Bread was formed in 1969 when a leading Los Angeles session musician, David Gates, was asked by now legendary music figure Russ Regan, to produce a project featuring Rob Royer as vocalist for the group Pleasure Faire. Royer had co-written The Carpenter's "For All We Know" with Jim Griffin, winning a 1970 Oscar for Song Of The Year. It was in the context of this project that Gates, Griffin and Royer, the nucleus of Bread, initially met, developed friendships and decided to pool their talents. The first fruit of that band, augmented by drummer Jim Gordon, was the album, "Bread", released in January, 1969. After a failed single called "Dismal Day", a tune called "Make It With You" went all the way to the top of the Billboard singles chart in August of 1970. The group followed up with another ballad, the Top 10 hit, "It Don't Matter To Me". It became obvious that this Soft Rock approach was going to be the sound that Bread would ultimately become identified with and certainly had a deep connection with as players.
1970 saw Jim Gordon replaced by Los Angeles based studio drummer Mike Botts in time for the album "Manna" which featured a second Gold single, "If", which climbed to #4 in the Spring of 1971. The follow-up, "Mother Freedom" did not fare as well, stalling at #37, but the band quickly recovered their mojo with "Baby, I'm A Want You", which rose to #3 that Fall. Yet another turning point in the band's line up took place in 1972, as Rob Royer left the group to pursue other avenues in the music business. At this crossroads, Larry Knechtel, a literally famous Los Angeles session keyboardist, became the permanent replacement for Royer. The band went on to rattle off five more U.S. Top 20 hits in quick succession with "Everything I Own" (#5) and "Diary" (#15), "The Guitar Man" (#11), "Sweet Surrender" (#15) and "Aubrey" (#15).
As is normal for musicians as talented as these, directions begin to veer, and there evolves a contrast such that is apparently impossible to justify keeping the group together. Upon approaching their sixth album in 1973, creative tensions between David Gates, the group's principal songwriter, and James Griffin, caused the group to call it quits after a final concert at the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City in May 1973. There was no point in tainting the great body of work up to that point, with an obviously strained effort that would possibly result in mediocrity. "The Best of Bread" album, released in March 1973, was a huge success, peaking at #2 on the Billboard Hot 200 and staying on the chart for over two years. The follow-up, "The Best of Bread, Volume 2", was issued in May 1974 and went to #32.
Setting Bread aside, the band members went in different directions. David Gates completed a couple of solo LPs, "First Album" in 1973, and "Never Let Her Go", from which the title track rose to #29 in 1975. The following year, Gates and Griffin were able to put differences aside and the pair, along with Botts and Knechtel, re-formed Bread, releasing "Lost Without Your Love" which climbed to #9 in early 1978. Although they had another hit on their hands, Bread once again dissolved over creative issues and Gates and Griffin returned to their solo careers. In 1978, Gates wrote the title song from the movie adaptation of Neil Simon's play, The Goodbye Girl, which gave him a #15 hit that Spring. The follow-up, "Took The Last Train" topped out at #30 in the Fall of that same year. He then continued to tour with Botts and Knechtel as David Gates & Bread and made a few TV appearances, including a guest shot on The Hardy Boys Mysteries which aired in November 1978. By then, the group's touring line-up had expanded to include Warren Ham ( woodwinds, keyboards, backing vocals), Bill Ham (guitars) and David Miner (bass). Then came the inevitable legal dispute over use of the band's name, of which Jim Griffin was co-owner. The resulting litigation, which resulted in the Bread name being retired altogether by late 1978, was not settled until 1984. The legal hassles and touring had taken its toll on Gates and he soon headed for the country side of life with family in tow to his northern California ranch.
Gates returned to recording with 1994's "Love Is Always Seventeen", but by that time, Bread's brand of Soft Rock had faded in popularity with record buyers. Meanwhile, Griffin relocated to Nashville, where he worked as a songwriter and later joined the Country groups, The Remingtons and Dreamer. Drummer Mike Botts also remained active in music, serving as a studio and touring musician for Linda Ronstadt and Dan Fogelberg. Larry Knechtel continued to perform both live and in the studio with a long list of music stars, including Neil Diamond, Randy Newman, Ray Charles, The Beach Boys, The Doors, Elvis Presley, Hank Williams Jr., Elvis Costello and The Dixie Chicks.
In 1996, Gates, Griffin, Botts and Knechtel settled their differences and reunited Bread for a successful 25th Anniversary Tour of the United States, South Africa, Europe and Asia. The outing ran into 1997, which would prove to be the last year the members of Bread would ever perform together. When the string of shows ended, Gates and the others resumed their individual careers. Sadly, James Griffin died of complications from cancer on January 11, 2005 at his home in Franklin, Tennessee. Mike Botts passed away in Burbank, California on December 9, 2005, one day after his 61st birthday, having suffered from colon cancer. Larry Knechtel died of a heart attack at the age of 69 on December 24th, 2009. Rob Royer continued to be involved in the music business, releasing a Jimmy Griffin tribute album consisting of songs written by both himself and Griffin. As for David Gates, he stayed happily retired at his California cattle ranch.
For more, be sure to read Gary James' interview with David Gates