Born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on December 11, 1940, David Gates has surely triumphed in lifes lottery of those whose music can be said to have formed the soundtrack to the lives of a generation. But if fame is an elusive goal for anyone to aim for it must, at the very least, have come as no surprise to those who knew him as a child that David opted to give music his best shot.
I was in a musical family, he admits, with an understatement typical of both his conversation and his work, the last of four children. My dad was a musician, my mom was also a musician. I learned to play a lot of classical tunes and then, of course, I was influenced by all the early rocknrollers, like everybody else. Really, Chuck Berry started the whole thing! He was such a fabulous songwriter, and of course also played lead guitar. I decided early on that Id rather write songs than spend time practising the guitar. I never was that good at lead guitar!
In 1958, a few months after Davids High School group had backed none other than Mr. Berry himself at a local concert, he wrote, recorded and self-released his first song, Jo Baby. Quite an achievement in those days when recording was a black art, it was a paean to a young lady whose heart was, it seemed, destined for another. At the very least, a gallant gesture: It was - and it really worked out great! says David. It became an overnight local hit and, of course, everyone in school knew who it was written for. The final straw came when she was at a dance with her old boyfriend and someone put on Jo-Baby. What a moment! He soon gave up.
David and Jo-Rita were soon married, and have remained together ever since. The following year, 1959, David enrolled at the University Of Oklahoma, majoring in English. Within a couple of years the newlyweds had two children and yet, notwithstanding the weight of his responsibilities and his half-finished degree course, David felt that his true path lay in music. With $200 to his name and his young family in tow David left for Los Angeles in late 61.
I ran into some good people pretty quick, says David, and got to work on recordings doing some arrangements, writing a few songs, playing piano and so on. I could do a lot of different things to make a living! My father always said, You can do music as a hobby, but it is hard to make a living at it. I made a deal with my dad that if I didnt make progress in the business within two years I would return and finish college. Needless to say, David never did get that degree.
Shortly before his father passed away, toward the end of that two year period, David had scored a national No. 3 US pop hit with his song Popsicles And Icicles, recorded by The Murmaids. The prolific and varied work that David accomplished in the years before Bread formed in 1968 included a Phil Spector session, a Brian Wilson session, arrangements for Bobby Darin, Duane Eddy, Merle Haggard, Elvis Presley (some film I cant remember ) and, not least, for Glenn Yarboroughs 1965 Grammy-nominated film theme and US Top 10 hit Baby The Rain Must Fall. Ive pushed strings on everybody, he admits. They add a quality of warmth A bowed instrument does something and when four bowed instruments all play the same note it creates a warmth within the note. Nothing else can do it. He also produced for various artists, from Pat Boone to Captain Beefheart: Yeah, that was really different, says David, with typical understatement. I did four sides - and actually wrote one, for which I still get a few royalties. But not much!
If the Beefheart session was clocking up a little future credibility, bread on the table was more likely to come from placing a song with TV pop sensation The Monkees. Neil Diamond, Carole King they were all at it: Matter of fact I wrote a song specifically for them Saturdays Child, says David. It went on their first album, which sold three million copies. It was almost their first single. Still, it helped pay a few bills
The Bread Era
Originally conceived as a harmony-based pop/rock group, with an emphasis on quirky, three-minute songwriting in Beatle-esque vein an alternative to the lengthy indulgences of the West Coast acid rock acts of the time Bread began life as a trio. David Gates and James Griffin, the two cornerstones of the new group, met during 1967 album sessions for Robb Royers group Pleasure Faire. Tiring of the session scene they were both involved in and looking for a creative outlet, Gates and Griffin, with Royer now on board as Griffins writing partner, embarked on their own project: seeing a bread van drive by as they were pondering a name for their new outfit. The rest is history.
Like the Beatles, Bread contained not one but three gifted songwriters, all looking for their share of space on the vinyl. Albums were to be pretty fairly divided but after their 1970 breakthrough with the Gates-penned smash hit Make It With You - all of Breads singles, and all of their biggest hits, were destined to be David Gates songs: The record label had this committee, where theyd get all these people together to hear the songs - I had some input, as had James and as had the management. But it was just whichever was the best song at the time that was chosen as the single
In the subsequent battle for whose songs became singles, James Griffin, essentially responsible for the groups raunchier material, tended to lose out a situation that would eventually contribute, along with simple burn-out, to Breads demise in 1973. But, as Gates has wisely observed: Ultimately, soft rock was what we did best, and you cant really argue with success.
The epic Guitar Man single, though not their last, provided a fitting swansong. With The Guitar Man I didnt want to have any particular person in mind. It was supposed to be about many, many people whove been involved in that situation - of just wanting to keep reaching out and touching people with their music. Somebody did come up to me at the time and said it sounded like Breads swansong. No, I said, its just about this guy who cant quit, doesnt care how many people come along, he just loves to play. I guess it was on the last album - but it had no reference to us whatsoever!
