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When It Comes to Bands, Name Not Mean Much

The original Grass Roots did not perform on their own albums, despite being pictured on the album cover.
These four men have the legal right to use the name “The Grass Roots” and play the songs, but none of them are original members, something, it seems, the audience is better off not knowing.

What's in a name?

When it comes to a name of a popular band, it could be quite a lot, or a little.

Especially in the often less than candid world of concert promotions.

Well, you can add the name The Grass Roots to the growing number of what might be called de-facto tribute bands that somehow acquire the legal right to use a once popular band's name, yet do not have a single member of the original band performing with them.

The Grass Roots were a hit-making pop-rock recording act of the late 60's.

Last Saturday, a group of four musicians calling themselves the Grass Roots performed at the Seneca Niagara Casino for a local charity's fund-raising event.

The same four middle-aged men, using the Grass Roots name, also performed for Seneca Niagara last November.

In concert, they perform the original hits of the late 1960's recording act with the same name, but none of the men heard at the Casino performed on any of the original Grass Roots records, or performed live with the band when it had any of its hit records. Or had anything to do with the band when it was part of the national musical scene more than 40 years ago.

The band that played at Seneca Niagara consisted of Mark Dawson, who joined this band in 2008, Dusty Hanvey (1984), Larry Nelson (1984) and Joe Dougherty (1990).

It has become increasingly common for various music business enterprises to acquire the names of formerly popular bands. While the public is often misled, it is not technically illegal to allow the audience to believe the band they just saw is not the band they listened to years ago.

The owner of the name can advertise it, and sometimes even use the original recordings of the band to promote the concerts.

The music may be good; it brings back memories, but this was not the original band as many who come to their concerts are led to presume.

The idea to form the original band was conceived and implemented by P. F. Sloan and Steve Barri of Dunhill Records in the mid 60's. It was to be a studio-controlled recording act that would promote record sales with live performances.

In its first few years, Grass Roots underwent several complete lineup changes.

The group became successful while Creed Bratton (vocals, guitar), Rick Coonce (drums, percussion), Warren Entner (vocals, guitar, keyboards), and Rob Grill (vocals, bass) were members.

However, other than vocals, the group did not perform on their own records.

The band's hit songs were written by Dunhill Records staff (including Sloan and Barri) and top LA studio-musicians, such as Tommy Tedesco and Carol Kaye played on most, if not all, of their hits.

The Grass Roots had their first Top 10 hit in the summer of 1967 with Let's Live for Today which sold over one million copies. With Rob Grill as lead singer, they recorded Where Were You When I Needed You. The group's other hits include: Midnight Confessions (U.S.#5,) (1968); I'd Wait a Million Years (U.S.#15), (1970); Temptation Eyes (#15), Sooner or Later (U.S. #9), and Two Divided by Love(U.S.#16).

The Dunhill arrangers added horns to some of their recordings which was somewhat novel for a folk pop band of the time.

The band members performed at the San Francisco Pop Festival, the Los Angeles Pop Festival, the Miami Pop Festival, the Newport Pop Festival and other venues.

Until his death in 2011, Grill, who wound up owning the name Grass Roots, was the only original member that outlasted the five-year run of hit recordings. He performed with an often changing lineup of musicians for live performances on the nostalgia circuit.

Over the years there have been 61 different members of the four-piece band.

Is it a lie by omission to advertise, The Grass Roots are in concert and not openly disclose that none of the present band members had anything to do with the music that concert goers associate with the name? Of course, the new Grass Roots are not the only band on the nostalgia circuit to promote themselves this way. Recently performers calling themselves The Ink Spots, The Platters, The Guess Who, the Vogues, Yes and others came to town using the same formula.



Niagara Falls Reporter - Publisher Frank Parlato Jr. www.niagarafallsreporter.com

Mar12 , 2013