|Birth name||Erik Michael Coonce|
August 1, 1946|
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Died||February 25, 2011
|Genres||Folk, rock, country, pop|
|Instruments||Drums, fiddle, percussion|
Erik Michael Coonce (August 1, 1946 – February 25, 2011), better known as Rick Coonce, was the drummer for The Grass Roots, a successful rock group that received heavy airplay on the radio from 1967 to 1972. Due to renewed interest in classic bands, The Grass Roots and Coonce's driving drum beats are popular even into the new millennium. He was born in Los Angeles, California on August 1, 1946, at The City Of Angels Hospital.
He attended a Catholic school for six years while his mother worked to support the family. His father played the fiddle and his mother sang. Rick developed a keen interest in music at an early age by observing his parents and his older brother's guitar lessons. Rick's mother insisted he should play the accordion despite his interest in guitar. While pursuing the accordion he noticed that girls had little interest in that particular instrument.
At 12 Coonce decided he wanted to play drums. His mother surprised him with the special Christmas present of a used snare drum, hi-hat cymbal, and stand. Rick added to his set right away, acquiring mismatching pieces as he could.
At 16 years old Coonce taught drums at the Adler Music Store. Befriending the owner, Herb Wall, he was offered a new set of drums with nothing down and payments each month. He went to high school in Simi Valley and became active in bands, playing wherever he could. He also worked at the Sunkist Orange packing house, and often played gigs after work.
An early group was named The Beethovens. With the exception of Coonce, all the members were Mexican-American. They played anywhere they could to get noticed. Freddie Trujillo played lead guitar, John Sepulvada played bass, Mike Vasquez played sax and Ruben Arvizo played rhythm guitar. The band was affectionately called “four beans and a tortilla”. They covered several Beatles songs, with an emphasis on achieving the harmonies of Lennon and McCartney. Coonce was strongly influenced by Mexican folk music and rock legend Ritchie Valens. Rick’s older brother went to the same high school as Valens, and attended at the same time.
In 1966, The Beethovens played at a Battle Of The Bands in Hollywood and took second place. A future band mate, Rob Grill was a singer in one of the other competing bands that night. They actually did better than The Beethovens but were disqualified because one of their band members was a professional musician, so Rick’s group moved up in rank.
Creed Bratton and Warren Entner were in the audience that night and saw Coonce play. They called him later and asked him to join their band, The 13th Floor. Kenny Fukomoto played bass and sang in the group. Through Rick’s relationship with music store owner Herb Wall, the struggling new group was allowed access to the store's equipment. The 13th Floor played wherever they could. Eventually they put together a demo tape and sent it to Dunhill Records.
P.F. Sloan and Steve Barri heard the demos and liked them. The 13th Floor were on their way to a recording contract but met an obstacle when Kenny Fukomoto was drafted into the army. The group lacked a bass player and singer so they visited the Musician Union #69 in Hollywood. There they saw a posting for Rob Grill. Rob tried out for the open slot and was dynamite.
In 1967, the group changed their name to The Grass Roots to take advantage of prior name recognition and recorded "Let's Live For Today". The iconic song peaked at #8 on the Hot 100. Capturing the mood of the era, "Let’s Live For Today" kicked the group into stardom.
With the help of producers like Steve Barri and pushed forward by Coonce's energetic drumming, which often emphasized the bass beat, the band evolved a unique sound. Some of the hits that continue to get airplay are "Midnight Confessions", "I'd Wait A Million Years", and "Temptation Eyes". Coonce appeared with the group on many television programs such as American Bandstand and The Ed Sullivan Show. The Grass Roots appeared in a major motion picture starring Doris Day called With Six You Get Eggroll. Rick also composed songs with The Grass Roots, co-authoring "Feelings" and "Get it Together" (a theme song for the ABC television show) and self composing "Truck Drivin' Man". Rick was able to work with drummer legend Hal Blaine, who was an importance influence.
The Grass Roots played at the Fantasy Fair and Magic Mountain Music Festival on Sunday June 11, 1967 in the "summer of love" as their top ten hit "Let's Live For Today" was hitting the airwaves. This music festival is important because it occurred before the Monterey Pop Festival but did not have a movie to document it for the ages (see List of electronic music festivals). On Sunday October 27, 1968 they played at the San Francisco Pop Festival and then played at the Los Angeles Pop Festival and Miami Pop Festival in December of that year as their top ten hit "Midnight Confessions" was hitting the airwaves.
The Grass Roots played at Newport Pop Festival 1969 at Devonshire Downs which was a racetrack at the time but now is part of the North Campus for California State University at Northridge. They played on Sunday June 22 which was the final day of the festival as their top twenty hit "Wait A Million Years" was hitting the airwaves. In Canada, they played at the Vancouver Pop Festival at the Paradise Valley Resort in British Columbia in August 1969 (see List of electronic music festivals).
In 1972 Coonce left the band and moved to Vancouver, Canada. When he applied for citizenship they told him that there was a point system. They immediately gave him the full ten points because they needed more musicians. He played in many local groups since his immigration. He loved the island on which he lived, farmed and the music he recorded in his studio.
Rick was approached by a friend about working as a child protection social worker and did that important work in Canada for 27 years until his retirement. Often with his keen sense of humor he was able to break the ice with many troubled children and families, helping them find a road to a better life. Rick was a dedicated family man with a loving wife, two children and two grandchildren to fill his days. He loved spending time with his family and enjoyed the peaceful living at his home on Vancouver Island. He continued to write songs, record in his studio, and had a great love for music as always. In 2000, he released a solo album on CD. It featured many songs written by him.
Coonce died of heart failure on February 25, 2011.
|Release date||Title||Flip side||Record label||Chart positions|
|US Billboard||US Cashbox||UK|
|1967||Let's Live for Today||Depressed Feeling||Dunhill||8||5|
|Things I Should Have Said||Tip Of My Tongue||Dunhill||23||36|
|Wake Up, Wake Up||No Exit||Dunhill||68||61|
|1968||Melody For You||Hey Friend||Dunhill||123|
|Feelings||Here's Where You Belong||Dunhill|
|Midnight Confessions++||Who Will You Be Tomorrow||Dunhill||5||5|
|1969||Bella Linda+++||Hot Bright Lights||Dunhill||28||20|
|Melody For You||All Good Things Come To An End||Dunhill|
|Lovin' Things||You And Love Are The Same||Dunhill||49||35|
|River Is Wide, The||(You Gotta) Live For Love||Dunhill||31||16|
|I'd Wait A Million Years||Fly Me To Havana||Dunhill||15||12|
|Heaven Knows||Don't Remind Me||Dunhill||24||13|
|1970||Walking Through The Country||Truck Drivin' Man||Dunhill||44||30|
|Baby Hold On||Get It Together||Dunhill||35||25|
|Come On And Say It||Something's Comin' Over Me||Dunhill||61||39|
|Temptation Eyes||Keepin' Me Down||Dunhill||15||16|
|1971||Sooner Or Later||I Can Turn Off The Rain||Dunhill||9||12|
|Two Divided By Love||Let It Go||Dunhill||16||8|
++- Gold Record - RIAA Certification
|Release date||Title||Record label||Chart positions|
|US Billboard||US Cashbox||UK|
|1967||Let's Live for Today||Dunhill||75|
|Golden Grass ++||Dunhill||25|
|Leaving It All Behind||Dunhill||36|
|1970||More Golden Grass||Dunhill||152|
|1971||Their 16 Greatest Hits ++||Dunhill||58|
++- Gold Record - RIAA Certification
- Cashbox Magazine, 19 March 2011 (retrieved 12 July 2011)