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Members include Mike Botts (born in Sacramento, CA), drums; David Gates (born on December 11, 1940, in Tulsa, OK), songwriter, instrumentalist, lead vocals; James Griffin (born in Memphis, TN), songwriter, instrumentalist; Larry Knechtel (born in Bell, CA), instrumentalist; Robb Royer, guitar, vocals. Addresses: Management--Selwyn Miller, Worldwide Entertainment Network, Inc., 1271 Stoner Ave. #304, Los Angeles, CA 90025.
For a nation disheartened by the Vietnam War, discouraged by the Watergate scandal, and dismayed by the mounting energy crisis during the 1970s, the sounds of "soft rock" provided a measure of melodic comfort for Americans. During that era, such ballad-oriented acts as the Carpenters and America climbed the charts. Joining them was a Los Angeles-based former studio band, Bread, a group formed in 1969 by a trio of session players: David Gates, James Griffin, and Robb Royer. The three, according to the Encyclopedia of Rock, had fronted a previous band, Pleasure Faire; all three, the book noted, "were multi-instrumentalists and prolific songwriters." Gates would become the group's most famous member.
A native of Tulsa, Oklahoma, Gates grew up in a musical household; his father was a band director and his mother a piano teacher. The young musician, who played piano, guitar, and bass, was already working in nightclubs and at dances before he graduated from college. "My grades were slowly slipping," he related in an autobiographical article on the Super Seventies Rocksite. "At the end of my junior year I told my father I'd like to ... go to California to give [music] a try. I said, 'Let me go out for the summer, just to see what happens.'" What happened was that Gates found the Crossbow, a nightclub in the San Fernando Valley. Up-and-coming 1960s musicians--including Glen Campbell, Leon Russell (whose sister Gates dated) and Jerry Cole--met there to jam and compare notes. Gates joined in their sessions and was offered professional work.
Gates began to make his mark in pop composition, breaking into Billboard's top ten with his 1963 song "Popsicles and Icicles," sung by the Murmaides. Later, his string arrangement was used for "Buy for Me the Rain" by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. By the time Gates joined Pleasure Faire with Griffin and Royer, the latter two had collaborated (under pseudonyms) on the lyrics for the single "For All We Know," the Academy Award-winning theme to the 1969 movie Lovers and Other Strangers and a hit single for the Carpenters. Pleasure Faire was not destined for success, but Gates, Griffin, and Royer stayed together, writing ballads under the group's new name, Bread. That moniker, Gates told Australian television interviewer Kerry Ann, came from a simple source: "Bread came off a bread delivery truck at the moment we were trying to pick a name." He then quipped, "I'm glad it wasn't a rubbish or garbage truck."
Bread released an "unsuccessful but critically acclaimed first album for Elektra," according to Encyclopedia of Rock; but by 1970 the group had begun charting singles. A Gates song, "Make It with You" became one of the top singles of that summer, hitting number one on the Billboard chart in August. Such singles as "It Don't Matter to Me," "Everything I Own," "Let Your Love Go," "Aubrey," "Diary," and "If" followed, the latter of which has become a pop standard. ("It's been played at so many weddings ... and so many people have recorded it," remarked Gates in the Kerry Ann interview.) In 1971 Royer was replaced by Larry Knechtel, a longtime session musician whose credits included "Mr. Tambourine Man," "Classical Gas," and "Bridge over Troubled Water." Knechtel, who contributed piano, organ, guitar, and harmonica work, helped Bread chart "Baby I'm-a Want You" during 1971. The single became the title track of a 1972 album, the fourth such Bread collection to earn gold record certification.
Drummer Mike Botts joined the group in 1970, replacing studio musician Jim Gordon. Botts, revealed Irwin Stambler in Encyclopedia of Pop, Rock & Soul, was a percussion prodigy who at age 12 "lied about his age to the musicians' union so he could play professionally." On his official website, Botts recalled his years with Bread. At its peak, the band "became the all-consuming part of our professional lives," he wrote. "We were either in the studio or on the road from 1970 to May of 1973. That's when the group decided to take a hiatus from all the pressure and pursue some individual projects and goals."
By this time the tide was turning in music--soft rock soon gave way to disco and punk's decidedly harder edge. Still, there was work for Gates and company. A "best of" collection went gold in 1973, with a follow-up album in 1974. In 1976 the band reunited for an album that went gold on the strength of one high-charting single, "Lost Without Your Love." As Botts noted on his website: "The band continued to tour through 1978 but unfortunately some irreconcilable differences within the group eventually involved all of us in litigation and caused the group to disband once again."
Since then the band members have performed individually, most notably Gates, who wrote and recorded "Goodbye Girl," the title song of the Academy Award-winning comedy of 1978. In 1994 he released a CD entitled Love Is Always Seventeen. But Bread wasn't through as a group. The tide turned again in the mid-1990s, when, as Botts recalled, he was phoned by Gates's representative, who proposed a new tour to mark the group's twenty-fifth anniversary. Bread's travels took the group on a successful two-year tour (1996-98) through Africa, Asia, Australia/New Zealand, the United States, and the United Kingdom. A 1996 CD, Essentials, was available only outside the United States as of 2002.
Some critics see Bread as a band most notable for songs that turn up at wedding receptions ("weenie music," wrote humorist Dave Barry, as quoted by Knight-Ridder reporter Ben Wener in a Lubbock Avalanche-Journal article). Indeed, Entertainment Weekly columnist Ty Burr acknowledged that image when in 2001 he confessed his fondness for the group, even while rating such pleasure high on the "guilt-o-meter." The band, he wrote, was "never cool. Bread never will be cool." Still, "it's clear that when Gates poured on the syrup, glory was attained. Sentimental? Oh yeah. But the kind of sentimentality that asks no quarter and offers no apologies." To Gates, the music is "timeless," as he told Wener. "If you listen to disco, if you listen to Donovan, those things are locked into the time they're from. Our songs aren't dated like that. They're like jazz standards."
by Susan Salter
Group formed as Pleasure Faire, 1960s; original members formed as Bread, 1969; released debut album, Bread, on Elektra Records, 1969; disbanded, 1973; reunited briefly, 1976; anniversary tour, 1996-98.
- Selected discography
- Bread Elektra, 1969.
- On the Waters Elektra, 1970.
- Manna Elektra, 1971.
- Baby I'm-a Want You Elektra, 1972.
- Guitar Man Elektra, 1972.
- Best of Bread Elektra, 1973.
- Best of Bread Volume Two Elektra, 1974.
- Lost Without Your Love Elektra, 1977.
- Anthology of Bread Elektra, 1985.
- Essentials Elektra, 1996.
January 11, 2005: Band member James Arthur "Jimmy" Griffin died on January 11, 2005, at his home in Franklin, Tennessee, of complications from cancer. He was 62. Source: CNN.com, www.cnn.com, January 14, 2005.
- Mack, Lorrie, editor, Encyclopedia of Rock, Schirmer Books, 1988.
- Stambler, Irwin, Encyclopedia of Pop, Rock & Soul, St. Martins Press, 1989.
- Entertainment Weekly, January 1, 2001.
- Lubbock Avalanche-Journal (Texas), August 2, 1997.
- "David Gates," Las Vegas Online Entertainment Guide, http://www.lvol.com (September 26, 2002).
- "David Gates--Australian Interview: September 27, 1996," http://www.mid-tn.com (September 26, 2002).
- "David Gates--In His Own Words," http://www.superseventies.com/ (September 26 2002).
- "Profile," Mike Botts Official Website, http://www.mikebotts.com/ (September 25, 2002).
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