The Grass Roots

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The Grass Roots
The Grass Roots.png
The Grass Roots in 1970
Background information
OriginLos Angeles, California, U.S.
GenresFolk rock, psychedelic folk, psychedelic rock, pop rock
Years active1965–present
LabelsDunhill, ABC, Haven, MCA, Gusto, RFG, Cleopatra
Websitethe-grassroots.com
MembersDusty Hanvey
Larry Nelson
Joe Dougherty
Mark Dawson
Past membersSee Members
 
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For other uses, see Grass roots (disambiguation).
The Grass Roots
The Grass Roots.png
The Grass Roots in 1970
Background information
OriginLos Angeles, California, U.S.
GenresFolk rock, psychedelic folk, psychedelic rock, pop rock
Years active1965–present
LabelsDunhill, ABC, Haven, MCA, Gusto, RFG, Cleopatra
Websitethe-grassroots.com
MembersDusty Hanvey
Larry Nelson
Joe Dougherty
Mark Dawson
Past membersSee Members

The Grass Roots is an American rock band that charted between 1966 and 1975. It was originally the creation of Lou Adler and songwriting duo P. F. Sloan and Steve Barri.

In their career, The Grass Roots achieved two gold albums, one gold single and charted singles a total of 21 times. Among their charting singles, they achieved Top 10 three times, Top 20 three times and Top 40 eight times.[1][2] They have sold over twenty million records worldwide.[3]

Until his death in 2011, early member Rob Grill and a newer lineup of The Grass Roots continued to play many live performances each year.

The founding years[edit]

The name "Grass Roots" (originally spelled as one word "Grassroots") originated in mid-1965 as the name of a band project by the Los Angeles, California songwriter and producer duo of P.F. Sloan and Steve Barri. Sloan and Barri had written several songs in an attempt by their record company, Dunhill Records (owned by Lou Adler), to cash in on the budding folk rock movement. One of these songs was "Where Were You When I Needed You," which was recorded by Sloan and Barri. Sloan provided the lead vocals and played guitar, Larry Knechtel played keyboards, Joe Osborn played the bass and Bones Howe was on drums.[4] The song was released under "The Grass Roots" name and sent, as a demo, to several radio stations of the San Francisco Bay area.

When moderate interest in this new band arose, Sloan and Barri went to look for a group that could incorporate The Grass Roots name. They found one in a San Francisco outfit, "The Bedouins", and cut a new version of "Where Were You When I Needed You" with that band's lead vocalist, Willie Fulton. In late 1965, the Grass Roots got their first official airplay on Southern California radio stations, such as KGB (AM) in San Diego and KHJ in Los Angeles, with a version of the Bob Dylan song "Mr. Jones (Ballad of a Thin Man)". For some months, The Bedouins were the first "real" Grass Roots — but the partnership with Sloan and Barri broke up when the band demanded more space for their own more blues rock-oriented material (which their producers were not willing to give them). Willie Fulton (lead vocals, guitar,) Denny Ellis (guitar, backing vocals) and David Stensen (bass, backing vocals) went back to San Francisco, with drummer Joel Larson being the only one who remained in LA (he was to become a member of a later Grass Roots line-up as well). Fulton, Ellis and Stensen, for a time, continued to appear as the Grass Roots, with original Bedouins drummer Bill Shoppe, until Dunhill ordered them to cease since they'd decided to start all over again with another group they would groom to be the Grass Roots. In the meantime, the second version of "Where Were You When I Needed You" peaked in the Top 40 in mid-1966, while an album of the same name sold poorly.

Still looking for a group to record their material and promote it with live dates, in 1966 Sloan and Barri offered Wisconsin-based band The Robbs (for whom they produced some early material) a chance to assume the identity of The Grass Roots, but the group declined.[citation needed]

Coincidentally, the L.A.-based band Love, at one point in 1965, also used the name "The Grass Roots". However, this group had no other connection to Sloan and Barri, and immediately changed their band name to Love once they became aware of the existence of Barri and Sloan's Grass Roots.[citation needed]

The years of success[edit]

The group's third — and by far most successful — incarnation was finally found in a Los Angeles band called The 13th Floor (not to be confused with the 13th Floor Elevators). This band consisted of Creed Bratton (vocals, guitar), Rick Coonce (drums, percussion), Warren Entner (vocals, guitar, keyboards), and Kenny Fukomoto (bass) and had formed only a year earlier. Entner, who had been attending film school at UCLA alongside future Doors members Jim Morrison and Ray Manzarek, was drifting through Europe in the summer of 1965 singing and playing on street corners, when he met fellow busker and American Creed Bratton in Israel, where an Israeli businessman expressed interest in managing and promoting them. But the duo moved on and ended up back in LA by 1966, where they formed the 13th Floor and submitted a demo tape to Dunhill Records.[5] After Fukomoto was suddenly drafted into the army, the group went through two replacements before finding singer/bassist Rob Grill. In 1967 the band was offered the choice to go with their own name or choose to adopt a name that had already been heard of nationwide.

