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Oklahoma Memories

David Gates

2011-12-10

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"I was born in Tulsa, and I was the youngest of four children, all musicians, and my dad was a music teacher/band director, and he had moved to Tulsa in 1940, just a few months before I was born, to take a teaching and supervising position with the Tulsa Public Schools, and my mom taught piano in our home."

That's the voice of David Gates, one of the many rock and roll artists from Oklahoma who churned out records in the 1970s.

From the Oklahoma History Center this is Oklahoma Memories. I'm Michael Dean.

Primarily known as the front man for the 1970s soft-rock band Bread, David Gates was a composer and session man before his career blossomed. Born in Tulsa on December 11, 1940, Gates graduated from Will Rogers High School, where he played in the school band. Gates had wanted to be a professional musician for as long as he could remember. In 1958 he began his career, singing and writing Rockabilly tunes, but he switched to studio work when he moved to Los Angeles. Gates hit the big time in 1963 when a friend of his asked him to help with a girl group called The Murmaids.

"...and he came to me and said I've got this girl's group, I need a song, and I happened to have just written this "Popsicles and Icicles," one of only two songs I ever got out of bed to write in the middle of the night." (snippet of song's chorus)
Popsicles charted at number three nationally, then in 1964, he met a TV producer who was putting together the pilot for a show for ABC-TV that would feature rock and roll artists weekly in prime time.
"I actually did the first Shindig! show as an arranger and arranged all that one hour's music for Jack Good to do his pilot. Charged him $100. I spent untold hours on that stuff."

(snippet of show intro)

In 1969, he met two members of a group called The Pleasure Fair, featuring Robb Royer and James Griffin.

"One of the groups I was producing and arranging had a guy in it named Robb Royer, who was a writer, and he said I need you to hear some songs I've written with my writing partner James Griffin. So I went over to their apartment and listened to some songs that James and Robb had written, and I loved the way Jimmy sang, and so I played some recent things I had written, and we were harmonizing on each other's songs and realized that our harmonies were really quite special with each other on each other's songs, and that's kind of what got us going."

Together they formed the band Bread. The group signed with Elektra Records and produced their first album. Gates said it got good reviews but didn't sell so well. So Bread went back to the studio to record a second album.

"So we had recorded about four or five songs on the second album, and the record company president came by to listen to what we were doing and "Make It with You" was one of those, and he said 'Oh, I've got to have this out right now.' I said 'But we're not done with the album.' 'That's okay, let's get this out on the street.'"

(snippet of "Make It with You")

His soft style and sweet melodies coupled with his sentimental lyrics resulted in seven Gold Record awards and two Gold Single awards. It was growing up in Oklahoma in the 1950s and '60s that led to his and others' success.

"...and Oklahoma has had a remarkable number of musicians in relationship to the population of that state - shocking number of successful Oklahoma musicians - and I feel it's because of this combination of music gathering in this one location, that we all learned to play and enjoy and appreciate all of these styles."

David Gates, born on December 11, 1940.Oklahoma Memories is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past. From the Oklahoma History Center in Oklahoma City, I'm Michael Dean.