The Solo Years, Retirement and Return
Interrupted by the 1976-77 Bread reunion album and tour undertaken as a gesture toward Elektra, and yielding the US Top 10 and UK Top 30 hit single Lost Without Your Love - David enjoyed a respectable five album solo career spanning 1973 1981. It was a run that yielded eight US hit singles and two UK chart placings. Five songs from this period feature on The David Gates Songbook. Effectively retiring from active involvement in the music business after his 1981 album Take Me Now, David became a full-time rancher in Northern California. Just as he had done in 61, he and Jo-Rita plus two kids (not the same two - the most recent of their four, this time!) upped stakes and moved, with only a couple of how-to books and the determination to make it work, to the 3,500 acres of land David had bought in the mid-seventies. This time, though, they had a little more than $200 in the bank
I figured that getting away from music might recharge me, says David. Id done it for so long I felt a layoff would be healthy. Id gone off to do this rancher/cowboy thing that Id wanted to do since I was a kid. I did an awful lot of working with the livestock, baling hay, feeding cattle in the winter in the snow all of those visions of the Old West you see! And, I have to tell you, the lifestyle, being close to nature was just a fabulous experience I wouldnt trade it for anything. But after a while you begin to feel the hunger. You hear things on the radio and you think, I wonder if I could write something as good as that? Gates had nothing to prove to the world only to himself. During Davids ranching retirement Julio Iglesias had enjoyed a huge international hit (albeit not in Britain) with If while Boy George had, once again, taken Everything I Own to the UK No 1 spot.
To begin writing songs again Id need an outlet for the songs, says David. I tried showing my songs to other artists but I kept running into situations where people would go, Well, why dont you go do it yourself? After a while I ran into Jac Holzman whod owned Elektra Records and signed Bread. I played him my songs and he liked them. He said, Why dont we try it again? We did pretty good the last time!
David signed to Jacs new TimeWarner subsidiary Discovery, releasing the superb US-only album Love Is Always Seventeen in 1994. The title track instantly stood out and is now re-recorded with a fresh slant for The David Gates Songbook. In 1996-97, having always said that Bread would never reunite again, they did just that: no recordings but a first-ever world tour that did terrific business from South Africa to New Zealand to Northern Ireland and everywhere in between.
After the Bread reunion tour, I began writing and stock-piling songs and doing twenty or thirty concerts in the US each year. After one of the concerts, a year or so back, a woman came up to me and said, Where can I buy an album thats got everything on it that I heard tonight? And I said, Well, mam, you cant And so the idea was born in my head to try to do an album that did have all of the best of everything Id ever written, all the things that I do in concert.
Debuting in the UK on Zomba/Jive in September 2002, The David Gates Songbook truly represents a lifetime of music with five new songs each sharing the very same qualities that made the David Gates sound so popular in the seventies and ever since. What Im hoping, says David, is that the people who have known and enjoyed the old songs will latch on to these five new things and think, Hey, this guys still writing, still doing the same thing, and not forget about me.
Not a chance of that!!!
My Review of David Gates' Manchester Concert March 31st 2003
David walked on the stage and opened with Make It
with You, his young sounding voice amazed the Audience made up of
mostly Middle Aged Couples. After telling the audience the story of the
song been mistaken for been called Naked With You he moved
on to The Mustang and played it exact to the original recording
except with that live edge to it that makes it special.
David Crawt's Review of David Gates in Manchester.
THE LEAD UP
When David's U.K. concert dates were announced, I set about deciding
which one/ones I would be able to attend. My work schedule was looking
full and opportunities were obviously going to be few.
The journey to Manchester from my hometown of Holbeach is not an easy one. Holbeach is in the East of England, and Manchester is in the West. This meant a journey of 130 miles right across the 'backbone' of England. I left home at 11:00 a.m. and arrived at my hotel around 3:00 p.m. After checking in I had a look around 'The Trafford Centre'. This is a large shopping centre built on the outskirts of the city of Manchester. Dean had told me that the only 'Bread' album he did not have on CD was 'Baby I'm-A Want You' so, when I discovered a copy in the HMV shop, I got it for him. I met up with Dean around 6:20 p.m. and we set off for the concert with his Mum, Auntie & Nanna.
On arrival at the 'Bridgewater Hall', we looked around the foyer area for programs etc. but, unfortunately, there was nothing on sale. The only memorabilia we could find were some leaflets advertising David's U.K. tour. Shortly afterwards, Mark arrived with his partner, Jo.
David played acoustic guitar for most of the evening and was accompanied
by the Flowers brothers, Jerry & Randy, who played bass and lead guitar
respectively. They have their own band called 'Pinch' and you can check
them out on their website at www.pinchmusic.com
It was no surprise that the show got underway with 'Make It With You'.
There then followed a set, which included (nearly) all of the 'Bread'
hits and David's most successful solo songs. Notable omissions were 'It
Don't Matter To Me' & 'Never Let Her Go'.
1. Make It With You
I was hopeful that I could pull a few strings which would allow both
Mark & Dean to meet David after the show. However, although Lisa Formica
had tried very hard to arrange this for me, she had not been successful.
I 'd also 'e' mailed David about this but my mail had gone unanswered.
My only hope was that I would see Jo Rita Gates in the audience. If I
could see her, she may remember me from when we had met before and maybe
she could take us to see David. However, she was nowhere to be seen and
I later found out that she had stayed in London, probably with one of
her children who I know lives and works there.
David Crawt's Review of David Gates In Nottingham.
This concert was pretty much a repeat of the Manchester one. The only
difference was that, at the end, David had many 'thank yous' to convey
to all the people who had made the tour possible.