Get ready for the Detroit band which rocks up the Motown machine.
- First hit: “Get ready”
- Biggest hit: “Get Ready”
- Top album: Get Ready
- Career highlight: Back-to-back Top 20 rock albums which broaden “The Sound of Young America”
- Before Rare Earth, there are the Sunliners. This Detroit combo comprises Pete Rivera on drums and vocals, saxmen Gil Bridges and Fred Saxon, bassist John Parrish, and brothers Russ and Ralph Terrana on guitar and keyboards, respectively. Popular on the Motor City club circuit with Top 40 and R&B covers in the mid-1960s, they begin to rock harder as album radio reshapes the music industry. Saxon departs, as do the Terranas, who later become important behind-the-scenes players at Motown; the Sunliners evolve into Rare Earth and make an album for Verve Records, produced by Mike Theodore and Dennis Coffey, which includes a cover of the Temptations’ “Get Ready.”
- Motown wants its piece of the rock revolution. The enthusiasm of senior exec Barney Ales brings Rare Earth on board in 1969, and their name even becomes the identity of the company’s start-up pop/rock label. By this time, the band is made up of Rivera, Bridges, Parrish, Rod Richards on guitar and vocals, and Kenny James on keyboards. At Hitsville, following a club gig, they record their debut album, Get Ready, in June ’69 for Rare Earth Records, and are part of the label launch that August.
- Get Ready is a slow starter sales-wise until Ales advocates a 3-minute edit of the 21-minute title track, which had been a wildly expanded version of their Verve cut, and, as a single, it explodes into the Billboard Top 5. The album then rocks up the Top 20, to spend a total of 77 weeks on the charts. The follow-up, Ecology, is also a success, fronted by a Top 10 remake of another Temptations hit, “(I Know) I’m Losing You,” produced by Norman Whitfield.
- Rare Earth is a magnet in concert during the early ’70s, playing to audiences nationwide in the company of Sly & the Family Stone, Jethro Tull, Mountain, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and more. “It was like ‘party time’ for us,” Pete Rivera recalls in his 2001 autobiography, Born To Wander. Their third Motown album, One World, features yet another Top 10 single, “I Just Want To Celebrate.” There are arrivals and departures; by now the band features Rivera, Bridges, Parrish (using his real name, Persh), Ray Monette (guitar/vocals), Mark Olson (keyboards/vocals) and Ed Guzman (percussion).
- Chart heights are harder to scale for Rare Earth by mid-decade for albums such as Willie Remembers and Ma, and there are disputes within. One version of the band operates under the original name, while another spins off into a variant known as HUB. There is a reunion of sorts in 1976, with several albums made for Motown, after which different group members – and the Rare Earth identity – continue into the 1980s and beyond. “We were a pretty good band,” declares Pete Rivera in liner notes for 2008’s Fill Your Head: The Studio Albums 1969-1974. “We worked really hard to pull it off and work out all the bugs, and we had a genuinely good time doing it.”