In the beginning, they were one of many U.S. guitar pop/rock bands, but with the help of Barri and their other producers, they developed a unique sound for which they drew as heavily on British beat as on soul music, rhythm and blues and folk rock. Many of their recordings featured a brass section, which was a novelty in those days among American rock bands, with groups like Chicago just developing.

The bulk of the band's material continued to be written by Dunhill Records staff (not only Sloan and Barri) and the LA studio-musicians who were part of what became known as the Wrecking Crew played the music on most, if not all, of their hits.[4] The Grass Roots also recorded songs written by the group's musicians, which appeared on their albums and the B-sides of many hit singles.

As The Grass Roots, they had their first Top 10 hit in the summer of 1967 with "Let's Live for Today", an English-language cover version of "Piangi con me", a 1966 hit for the Anglo-Italian quartet The Rokes. "Let's Live for Today" sold over one million copies and was awarded a gold disc.[6] With Rob Grill as lead singer, they recorded a third version of "Where Were You When I Needed You." The band continued in a similar hit-making vein for the next five years (1967–1972).

The Grass Roots played at the Fantasy Fair and Magic Mountain Music Festival on Sunday, June 11, 1967, in the "Summer of Love" as "Let's Live for Today" was at #15 and climbing. This music festival is important because it occurred just days before the Monterey Pop Festival but did not have a movie to document it (see List of electronic music festivals).

In late 1967, the band recorded the album Feelings, which featured much heavier input in the songwriting and playing by the group members themselves. But its failure to sell prompted Barri to take full hold of the reins again as he began to move the band in a more R&B, horn punctuated, direction. By this time, Sloan had phased out of his involvement with the band and relocated to NYC to pursue a solo career.

On Sunday, October 27, 1968, the Grass Roots played at the San Francisco Pop Festival as their hit "Midnight Confessions" (their first record to feature horns and with Carol Kaye playing the opening bass-line[4]) was peaking at #5 and then played at the Los Angeles Pop Festival and Miami Pop Festival in December 1968.

Creed Bratton became frustrated by Dunhill's refusal to allow the band to write its own songs and play the instruments on its records (although the members did play alone at concerts). After a disastrous appearance at the Fillmore West in April 1969, a "slightly inebriated" Bratton was asked to leave the band.[4] He was replaced by Dennis Provisor on keyboards and vocals, and lead guitarist Terry Furlong (1969–1971) was also brought in to form a quintet. This was the first of many line-up changes for this version of the band.

The Grass Roots, with their new members, played at Newport Pop Festival 1969 at Devonshire Downs, which was a racetrack at the time but now is part of the North Campus for California State University, Northridge. The group played on Sunday June 22, 1969, a week before their hit "I'd Wait A Million Years" reached the Hot 100. In Canada they played at the Vancouver Pop Festival at the Paradise Valley Resort in British Columbia in August 1969 (see List of electronic music festivals).

By 1971 Furlong had stopped touring with the group to pursue a solo career but would continue to contribute on the records during the rest of their time on Dunhill. His touring replacement was Brian Naughton, who left in 1972. Drummer Rick Coonce was gone as well by the beginning of 1972 and new members Joe Pollard (drums, percussion) and another guitarist named Terry (last name unknown) joined up. Terry was soon replaced by Reed Kailing (vocals, guitars). However, drummer Pollard and keyboardist Dennis Provisor left soon after to go out as a duo (although Provisor was featured on the band's 1972 Move Along album) and were replaced by a returning Rick Coonce and keyboard man Virgil Weber (ex-Hamilton, Joe Frank and Reynolds and Climax). Coonce was back for only a short period before he was gone again, turning the drum throne over to original member Joel Larson. Singers Rob Grill and Warren Entner remained the point of focus during these years.

