Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Bread, The #31 Artist of the Seventies*

Robb Royer (bass, guitar, flute, keyboards, percussion, recorder, backing vocals) was with the group The Pleasure Fair in 1967.  David Gates (lead singer, guitar, bass, keyboards, violin, viola, percussion) produced and arranged that group's self-titled album.  After the album was complete, Royer introduced his songwriting partner, Jimmy Griffin (vocals, guitar, keyboards, percussion) to Gates, and the three formed the group Bread in 1968.  Their previous connections and musicianship led to a recording contract with Elektra Records in 1969. 

Bread released their self-titled debut album in 1969, with session musician Jim Gordon supplying the drums for the album.

After the album, Bread hired Mike Botts to be their permanent drummer, and the group released the album On the Waters in 1970.  The single "Make It With You" went all the way to #1 in the U.S. and #5 in the U.K., and sold over one million copies.

On the Waters reached #12 on the Album chart and went Gold, and the band was off and rolling.  Bread re-recorded "It Don't Matter To Me", a song originally released on their debut album, and it peaked at #2 on the Adult chart and #10 on the Popular (or "Pop") chart.

Bread began to tour, and in 1971, released the album Manna.  The album yielded the single "Let Your Love Go", a #28 song.

Manna gave the group the second in a string of five consecutive Gold albums.  The follow-up single was "If", which landed at #1 on the Adult chart for three weeks, becoming one of The Top Adult Songs of the Seventies*.  It peaked at #4 overall.

Royer left the group in 1971, but continued to write with Griffin.  Larry Knechtel (bass, guitar, keyboards, harmonica), one of the most respected session musicians of the Rock Era, replaced Royer in Bread.  Knechtel had a long list of credits prior to joining the group:  among them, he played on the blockbuster debut album by the Doors, several albums for the Beach Boys, including the respected Pet Sounds album, several albums for the 5th Dimension, including the songs "Aquarius", "Up, Up And Away" and "Stoned Soul Picnic", several albums by the Mamas & the Papas, Elvis Presley, Barbra Streisand, Simon & Garfunkel (Bridge Over Troubled Water), most of the Monkees albums, as well as for the Everly Breothers, Connie Francis, the Association, Johnny Rivers, Duane Eddy, Fats Domino, the Grass Roots, the Righteous Brothers, Tommy Roe, Jan & Dean ("Surf City"), Barry McGuire ("Eve Of Destruction") and Chi Coltrane, just to name a few.

In 1972, Bread released the album Baby I'm-a Want You.  While it only peaked at #37, the single "Mother Freedom" shows the group's versatility. 

The title song hit #1 on the Adult chart and #3 overall, and sold over one million copies.

The album became their most successful, peaking at #3 on the Album chart.  The single "Everything I Own" gave Bread another Top 10 song at #5, and a #3 Adult hit.

The single "Diary" reached #3 on the Adult chart, but stopped at #15 overall, making it one of The Top Unknown/Underrated Songs of the Rock Era*.

Baby I-m-a Want You is approaching Platinum status in the U.S., and contains this Top Track*--"Down On My Knees". 

The album Guitar Man later in the year also went Gold and reached #18 on the Album chart.  The single "The Guitar Man" reached #1 among adults (the group's third career Adult smash), and peaked at #11 overall.

"Sweet Surrender" also topped the Adult chart (for two weeks) and peaked at #15 overall.

The single "Aubrey" reached #4 on the Adult chart and also peaked at #15 on the Popular chart.

To outsiders, Bread seemed to be at the top of their game.  But success often brings problems, as personalities and egos get involved.  This was the case with Bread.  Up to this point, all eleven of the group's charting singles had been written and sung by Gates.  Griffin believed the singles should have been split between the two, since he was also a principal songwriter on the albums.  This conflict led to the breakup of the group in 1973.

Gates and Griffin thus returned to their solo careers.  Elektra released the compilation album The Best of Bread, and it showed a public still fully in love with the group and yearning for more.  The album  went all the way to #2 and stayed on the best-seller list for over two years.  It has now sold over five million copies.

The album The Best of Bread, Volume 2, released in 1974, also went Gold.

Time heals all wounds (or most of them anyway), and by 1976, the group got together for one more album.  Bread released the album Lost Without Your Love in 1977.  The title song gave the group another Top 10 hit at #9, and a #3 Adult smash.  

Bread toured throughout 1977 to promote Lost Without your Love.  The album became the group's seventh straight Gold album, counting their two compilations.  The single "Hooked On You" just missed #1 on the Adult chart, peaking at #2 for three weeks.

With their farewell album and tour behind them, the group broke up again.

Gates went on to a successful solo career.  He formed a group with Botts and Knechtel and toured as David Gates & Bread.  But Griffin complained over this, and resulting litigation was not settled until 1984.

Royer continued to write, occasionally teaming up with Griffin.  Knechtel continued to be an in-demand session player, backing up artists such as Elvis Costello, Stephen Bishop, and many more.  

The album Anthology of Bread, released in 1985, also went Platinum.  Those sales count for this special, since all of the group's music was released in the Seventies.

In 1994, Royer, Griffin and Knechtel reunited under the name "Toast".  Funny! 

In 1996, finally settling their differences, the classic lineup of Bread reunited for a 25th Anniversary tour of the United States, Europe, Asia, and South Africa.  The tour was so successful that Bread extended it into 1997.

In 2006, Bread was inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame.  Griffin and Botts both had died from cancer in 2005, and Knechtel died of a heart attack in 2009, leaving Gates and Royer as the only surviving original members of Bread.  Earlier this year, the biography of Bread, titled Bread:  A Sweet Surrender, was released, with contributions from surviving family members, musical colleagues, and interviews with Royer. 

Bread sold over nine million albums in the United States alone.  They enjoyed 13 hits in the Seventies, with six of them going Top 10 and one #1 song.

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