The Voice Of The Grass Roots

If you regularly listened to Top 40 radio anytime during the late 1960s and early 1970s, you heard Rob Grill sing. Frequently.

Grill, who crossed over yesterday morning at the age of 67, was the lead singer for the Grass Roots for most of their history, taking the mike in 1967, a couple of years after the band had first been formed as a studio group. (The tangled tale of producers P.F. Sloan and Steve Barri and the string of musicians they recruited to become the Grass Roots is told in brief at All-Music Guide.)

The first track cut by Grill and his new bandmates, AMG notes, was “Let’s Live For Today,” which promptly went to No. 8. From then into 1975, the group had eighteen more records reach the Billboard Hot 100, with two more – “Midnight Confessions” and “Sooner or Later” – reaching the Top Ten. When the hits dried up after 1975’s “Mamacita” topped out at No. 71, Grill recorded a solo album and stayed in what AMG calls “the organizing side” of the music business until 1982, when, AMG says, “amid the burgeoning oldies concert circuit and the respect beginning to be accorded the Grass Roots, Grill formed a new  Grass Roots – sometimes billed as Rob Grill and the Grass Roots – and began performing as many as 100 shows a year.”

One of those shows took place Monday evening in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, when the surviving members of the Grass Roots took the stage and informed their audience of Grill’s death that morning. At the website of the Allentown Morning Call, the blog Lehigh Valley Music quotes bassist Mark Dawson as telling the audience, “We may have lost one great friend, but heaven gained an exceptional singer. . . . We say God bless you, and Rob says the show must go on.”

The blog also reported: “Dawson said Grill died in the arms of his wife, Nancy, as he listened to ‘Live For Today,’ which Dawson said was his favorite Grass Roots song.”

I wasn’t certain as I sat down to research and write this morning if I were going to write anything about Grill and the Grass Roots. Their records were great radio fare, and I enjoyed them from 1969, when I began listening to Top 40, until their string ran out in 1975. I especially liked “Temptation Eyes” and “Sooner or Later.” I also liked very much “I’d Wait A Million Years,” which spoke loudly to the love-struck adolescent I frequently was. And when I saw that last title sitting among the records listed in the Billboard Hot 100 from July 12, 1969, I figured the universe was telling me something.

So here it is. It was sitting at No. 59 forty-two years ago today, on its way to No. 15.

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4 Responses to “The Voice Of The Grass Roots”

  1. Yah Shure says:

    Whiteray, thanks of this post. I’ve been a big Grass Roots/Grassroots fan since a neighbor gave me a promo copy of their first Dunhill single, “Mr. Jones,” in late 1965. “Where Were You When I Needed You” completely bowled me over, and remains one of my all-time faves. I always felt that Rob made a great lead singer, once the pieces finally fell in place, with one notable misstep: His overly-gruff new vocal take on the “Where Were You When I Needed You” remake for 1967’s ‘Let’s Live For Today’ album was no match for Bill Fulton’s smoother delivery on the 1966 hit version. Rob demonstrated a much-better grasp of the song when he re-cut it as a solo ballad in 1979.

    I’ll plug a couple of other lesser-charting-but-deserving singles: “Lovin’ Things”, “A Melody For You” and “Any Way The Wind Blows.” As much as I thoroughly enjoyed the group’s long string of superb hit singles, I also wonder what the Grass Roots might have sounded like, had Phil Sloan not been forced out at Dunhill in ’67.

    Thank you, Rob Grill, for helping make both top-40 radio listening and record buying a hell of a lot more fun. You will be sorely missed.

  2. I really know nothing by The Grass Roots (that I know I know( but Let’s Live For Today, but I’ve had an interest since learning of Creed Bratton having been in the band.

    Two Divided By Love has popped up a couple times on Sirius’ 70s station. I thought it was a fairly nifty early ’70s pop song.

    I quite like this one, though.

  3. […] Number One song in America 35 years ago this week. Also worth reading if you haven’t already: whiteray’s piece about Rob Grill of the Grass Roots, who died earlier this week. Few groups delivered AM-radio pleasure like they did, particularly on […]

  4. Charlie says:

    The Grass Roots were one of the first mainstream white bands to make full usage of a horn section. No jazz, no solos, no improvisation but the horns certainly did make the songs mcuh more appealing. I have had their greatest hits album on LP for years. Time to burn it to CD.

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