Warren Entner - vocals, guitar, keyboards; Creed Bratton - guitar; Rob Grill - vocals, bass; Rick Coonce - drums
Best remembered for their string of late 1960s/early 1970s hits like "Temptation Eyes" and "Midnight Confessions," the Los Angeles based group, the Grass Roots began as a creation of the songwriting and production team of PF Sloan and Steve Barri. Like many songwriters and producers during the early half of the 1960s, Sloan and Barri were both contracted employees, then working for Trousdale music, the publishing division of Dunhill Records. When local Los Angeles groups like the Byrds and Buffalo Springfield began having chart success, Dunhill wished to jump into the bourgeoning folk-rock boom and requested Sloan and Barri create the material and recruit a group to promote it. Initially, the duo produced the tracks with studio musicians and with Sloan taking on lead vocal duties. When the debut song, "Where Were You When I Needed You" achieved success on local radio, they recruited a San Francisco blues-based group called the Bedouins, whose lead singer rerecorded vocals over Sloan and Barri's backing tracks. The resulting single achieved modest success, but the album failed to chart and the group jumped ship and returned to San Francisco.
A solution to Sloan and Barri's dilemma presented itself when Dunhill received an impressive demo tape from a local Los Angeles based quartet called the 13th Floor (not to be confused with the Texas-based band 13th Floor Elevators). Offered the opportunity of taking over the Grass Roots name and working directly with Sloan and Barri, the group agreed and the first "real" version of the Grass Roots was born. Featuring multi-instrumentalist Warren Entner, lead guitarist Creed Bratton, bassist and lead vocalist Rob Grill, and drummer Rick Coonce, the group was like many aspiring groups at this point in time, not only influenced by the pop music of the Beatles and Beach Boys, but also R&B and the folk and blues revival of the early 1960s. Their performances included a wide range of cover material, as well as originals written by Creed and Entner. Under Sloan and Barri's direction, the group first cut the song "Let's Live For Today," a 1966 hit for the English quartet the Rokes. With an undeniably catchy chorus, dramatic lead vocal by bassist Grill, and its message of living in the moment, this song struck gold during 1967's Summer Of Love, selling well over a million copies, and the album, released under the same title, charted modestly. On the follow-up album recorded later that same year, the group began flexing its muscle and the resulting album, Feelings, began emphasizing the group's original material over Sloan and Barri's.
Recorded live at Bill Graham's Fillmore Auditorium, this remarkable early live performance of the Grass Roots captures the group's live energy on stage at precisely this moment in time. Both opening and closing one of Graham's eclectic triple bills, which also featured hometown favorites Quicksilver Messenger Service headlining, this is a perfect example of the Grass Roots winning over a San Francisco audience at the early peak of psychadelia. Presented here is the group's first set of the evening.
Not surprisingly, this opening set emphasizes the Sloan/Barri songs that initially established the band's reputation, as they open with "Where Were You When I Needed You" and include both "This Precious Time" and "Things I Should Have Said" later in the set. An exuberant reading of "Let's Live For Today," their hit at the time is also included, but the set also features several key cover songs that reveal the group's early influences, such as Get "Out Of My Life Woman," "Night Time Is The Right Time," and Muddy Water's classic "Got My Mojo Working," all of which have natural appeal to the Fillmore's dance-hall crowds and early Quicksilver fans. Two of the group's early originals were also included in this set, and although the recording failed to capture the band's closing number, "House Of Stone" (written by Batton), listeners can enjoy a live reading of Entner and Batton's "Beatin' Around The Bush," which compares favorably to any of the songs written by the far more experienced team.
What is most interesting about this recording is how well the band's live sound reflects the era and just how receptive the Fillmore audience is to the Grass Roots. While they are not nearly as accomplished musicians as Quicksilver at this point in time, they perform respectably, and the Fillmore audience obviously responds to what they are playing. On stage, the lack of studio polish actually makes the group's sound more compelling in terms of what was happening in San Francisco at the time.
As this set (and even more so on the late set - also available here) reveal, the Grass Roots at this early stage in their career, were absorbing influences of every variety. They are certainly catering to a dance-hall audience here, but despite the Sloan/Barri songs being somewhat formulaic hook-laden folk-rock, the Grass Roots perform these songs in a compelling manner with a raw edginess not to be found on their studio recordings.