ight after the Carpenters' "(They Long To Be) Close To You" was the number one record in America (for four weeks) in July-August 1970, the other major adult contemporary group of the Seventies, Bread, followed them into the top position on the pop charts with "Make It With You." The three original members of this soft-rock band were David Gates, James Griffin and Robb Royer. After their first LP failed to rise above number 100 on Billboard's album chart, Mike Botts joined to make Bread a quartet.
The group was discouraged when their first album flopped, but that didn't sour them on making dough. Collectively, the members of Bread were well-connected into the Los Angeles music scene, and their friends in the industry gave them much support to continue. They decided to record one more album before considering a break-up. The first four songs recorded included "Make It With You," a track they were convinced would be a big hit. David Gates had written and produced hits for other people, but hearing "Make It With You" on the radio was the first time his own voice was on a hit record, and he found it exhilarating.
Gates was born on December 11, 1940, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. His father directed the band and orchestra for the local high school, but suggested his son find a lucrative profession, like being a lawyer, and keep music as a hobby. David was not to be persuaded. He formed a band (which included his girlfriend's brother, Leon Russell) that backed up artists like Chuck Berry and Carl Perkins when they came to town. He also recorded some singles and formed a record distribution company.
In 1968, his friend Leon Russell recommended that David produce an album for Griffin and Royer, who had formed a duo called Pleasure Faire. Griffin was from Memphis, and learned classical guitar before taking up rock and roll in high school. He was signed to Reprise and recorded one album, Summer Holiday, which didn't take off. Royer played several instruments, but was studying drama in college when he joined Pleasure Faire.
Griffin, Royer and Gates decided to form a trio. Pleasure Faire evolved into Bread, and they were signed to Elektra. In 1970, Griffin and Royer wrote "For All We Know," for the film Lovers and other Strangers, under the assumed names of Arthur James and Robb Wilson. The song won an Oscar and was recorded by the Carpenters.
After "Make It With You" made it big, the band went back to their first album and re-recorded "It Don't Matter to Me," which peaked at number 10. Although they tried recording upbeat material like "Let Your Love Go" and "Mother Freedom," they could only reach the upper portion of the Hot 100 with their softer songs, such as "If," "Baby I'm-A Want You" and "Everything I Own."
The line-up shifted in 1971 when Royer left to write screenplays. He was replaced by ace session musician Larry Knetchel, who had played on many number one singles, including "Mr. Tambourine Man," "This Diamond Ring" and "Bridge Over Troubled Water."
By 1973, Bread had grown stale and the four members mutually decided to disband. Gates recorded several solo albums and had his biggest hit with the title tune for Neil Simon's The Goodbye Girl. Griffin recorded a solo album for Polydor and Knetchel went back to session work. A brief Bread reunion in 1976 produced a Top 10 single, "Lost Without Your Love," and by 1978 the group had gone their separate ways again.
Gates and Griffin then began a legal battle over the rights to the Bread name, a case which was settled in 1984. In 1994 Gates released his first album in over 13 years. Griffin remained active in the music business as a member of the country groups Black Tie and then the Remingtons until his death from cancer in January 2005 at the age of 61, and Botts has written commercial jingles and children's music. Knetchel retired from music for several years after Bread disbanded, but returned to recording (including a New Age album, Mountain Moods) and touring (with Elvis Costello).
- Fred Bronson, The Billboard Book of Number One Hits, Billboard, 1988.
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