In another Grass Roots comment I said this:
Inevitably, when discussing Grass Roots questions of “authenticity” come up but they are largely redundant because this is pop music. I should say:
- They weren’t a manufactured group in the normal sense of the phrase in the music business.
- They weren’t like the The Monkees but they were a group put together by producers.
- They were, like The Monkees, an already talented group of individual musicians brought together by a third party for a meeting of minds.
Musically, they are the logical extension of Gary Lewis and the Playboys because they play their own instruments though with a dollop of Jay and the Americans, because they have the harmonies. Like both those bands they had great success in the USA but next to nothing in England.
Well, that's all correct but the devil is in the detail.
Wikipedia: "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. 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.
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.
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. 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".
Guess which way they went ? (derr, rhetorical)
1967 – 1972 was their golden period. They were a charting act (three Top 10s, another three Top 20s, and then another nine Top 40s) and a credible band playing at many of the notable musical festivals of the day.
They were though, perhaps, perceived as a singles band (none of their albums cracked the Top 20), and accordingly not a "serious" band.
This album, their seventh non-compilation album, was the start of the down hill slide, popularity wise.
The singles didn't do well and the album charted in the remote fringes.
But there are some great sounds in the descent.
There was a lot going on, musically, in the United States in 1973 : soft rock, country rock, pop rock, funk rock, rock rock and more. The Grass Roots had elements of all that in their sound, or, adopted elements of all that as their folk rock sound evolved.
Perhaps they were just not specific enough to attract a audience that was becoming more tribal in it's choice of sounds?
Perhaps, they were too associated as a singles band, and accordingly disposable?
Perhaps, because they relied on staff songwriters for most of, though not all, their tunes they were dismissible in the serious 70s?
The internet, the information highway, is bumpy in what it reveals on The Grass Roots. Perhaps only people of age in 1973 could explain why the Grass Roots didn't move forward as a original, creative musical group with an audience to appreciate them.
They did move forward as a viable group – a couple of obscure albums, a solo album by lead vocalist Rob Grill, re-recorded hits with an orchestra, a couple of live albums and a career on the "oldies circuit".
Sitting here in 2014 I don't have to worry about what career choices the band should make in 1973, because they have been made. So, I can put this album on and listen to some seriously good sounds, and wonder why the public is so fickle.
The band at the time was Warren Entner, Rob Grill, Reed Kailing, Joel Larson & Virgil Weber.
I don't know if they played (all) their instruments on the record, though they did live, and anyway their vocals and harmonies are central.
The album was produced by Steve Barri, Warren Entner, and Rob Grill and arranged by Michael Omartian (pre studio group Rhythm Heritage and pre Christian rock)
Tracks (best in italics)
- Where There’s Smoke There’s Fire – (Walsh, Price)- bouncy and quite catchy
- Pick Up Your Feet -(Watkins, Villareal) – catchy but quite MOR.
- You’ve Got To Bend With The Breeze -(Walsh, Price, Entner, Grill) – horns and a decidedly urban attitude makes this one a winner and has it sounding a little like The O'Jays, albeit a white O'Jays. The O'Jays wouldn't bend with the breeze.
- Just A Little Tear -(Kailing, Entner, Price, Walsh)- slight but not offensive.
- Ain’t No Way To Go Home -(Mann, Weil)- prolific songwriter Barry Mann released this as a single and on his solo album from 1971 "Lay it All Out". Very big sounding singer songwriter.
- Claudia -(Weber, Entner)- very funky in that 70s TV theme show way. Think, SWAT or Baretta …then again Michael Omartian was behind them and he arranged this album.
- Love Is What You Make It -(Walsh, Price) – quite Partridge Family …. so so …
- Look But Don’t Touch -(Entner) – standard white funky R&B – it's not offensive but it's not memorable ..though the keyboard is quite good.
- Ballad Of Billy Joe -(Rich) – A great song. Apparently, this is a answer to "Don't Take Your Guns to Town" by Johnny Cash (1958). It was composed by Sun label mate and future country music legend, Charlie Rich, but originally recorded by (another label mate) Jerry Lee Lewis in 1959.
- We Almost Made It Together -(Entner, Provisor)- Regular Grass Roots songwriter Dennis Provisor would later join The Grass Roots. Straight MOR
- Little Bit Of Love -(Rogers, Kirk, Kossoff, Frazier)- a cover of a Free track from the "Free at Last" LP (1972).. the single went to #13 in England. A little more groovy than the Free original …and perhaps a little better.
Not perfect but well above average …. perfect for parties? I'm keeping it.
1973 Love Is What You Make It #55
Where There’s Smoke There’s Fire
Pick Up Your Feet
You’ve Got To Bend With The Breeze
Just A Little Tear
Ain’t No Way To Go Home
Love Is What You Make It
Look But Don’t Touch
Ballad Of Billy Joe
We Almost Made It Together
Little Bit Of Love