The group's songs during 1967-1972 include: "Let's Live for Today" (U.S. #8) and "Things I Should Have Said" (U.S. #23) (1967); "Midnight Confessions" (U.S. #5, their biggest hit) (1968); "Bella Linda" (a cover of an Italian hit by Lucio Battisti, "Balla Linda") (U.S. #28), "Lovin' Things" (a cover of a UK hit by Marmalade the previous year) (U.S. #49), "The River is Wide" (U.S. #31), "I'd Wait a Million Years" (U.S. #15), and "Heaven Knows" (U.S. #24) (1969); "Walking Through the Country" (U.S. #44), and "Baby Hold On" (U.S. #35) (1970); "Temptation Eyes" (#15), "Sooner or Later" (U.S. #9), and "Two Divided by Love" (U.S. #16) (1971); "Glory Bound" (U.S. #34) and "The Runway" (U.S. #39) (1972).

By 1974 the Grass Roots had left Dunhill (now ABC Records) and Kailing, Weber and longtime member Entner (later a successful manager with groups such as Rage Against the Machine and Quiet Riot) moved on, while former members Terry Furlong and Dennis Provisor returned to the fold. Furlong soon left permanently to be succeeded by Gene Barkin, then by Reggie Knighton.

Timeline[edit]

The final years and oldies tours[edit]

By 1975 Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter, who had penned the group's 1971 hit "Two Divided By Love" (among others), invited the band to join their Haven label, where they released an eponymous album, The Grass Roots, containing the single "Mamacita", which charted at #71 on the Billboard Hot 100. Follow-up singles sold disappointingly or failed to chart. Their 1976 single "Out In The Open" proved to be their swan song on Haven. Knighton left in 1976 and Alan Deane took over, followed by guitarist Glenn Shulfer in 1977. Rob Grill decided to take a break from performing at the end of 1977 and the 1978 14 Greats album by Gusto Records featured him and Provisor but none of the other former members. This album consisted of 1978 rerecordings of their hits.

In 1977 after Rob Grill ceased touring, drummer Joel Larson, Mark Miller (lead vocals, guitar) and Brian Carlyss (bass, backing vocals) were joined up with Lonnie Price (lead vocals, keyboards) and Randy Ruff (organ, backing vocals) for touring dates and TV appearances until late November 1978 (Miller would go back out as a fill-in guitarist for two more dates in 1981).

The Grass Roots, still managed and booked by Grill (who owned the group's name), continued touring in 1978 with Larson, joined by new players Scott Hoyt (lead vocals, guitars), David Nagy (lead vocals, bass) and Gene Wall (keyboards). Nagy and Larson left in 1979 and were replaced by a returning Carlyss and Reagan McKinley (drums, percussion). During this period, the group appeared on an HBO television special, "60's Rock Scrapbook", filmed at Magic Mountain amusement park in Valencia, California in October 1979, with Grill and Dennis Provisor making special appearances.

In early 1980, Warren Entner and Steve Barri showed interest in recording a new Grass Roots project with Hoyt and the current lineup. After Grill nixed the deal, Casablanca Records was going to release it at as a Scott Hoyt solo album, but the record was shelved after Casablanca was bought out by Polygram.

Rob Grill remained in the music business and launched a solo career in 1979 (assisted on his solo album, Uprooted, by Lindsey Buckingham, Mick Fleetwood and John McVie of Fleetwood Mac on the song Rock Sugar). Grill toured as a solo act in 1979-1980 opening for Fleetwood Mac's Tusk Tour. When interest in bands of the 1960s began to rise again in 1980, Grill (along with Provisor, Shulfer, and new players: bassist Steve Berendt and drummer Luke Meurett) took back The Grass Roots moniker in May 1980 and toured the United States and Japan.

