Bread was a rock band from Los Angeles, California. They placed 13 songs on the Billboard Hot 100 chart between 1970 and 1977 and were a prime example of what later was labeled soft rock.The band consisted of David Gates (vocals, guitar, bass, keyboards, violin, viola, percussion), Jimmy Griffin (vocals, guitar, keyboards, percussion), Robb Royer (bass, guitar, flute, keyboards, percussion, recorder, backing vocals), Mike Botts (drums; joined in the summer of 1969) and Larry Knechtel (bass, guitar, keyboards, harmonica; replaced Royer in 1971).
Beginnings and fameBefore forming Bread, Gates had worked with Royer's previous band, The Pleasure Fair, producing and arranging the band's 1967 album, The Pleasure Fair. Royer then introduced Gates to his songwriting partner, Griffin, and the trio joined together in 1968 and signed with Elektra Records, choosing the name "Bread" in 1969. The group's first single, "Dismal Day", was released in June 1969 but did not chart. Their debut album, Bread, was released in September 1969 and peaked at No. 127 on the Billboard 200. Songwriting on the album was split evenly between Gates and the team of Griffin-Royer. Jim Gordon, a session musician, accompanied the band on drums for the album.
In the summer of 1969, Bread did some concerts with Gordon on drums. But when Gordon's schedule conflicted and he proved unavailable for future outings, they quickly brought in Mike Botts as their permanent drummer. Botts appeared on their second album, On the Waters (peaking at No. 12 on the Billboard 200). This time their efforts quickly established Bread as a major act with the Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 hit "Make It with You" in 1970. "Make It with You" would be Bread's only No. 1 on the Hot 100.
For their next single, they released a re-recorded version of "It Don't Matter To Me", a Gates song from their first album. This single was a hit as well, reaching No. 10. Bread began touring and recording the 1971 album titled Manna (#21), which included the Top 5 hit single, "If". As with the first album, songwriting credits were split evenly between Gates and Griffin-Royer.
Royer left the group after three albums, although he would continue to write with Griffin, and was replaced by Larry Knechtel, a leading Los Angeles session musician who had played piano on Simon & Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Water" single in 1970. In January 1972 Bread released Baby I'm-a Want You, their most successful album, peaking at No. 3 on the Billboard 200. The title song was established as a hit in late 1971 before the album was released, also hitting No. 3. Follow-up singles "Everything I Own" and "Diary" also went Top 20. The next album, Guitar Man, was released ten months later and went to No. 18. The album produced three Top 20 singles, "The Guitar Man" (#11), "Sweet Surrender" (#15), and "Aubrey" (#15), with the first two going to No. 1 on Billboard's adult contemporary chart.
Split and reunionBy 1973, fatigue from constant recording and touring had set in despite the band's success, and personal relationships began to show strain, especially between Gates and Griffin. All eleven of Bread's charting singles between 1970 and 1973 had been written and sung by Gates. Elektra Records had invariably selected Gates' songs for the A-sides of the singles, while Griffin felt that the singles should have been split between the two of them. There was also some dissatisfaction with the songs planned for a sixth album. Bread decided to disband.
Gates and Griffin returned to their solo careers with mixed results. The Best of Bread compilation album from 1973 was a huge success, peaking at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 and staying on the chart for over two years. The follow-up, The Best Of Bread, Volume Two, was released in 1974 and went to No. 32.
The reunion of the group in 1976 came about after Elektra Records expressed interest in another Bread album. Gates, Griffin, Botts and Knechtel returned to the studio that year and recorded the album Lost Without Your Love, released in January 1977. The title track, again written and sung by Gates, was the band's last Top 10 hit, peaking at No. 9 on the singles chart. This comeback record reached No. 26 on Billboard's album chart and was Bread's seventh consecutive album (including the two best ofs) to be R.I.A.A. certified gold. In March 1977, Elektra released a second single, "Hooked On You". It was less successful on the pop chart (peaking at No. 60) but it reached No. 2 on Billboard's Adult Contemporary chart. The four members of Bread (along with session guitarist Dean Parks) toured throughout 1977 to support their comeback album. After a short break, they commenced the tour's second leg that summer without Griffin, whom Gates failed to invite after further rising tensions. They ended the year with no further plans to record as a group.
Following the break-upIn 1978 Gates enjoyed success as a solo artist with the hit singles "Goodbye Girl" (#15; from the movie The Goodbye Girl) and "Took the Last Train" (#30). He then toured with Botts and Knechtel as "David Gates & Bread". The group's 1978 touring line-up also included Warren Ham (ex-Bloodrock; woodwinds, keyboards, backing vocals), Bill Ham (guitars) and David Miner (bass). This led to a legal dispute with Griffin over use of the band's name, of which Griffin was co-owner. In the dispute, Griffin again complained that Gates' songs were given preference as singles over his. The resulting litigation was not settled until 1984.
After leaving Bread in 1971, Royer stuck mostly to songwriting (still teaming up with Griffin on occasion). As with Griffin, his success was mostly in writing for artists in the country music field in the 1980s and 1990s. In 1994 Royer, Griffin and Knechtel re-united under the name "Toast". Knechtel had continued to be an in-demand session player, backing up such artists as Elvis Costello. In 1994, after being out of the spotlight for thirteen years, Gates released a new solo album, Love is Always Seventeen.
Final reunionIn 1996, having settled their differences, Gates, Griffin, Botts and Knechtel reunited Bread for a successful "25th Anniversary" tour of the United States, South Africa, Europe and Asia. This time out the group was accompanied by Randy Flowers (guitars), Scott Chambers (bass) and a string section to help them capture the sound of the records. This tour was extended into 1997, which would be the last year the original members of Bread would ever perform together. Gates and the others then resumed their individual careers. Bread was inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2006.
In 2005 both Griffin and Botts died from cancer at the age of 61. In August 2009, Knechtel died of a heart attack at the age of 69, leaving Gates and Royer as the only surviving original members of Bread. Royer continues to be involved in music, working out of his Nashfilms studio in Tennessee, while Gates contents himself with retirement at his home in California. In 2010 Royer released a Jimmy Griffin album consisting of songs written by both himself and Griffin.
2013 will see the first biography of the band, published via Helter Skelter Publishing in the UK, and written with the full co-operation of Robb Royer and many surviving family members and musical colleagues.