More than three decades ago in Los Angeles, Dusty Hanvey was happy being a studio musician. And, he was a good enough guitar player to perform on a regular basis -- if they stayed close to home -- with the likes of the Mamas and the Papas and the Righteous Brothers.
In the summer of 1984, however, Rob Grill, the lead singer and bass player for the Grass Roots, working hard to keep his band together, finally convinced Hanvey to hit the road with him and become an official member of the group.
"I wasn't a road guy, but Rob tickled me just enough to get me to go for it, so I helped him put the band back together," said Hanvey in a phone interview last week. "I grabbed Larry Nelson for keyboards, we got a few other guys and the next thing I know we're performing in Asia, in Japan in 1984, and it hasn't stopped yet."
Grill is gone, having died in July of 2011 from complications following a strike. But his group is alive and well, and will perform Saturday as the Grass Roots in the Sixties Spectacular at Proctors. Along with Hanvey and Nelson, the group includes Joe Dougherty (joined in 1987) on drums and Mark Dawson (joined in 2008) doing vocals and lead vocals.
"There was a consensus, after Rob passed away, that we should keep on playing," said Hanvey. "Toward the end Rob was kind of sick and he couldn't really get out on the road that much. So in anticipation of that, we kind of slowly worked Mark into our plan. Rob said to us, 'this is your baby now. Take it.' He kind of anointed us."
Between 1966 and 1975, the Grass Roots produced three Top Ten hits on the U.S. Billboard Charts, three Top 20 songs and eight Top 40. From 1967-1972, they were on the charts continually for a stretch of 307 weeks, more than any other rock band ever.
"The music is fun, our group is real solid, so why shouldn't we keep on going," said Hanvey. "We're doing a lot of these shows, with guys like Peter Noone and B.J. Thomas, and those guys are still fantastic, so there's reason to stop. I still don't like traveling, especially the flying, but I'm working and I'm having fun. It all makes sense to me."
Hanvey says his favorite Grass Roots song is "Temptation Eyes," which climbed to No. 15 in the U.S. in 1970. The group's biggest hit was "Midnight Confessions" in 1968, climbing to No. 5, while "Let's Live for Today" reached No. 8 in 1967 and "Sooner or Later" peaked at No. 9 in 1971. During the band's peak years it consisted of Grill, Warren Entner, Rick Coonce, Dennis Provisor and Terry Furlong.
When the Grass Roots were originally formed by record producer Lou Adler and the song-writing team of P.F. Sloan and Steve Barri, Hanvey was still a teenager growing up in southern California.
"The music business was different back then, and nobody in the band wrote music," said Hanvey. "Once a writer or a producer had some success, they were placed with a band and that's pretty much what happened with the Grass Roots."
When he's not on the road touring with the Grass Roots, Hanvey enjoys spending his time at his home in Cherry Valley, about an hour east of Los Angeles.
"I live in a dot on the map way out in the middle of nowhere," he said. "I got a few acres, and when I'm not touring I just sit on the porch and look at my dirt. It's great."
Performing with the Grass Roots Saturday night will be Peter Noone, the lead singer of Herman's Hermits, and B.J. Thomas. Herman's Hermits had three No. 1 songs in the 1960s; "I'm Into Something Good," "Mrs. Brown, You've Got a Lovely Daughter" and "I'm Henry the Eighth, I am."
Thomas had a No. 1 hit with "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head" in 1969, and with "Hey, Won't You Play Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song" in 1975. He also reached No. 5 on the Billboard Charts with "Hooked on a Feeling," and had five other Top 20 songs between 1966 and 1977.
WHERE: Proctors, 432 State Street, Schenectady
WHEN: 7 p.m. Saturday
HOW MUCH: $39.75-$54.75
MORE INFO: www.proctors.org, 346-6204
Grass Roots' Top Ten songs
- Midnight Confessions, No. 5 in 1968
- Let's Live for Today, No. 8 in 1967
- Sooner or Later, No. 9 in 1971
- I'd Wait a Million Years, No. 15 in 1969
- Temptation Eyes, No. 15 in 1970
- Things I Should Have Said to You, No. 23 in 1967
- Heaven Knows, No. 24 in 1969
- Where Were You When I Needed You, No. 28 in 1968
- Bella Linda, No. 28 in 1968