In 1982 The Grass Roots performed an Independence Day concert on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., attracting a large crowd and setting a record for attendance (over half a million people), at that time, for an outdoor concert for a single musical act.[7][8] However, in April 1983, James G. Watt, President Ronald Reagan's Secretary of the Interior, banned Independence Day concerts on the Mall by such groups. Watt said that "rock bands" that had performed on the Mall on Independence Day in 1981 and 1982 had encouraged drug use and alcoholism and had attracted "the wrong element", who would mug people and families attending any similar events in the future.[8] During the ensuing uproar, Rob Grill stated that he felt "highly insulted" by Watt's remarks, which he called "nothing but un-American".[8]

The group's 1981 roster included: Grill, Provisor, Shulfer and a returning Coonce, but Grill decided to go forward in early 1982 with a brand new lineup consisting of seasoned session players: Terry Oubre (guitars, backing vocals), Charles Judge (keyboards, synthesizers, backing vocals) and Ralph Gilmore (drums, percussion, backing vocals). Another keyboardist, Bob Luna, came in in mid-1982 to sub for Judge on dates when he wasn't available. That same year, the new band released Powers of the Night on MCA. After Powers failed to attract much attention, Grill brought in new players: George Spellman (guitars, backing vocals), Dave Rodgers (keyboards, backing vocals) and Coy Fuller (drums, percussion) in late 1983 and headed over to tour Europe in early 1984. According to Grill, there was also a country single, "St. Somewhere", recorded in Nashville with this same lineup. This single, apparently, was never released.

By late 1984, Grill was back in the US touring with yet another new group of Grass Roots that included: Dusty Hanvey (guitars, backing vocals), Larry Nelson (keyboards, synthesizers, backing vocals), and David Page (drums, percussion). Powers would be the last album of new material to be released by the Grass Roots. From this point on, Grill and the group would concentrate on the lucrative "60s nostalgia" circuit, starting with the Happy Together 85 Tour with fellow 1960s groups The Turtles, The Buckinghams and Gary Lewis & the Playboys. In 1986 another package had them appearing with The Monkees, Gary Puckett, and Herman's Hermits. They were joined in this show by bassist Mark Clarke (ex-Uriah Heep and Rainbow) and a horn section, and backed up the Monkees and Gary Puckett during their sets as well. Hanvey and Nelson continued backing the Monkees for their 1987 tour, while the Grass Roots joined Classic Superfest, which also featured Herman's Hermits, Mark Lindsay, and Gene Clark's Byrds. For this tour, Mark Tamorsky handled guitar and Michael Lewis (soon replaced by Robbie Barker) was on keyboards. Terry Danauer was also added on bass at this point. But by October 1987, Hanvey and Nelson were back with Grill, and Joe Dougherty replaced David Page on drums in 1990. Mike Steck came in for Danauer on bass in 1992-1993 before Grill took over bass again.

From hereon, the band was stable, other than the odd sub here or there (former Outsiders singer Sonny Geraci sat in for Grill during the first half of 2002, Scott Sechman subbed for Hanvey in 1998, Chris Merrell filled in for him on various dates 2000-2006, and Hal Ratliff sat in for Nelson when he had other commitments from 2000 on). In early 2008, after Grill's ongoing health troubles, a regular bassist, Mark Dawson, was brought in, who handled lead vocals when Grill was absent. But for the most part, Grill continued to lead the band into the current millennium as The Grass Roots sole owner and continued to make appearances with the band until his death in 2011.

Beginning in 2005, Creed Bratton could be seen as "Creed Bratton", Quality Assurance Officer, in the American NBC television situation comedy The Office.[9] He continues to write songs and has released several solo albums, including Chasin' the Ball, The '80s, Coarsegold, Creed Bratton, and Bounce Back.[10]

In 2006 former manager Marty Angelo published a book entitled Once Life Matters: A New Beginning, which has numerous stories about his life on the road with Rob Grill and The Grass Roots back in the early 1970s.

During the summers of 2010 and 2011, the Grass Roots had heavy touring schedules throughout the U.S., both on their own and as part of the Happy Together: 25th Anniversary Tour, along with Flo & Eddie of The Turtles, Mark Lindsay, The Buckinghams, and Monkees member Micky Dolenz (2010 only).[11]

Former drummer Rick Coonce died of heart failure on February 25, 2011.

Rob Grill died on July 11, 2011 in an Orlando, Florida hospital. He had been in a coma since sustaining a head injury several weeks earlier when he fell after suffering a stroke in Lake County, Florida. His death at age 67 was the conclusion to over a decade's worth of health troubles for Grill, which included bone disease, leading to several hip replacements and other complications.

