Bread Songs, Music, and Band History

Bread (left to right) Mike Botts, Larry Knechtal, Jimmy Griffin, and David Gates

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Helmed by an already established songwriter in David Gates, Bread explored several different types of pop-rock in the '70s — but somehow it was always Gates' signature ballads, which took soft-rock sadness to epic levels, that seemed to stick longer in the hearts and on the charts.

Bread's Best Known Songs

  • "Make It With You"
  • "Baby, I'm-a Want You"
  • "The Guitar Man"
  • "If"
  • "Everything I Own"
  • "Diary"
  • "Aubrey"
  • "It Don't Matter to Me"
  • "Sweet Surrender"
  • "Lost Without Your Love"

Where You Might Have Heard Them

Usually, when you hear Bread songs off the radio, it's meant to be ironic, like "Baby I'm-a Want You" in "House" and "Cold Case" episodes, or "If" in the film Anchorman. "Everything I Own" is only found in serious scenes, however, and there's an occasional outlier like "Guitar Man" popping up in an episode of "Supernatural."

  • Formed 1967 (Los Angeles, CA)
  • Styles Soft rock, Pop, Adult contemporary, Folk rock, Rock and roll, Hard rock

Claims to Fame

  • One of the most popular soft-rock outfits of the era
  • Bridged the gap between the British Invasion-influenced pop of the late 60s and the sensitive singer-songwriter movement of the early 70s
  • Leader David Gates' folk-rock-influenced ballads were disarmingly mellow yet lyrically heartbreaking
  • Helped to define the new California soft-rock sound that grew out of the area's folk and pop

Bread Band Members From the Classic Lineup

  • David Gates (born December 11, 1940, in Tulsa, OK): lead vocals, guitar, bass, keyboards, violin, percussion
  • Jimmy Griffin (born James Arthur Griffin, August 10, 1943, in Cincinnati, OH; died January 11, 2005, Franklin, TN): lead vocals, guitar, keyboards, percussion
  • Larry Knechtel (born Lawrence William Knechtel, August 4, 1940, in Bell, CA; died August 20, 2009, Yakima, WA): guitar, bass, keyboards, harmonica
  • Mike Botts (born Michael G. Botts, December 8, 1944, in Oakland, CA; died December 9, 2005, Burbank, CA): drums

The History of Bread

David Gates, the nominal leader of Bread, had already been playing live in various bands for four years by the time he moved to Los Angeles at 21.

There, he immediately plugged himself into the burgeoning local scene, writing hits ("Popsicles and Icicles" by the Murmaids and "Saturday's Child" for the Monkees), and producing as well (Glenn Yarbrough's "Baby, The Rain Must Fall").

He also got to know the famous sessionmen known as The Wrecking Crew and released several solo singles, none of which found much success. By 1967 he was producing a psych-pop group called the Pleasure Faire.

Faire member Robb Royer suggested to Gates that they form their own group, along with mutual friend and L.A. scene vet Jimmy Griffin, and after being inspired by a bread truck passing by, the group Bread was born.

At first, the group was heavily steeped in psych-pop, and all three members (session drummers were used for the first LP) wrote songs in many different styles.

But it was a song from their second album, a Gates ballad called "Make It With You," that perfectly fit the parameters of the new mellow AM sound, and it rocketed to #1. The next ten singles, all ballads written and sung by Gates, hit the Top 40.

Unfortunately, the other songwriting members of Bread wanted a crack at a single too, and it lead to internal dissension; making matters worse was the fact that Gates made two solo albums during the Bread years.

Eventually, the group disbanded after Gates refused to yield on changing the hit formula. The other three members returned to session work, while Gates scored a hit on his own with the title song to the Neil Simon movie The Goodbye Girl.

Bread managed to reunite twice: once in 1977 for a hit single and album, and more recently in 1996 for a full tour. Griffin, Botts, and Knechtel have all since passed away.

More About Bread

  • Robb Royer (bass, guitar, keyboards, percussion, flute) also played with the group through 1971; he was replaced by Wrecking Crew legend Larry Knechtel, who plays the lead on "Guitar Man"
  • Gates' high school band in Tulsa once backed Chuck Berry on a gig there
  • Gates also produced early singles by Captain Beefheart in 1966
  • Royer and Griffin also wrote the Carpenters' 1970 hit "For All We Know"
  • Botts later toured as a member of Linda Ronstadt and Dan Fogelberg's bands

Bread Awards and Honors

Vocal Group Hall of Fame (2006)

Bread Number One Hits

  • Pop "Make It With You" (1970)
  • Adult Contemporary "Baby I'm-a Want You" (1971), "If" (1971), "Sweet Surrender" (1972), "The Guitar Man" (1972)

Bread Top 10 Hits

  • Pop "It Don't Matter to Me" (1970), "Baby I'm-a Want You" (1971), "If" (1971), "Everything I Own" (1972), "Lost Without Your Love" (1977)
  • Adult Contemporary "It Don't Matter to Me" (1970), "Make It With You" (1970), "Diary" (1972), "Everything I Own" (1972), "Aubrey" (1973), "Hooked on You" (1977), "Lost Without Your Love" (1977)

Bread Top 10 Albums

  • Pop Baby I'm-a Want You (1972), The Best Of Bread (1973)

Notable Covers

  • Boy George's remake of "Everything I Own" returned him to the UK charts in 1987 after the devastation of his band Culture Club's breakup
  • Tough-guy actor Telly Savalas also inexplicably had a #1 UK hit with a Bread cover, in this case, a spoken-word take on "If" from 1975
  • The only other charted Bread cover is Ralfi Pagan's 1971 R&B hit with "Make It With You," though Cake got some airplay with their 2004 version of "The Guitar Man."

Movies and TV

David Gates has a cameo playing piano in the classic 1971 car chase drama Vanishing Point, though Gates and Knechtel both star as themselves in a 1978 episode of "The Hardy Boys Mysteries."