The Grass Roots began as a studio-only project by Los Angeles songwriter PF Sloan and producer Steve Barri who had written several songs for their record company (Dunhill) to cash in on the budding folk-rock movement.
When the song Where Were You When I Needed You? began to receive radio station attention, Sloan and Barri went in search of a group that could “become” The Grass Roots for Dunhill.
They found a San Francisco band called The Bedouins who became the first Grass Roots, but their relationship with Dunhill soured and the band eventually headed back to San Francisco and their old life.
Another search found a Los Angeles band called The 13th Floor (not to be confused with the 13th Floor Elevators) and, in 1967, the band was offered the opportunity to use the name and take advantage of the nationwide publicity already generated.
The majority of the band’s songs continued to be written by Dunhill Records staff (including Sloan and Barri) and the ‘Wrecking Crew’ of the best LA studio musicians played the music on most, if not all, of the group’s hits.
The Grass Roots had their first Top 10 hit in the summer of 1967 with Let’s Live for Today – an English-language cover version of an Italian song called Piangi con me – and continued in a similar hit-making vein for the next five years.
Guitarist/vocalist Creed Bratton became frustrated by Dunhill’s refusal to allow the band to write their own songs and play the instruments on their records and was asked to leave the band. His replacement was keyboard player/vocalist Dennis Provisor, with lead guitarist Terry Furlong also brought into the lineup.
This was to be the first of many lineup changes – including the addition of Reed Kailing on vocals/guitars and Virgil Weber on keyboards – with singers Rob Grill and Warren Entner remaining the central point of focus throughout.
By 1974, The Grass Roots had left Dunhill (now ABC Records), and Kailing, Weber and longtime member Entner moved on. The lineup was now led by Rob Grill with keyboard player Dennis Provisor, guitarist Reggie Knighton and drummer Joel Larson.
Knighton left in 1976 and Alan Deane took over, followed by guitarist Glen Shulfer in 1977. ABC Records issued a final greatest hits package of the group titled ABC Collection in 1976.
The band continued touring the US and Japan through the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s with frequent lineup changes, but always managed and booked by Rob Grill (who owned the group’s name). By the new millennium, the band were increasingly concentrating on the “nostalgia circuit”, adding new members as they wore the old ones out!
Rick Coonce died of heart failure on 25 February 2011 and Rob Grill died on 11 July 2011 from complications following a stroke.
Vocals, guitar, keyboards