The Grass Roots definitely left its mark on the 60s rock
scene. It was one of my favorite pure rock 'n roll band although founded under the folk rock
The name "Grass Roots" originated in 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 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 and
a now forgotten line-up of studio musicians. Sloan provided the lead vocals and played guitar. The song was
released under "The Grass Roots" name and sent, as a demo, to several radio stations of the San Francisco Bay
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 group named
"The Bedouins" and cut a new version with that band's lead vocalist, Willie Fulton. In 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, Denny Ellis and David Stensen went back to San Francisco, with drummer Joel Larson the only one who
remained (he was to become a member of a later Grass Roots line-up, as well). In the meantime, the second version
of "Where Were You When I Needed You" peaked in the top 40 in mid-1966; an album of the same name sold poorly,
probably because there were no Grass Roots anymore to promote it at the time of its release.
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, Rick Coonce, Warren Entner and Kenny Fukomoto and had formed only a year earlier
before submitting a demo tape to Dunhill Records. Rob Grill was recruited into the band when Fukomoto was
suddenly drafted into the army. 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.
They had their first top 10 hit with "Let's Live For Today" in the
summer of 1967, as The Grass Roots. 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 ('67-'72). 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 Grass Roots songs hitting the radio in these times include
"Let's Live For Today" and "Things I Should Have Said" (1967), "Midnight Confessions" (1968), "Bella Linda",
"Lovin' Things", "The River Is Wide", "Wait A Million Years" and "Heaven Knows" (1969), "Walking Through The
Country", "Baby Hold On" and "Temptation Eyes" (1970), "Sooner Or Later" (1971) and "Two Divided By Love" (1972).
The bulk of the band's material continued to be written by Dunhill Records staff (not only Sloan and Barri). 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. The most successful of their hit singles were "Let's Live For Today" (U.S. #8) in 1967, "Midnight
Confessions" (U.S. #5, their biggest hit) in 1968, "Wait A Million Years" (U.S. #15) in 1969, "Temptation Eyes"
(U.S. #15) in 1970, "Sooner Or Later" (U.S. #9) in 1971, and "Two Divided By Love" (U.S. #16) in 1972.
In 1969, Creed Bratton left and was replaced by Dennis Provisor on
keyboards and vocals, plus rotating lead guitarists Terry Furlong and Brian Naughton to form a quintet — the first
of many line-up changes that the band was to be subject to. In 1971, Rick Coonce, Terry Furlong, Brian Naughton and
Dennis Provisor left and were replaced by Reed Kailing, Virgil Weber and original member Joel Larson. The
singer/songwriter/guitarist duo of Warren Entner (later a successful heavy metal manager with groups such as Rage
Against the Machine and Quiet Riot) and Rob Grill remained the point of focus in all these years.
From 1970 on, success slipped away slowly but surely. The Grass
Roots had their last top 10 hit with "Sooner Or Later" in June, 1971, and success with "Two Divided By Love" not
long after. Their final two hits in 1972 were "The Runway" and "Glory Bound." Follow-up singles sold
disappointingly or failed to chart altogether - it was clear that their time was over. The 1976 single "Out In The
Open" became their swan song, with the band having disbanded the previous autumn.
Rob Grill remained in the music business and launched a solo
career in 1979 (assisted on his solo album by several members of Fleetwood Mac). When interest in bands of the
1960s began to rise again in the 1980s, Grill reformed The Grass Roots (now as "The Grass Roots Starring Rob
Grill") and tours the United States. He continues to lead the band into the new millennium and is the voice of The
Grass Roots, playing many live performances up to the present day.
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.
From 2005 onward (as of June 2009), Creed Bratton can be seen as
"Creed Bratton", Quality Assurance Officer, in the American NBC television situation comedy The Office. He
continues to write songs and has released several solo albums, including Chasin' the Ball, The '80s, Coarsegold,
and Creed Bratton.