The story of The Grass Roots began with P.F. Sloan and Steve Barri, a pair pf L.A.-based songwriter/producers who worked for Dunhill Records. They had written songs for many other artists, and most of their work was in pop or surf styles. However Sloan had in 1965 gotten on board with the folk-rock movement, writing the #1 hit "Eve Of Destruction" for Barry McGuire and releasing two folk-rock solo albums. That same year they had written and recorded a song called "Where Were You When I Needed You", with Sloan on lead vocals, and persuaded Dunhill to release it. It was credited to The Grass Roots, and interest in this 'band' grew, though they were in reality a studio project and not a real band at the time.
Dunhill asked Sloan and Barri to find a group to play the part of The Grass Roots, and they found one in a band from San Francisco called The Bedouins - Bill Fulton (lead vocals/guitar), Daney Ellis (guitar), David Stensen (bass) and Joel Larson (drums). They became the house band at L.A. club The Trip, and also backed fellow Dunhill artists for TV performances, including The Mamas & The Papas and Barry McGuire. They also released an excellent cover of Bob Dylan's "Ballad Of A Thin Man", though it did not chart. However they weren't happy with the arrangement, having no say in what they did, and so all of them except Larson returned to San Francisco.
It was then that a new version of "Where Were You When I Needed You", with Fulton's vocals replacing Sloan's, was released and got to #28. An album followed in 1966, with recordings mostly featuring Sloan and session musicians, including the original version of "Where Were You When I Needed You". Fulton's vocals only featured on three of the tracks. This confusing story would suggest the album would be a dubious affair, made by a studio team to cash in on the folk-rock trends of the day... But actually it's a brilliant record, mixing folk-rock aesthetics (12-string guitar and tambourine) with seriously well-written pop songs. Most of the songs were Sloan/Barri originals, plus covers of Simon & Garfunkel's "I Am A Rock", The Lovin' Spoonful's "You Didn't Have To Be So Nice", The Rolling Stones' "Tell Me" (a relatively obscure but good Stones number which was perfectly suited for the folk-rock treatment), Ivory Joe Hunter's "Ain't That Lovin' You Baby" and the aforementioned Dylan cover.
Sadly the album did not chart, but Dunhill wanted to continue with the Grass Roots name, and told Sloan and Barri to recruit another band to take it up, which they did, and this new version went on to have more long-lasting succcess.
|> Let's Live For Today (1967)