The Grass Roots
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 movement.
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 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 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
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.