Band members[edit]

Current members[edit]

Former members[edit]

Discography[edit]

Singles[edit]

Release dateTitleB-sideRecord labelChart positions
USUS CBUKAU
1966Mr. Jones (Ballad of a Thin Man)You're A Lonely GirlDunhill121
Where Were You When I Needed YouThese Are Bad TimesDunhill2833
Only When You're LonelyThis Is What I Was Made ForDunhill9677
1967Tip Of My TongueLook Out GirlDunhill
Let's Live for TodayDepressed FeelingDunhill8583
Things I Should Have SaidTip Of My TongueDunhill2336
Wake Up, Wake UpNo ExitDunhill6861
1968Melody For YouHey FriendDunhill123
FeelingsHere's Where You BelongDunhill
Midnight Confessions++Who Will You Be TomorrowDunhill5518
1969Bella Linda+++
First pressings mistitled as "Della Linda"
Hot Bright LightsDunhill282035
Melody For YouAll Good Things Come To An EndDunhill
Lovin' ThingsYou And Love Are The SameDunhill493578
The River Is Wide(You Gotta) Live For LoveDunhill3116
I'd Wait A Million YearsFly Me To HavanaDunhill1512
Heaven KnowsDon't Remind MeDunhill241367
1970Walking Through The CountryTruck Drivin' ManDunhill443061
Baby Hold OnGet It TogetherDunhill352552
Come On And Say ItSomething's Comin' Over MeDunhill6139
Temptation EyesKeepin' Me DownDunhill151679
1971Sooner Or LaterI Can Turn Off The RainDunhill91295
Two Divided By LoveLet It GoDunhill16864
1972Glory BoundOnly OneDunhill342292
The RunwayMove AlongDunhill3929
Anyway The Wind BlowsMonday LoveDunhill107
1973Love Is What You Make ItSomeone To LoveDunhill5532
Where There's Smoke There's FireLook But Don't TouchDunhill88
We Can't Dance To Your MusicLook But Don't TouchDunhill97
Stealin' Love (In The Night)We Almost Made It TogetherDunhill
1975MamacitaThe Last Time AroundHaven7184
Naked ManNothing Good Comes EasyHaven
1976Out In The OpenOptical IllusionHaven
1982Here Comes That Feeling AgainTemptation EyeMCA
She Don't Know MeKeep On BurningMCA
Powers Of The NightPowers Of The NightMCA

++Gold Record - RIAA Certification +++Composed by Italian superstar Lucio Battisti)

Albums[edit]

Release dateTitleRecord labelChart positions
US BillboardUS CashboxUK
1966Where Were You When I Needed YouDunhill
1967Let's Live for TodayDunhill75
1968FeelingsDunhill
Golden Grass ++Dunhill25
1969Lovin' ThingsDunhill73
Leaving It All BehindDunhill36
1970More Golden GrassDunhill152
1971Their 16 Greatest Hits ++Dunhill58
1972Move AlongDunhill86
1973Alotta' MileageDunhill222
1975Self TitledHaven
1976The ABC CollectionABC
197814 GreatestGusto
1982Powers Of The NightMCA
2000Live At LastRFG
2001Symphonic HitsCleopatra
2008Live GoldRFG

++Gold Record - RIAA Certification

Pop culture[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Whitburn, Joel (Jan 2000). The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits (7th ed.). Watson-Guptill Publications. p. 262. ISBN 0-8230-7690-3. 
  2. ^ Grass Roots at Allmusic
  3. ^ "The Grassroots official website". The-grassroots.com. Retrieved 2011-10-10. 
  4. ^ a b c d Hartman, Kent (2012). The Wrecking Crew. New York: St. Martin's Press. pp. 169–172. ISBN 978-0-312-61974-9. 
  5. ^ "Biography". The-grassroots.com. Retrieved 2011-10-10. 
  6. ^ Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p. 222. ISBN 0-214-20512-6. 
  7. ^ "July 4: Day of Music, Parades, Fireworks", The Washington Post, Washington, D.C., July 3, 1982, p. D1.
  8. ^ a b c Phil McCombs, "Watt Outlaws Rock Music on Mall for July 4", The Washington Post, Washington, D.C., April 6, 1983, p. A1; Phil McCombs and Richard Harrington, "Watt Sets Off Uproar with Music Ban", The Washington Post, Washington, D.C., April 7, 1983, pp. A1, A17.
  9. ^ "Creed Bratton". IMDb.com, Inc. Retrieved 2009-06-18. 
  10. ^ "allmusic ((( Creed Bratton Discography Main Albums )))". allmusic. Retrieved 2009-06-18. 
  11. ^ McQuistion, James (April 30, 2011). "Happy Together Tour Returns in Summer 2011". Retrieved 2011-05-12. 

External links[edit]