get "Under The Moon" to a stage where they were all happy. Rufus couldn't recall how many takes "So upset" took.


Rufus pictured at a Labour Day outing in Tilden Park,
in the Oakland / Berkeley Hills, in 1994

Rufus with Dennis Edwards in 2014
at the Heroes & Legends awards
in Hollywood.

Rufus at 3am at "Tee's Louisiana Playhouse",
in Oakland, California 
in November, 1974. Originally located at East 14th Street,  the address has recently changed name to International Blvd. 

I next asked Rufus how well he knew Carl Carlton, who would've been very young at this stage of his career...a mere twelve years old!
"I knew Carl very well, but the last time I saw him was in the '80's, in Hollywood. I went by the Paramont studios with him as he was in a recording a session there at the time. A DJ friend of mine Gary 'G.Spot' Baca, interviewed him recently on KPFA radio, in Berkeley, California, when Carl was performing up here in San Jose not so long ago".

Rufus could also recall that Carl sat in on the session when Rufus recorded "Under the moon/So upset", as was Bobby Bland,  Jackie Wilson's daughter and a few other artists.


Although Rufus has never been to Europe, he has toured/performed in the Far East, visiting Japan, Hong Kong and Hawaii.  He was in the Special Services in the military so most of his performing was on military bases and on military ships, including in Pearl Harbor, in Hawaii and Yokuska and Okinawa in Japan. He has also performed throughout the USA doing one nighters, and also worked as a second cameraman for a TV show in Los Angeles, called "Round About L A."


Nowadays, Rufus resides in Oakland, California, and recently performed at the 'Soul Beat  Hollywood Awards Ball & Banquet', at the Scottish Rite Centre in the Bay Area. Soul Beat KSBT TV is an African American television station in the San Francisco bay area, and they were celebrating their 25th anniversery at the ceremony.

Rufus is still recording today, and has been on the same bill as the "O'Town Passions" of late. He also made an appearance at a recent Northern Soul 'Meet & Greet the artists' festival in LA. I'll leave the last words to the man himself;
"Right now I'm working with such producers as, Danny Thomas of the group Con Funk Shun stardom out of Vallejo, California, Jimmy Tall, of Jam'G productions, Oakland, and Drusel White of Base Level Studios, of Denver, Colorado. I''m planning on releasing a CD of my material as soon as I complete it!"

You can check in on Rufus on his site:

www.rufuswonder.com