The perfect driving experience and the melding of music and machine is what Street Muscle’s Cars and Guitars is all about. So buckle up, drop it into reverse, and floor it back a thousand years to 1967, when LA yacht rock and aquatic-themed sports cars roamed the earth. For Cars and Guitars #14, we’ve paired the 1967 Chevrolet Corvette and the song “Let’s Live For Today,” by The Grass Roots. We’ll also zoom in on the events of the day, reconstructing the pop culture arena that sprouted these two icons.
Summer Of Love
The year 1967 also kicked off the Summer Of Love, igniting an alternative culture boom that echoes today in modern movements like Antifa, and climate activists. Some of the most iconic images of the year were the human chain around the Pentagon, the self-immolation of Buddhist monk Thich Quang Duc, and the flower power demonstration in front of armed soldiers.
The Politics of the Day
Lyndon Johnson was the sitting U.S. President, the first human-to-human heart transplant was performed and Ralph Nadar released his book “Unsafe At Any Speed,” which changed auto safety standards forever. Israel fought and won the Six-Day War against its Arab neighbors, gaining control of Jerusalem, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, the Sinai Peninsula, and the Golan Heights. Detroit was in turmoil in 1967 as tanks rolled down Woodward Avenue to quell a deadly riot that would forever change the Motor City.
Pop Culture Reigned Supreme
The music scene was dominated by pop and rock artists such as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Aretha Franklin, The Doors, and Jimi Hendrix, who released some of their most influential songs, such as “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” “Respect,” “Light My Fire,” and “Purple Haze”.
In the middle of this sonic boom, a pre-fab rock band from Los Angeles hit the music scene. The Grass Roots struck gold with a string of hits from the late 1960s and into the 1970s, such as “Let’s Live for Today”, “Midnight Confessions”, “Temptation Eyes”, and “Sooner or Later”. The band was known for its catchy melodies, vocal harmonies, and pop-rock sound, but did you know that the Grass Roots was not one band, but several? In fact, the Grass Roots name was used by different groups of musicians over the years, each with their own history and discography.
The band’s name was conceived by music producer Lou Adler (Jan & Dean, The Mamas & the Papas, Carole King, Rocky Horror Picture Show,) and songwriters P.F. Sloan and Steve Barri. In 1965, they wrote a tune called “Where Were You When I Needed You”, which they recorded with studio musicians under the name “The Grass Roots”, and sent the song to some radio stations in California. The song received airplay, but Adler wanted to find a real band that could perform it live and record more songs under the same name. After much searching and musical chairs of band members, Adler finally put together a lineup that became the definitive version of the group.
This iteration of the Grass Roots was formed in 1967, when Rob Grill, singer and bassist, joined forces with Warren Entner, guitarist and singer, Rick Coonce, drummer, and guitarist Creed Bratton, (yes, the guy from The Office). Grill and Entner had been in a band called The 13th Floor, while Coonce and Bratton had been in a band called The Young Californians. They auditioned for Dunhill and were hired as the new Grass Roots. They recorded their first single, “Let’s Live for Today”, which was a cover of an Italian pop tune. The song became a monster hit, soaring to #8 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The band also recorded an album of the same name, which included some original songs by Entner and Grill, as well as covers and songs by Sloan and Barri.
This lineup of the Grass Roots continued to record and tour for the next eight years, releasing 16 albums and 29 singles. They had a consistent sound and style, blending pop, rock, folk, and soul influences. They also had a loyal fan base, who identified with their optimistic and romantic lyrics. Some of their biggest hits were “Midnight Confessions” (#5 in 1968), “I’d Wait a Million Years” (#15 in 1969), “Temptation Eyes” (#15 in 1971), and “Sooner or Later” (#9 in 1971). The band also appeared on several TV shows, such as The Ed Sullivan Show, American Bandstand, and The Tonight Show.
Meanwhile At General Motors
While a new world of pop music was being ushered in, the 1967 Corvette was the last gasp of the C2 Corvette. 1966 was supposed to be the last year for the C2, but development issues with the C3 gave the C2 a stay of execution. With five model years and roughly 100k units produced, the C2 became the shortest generation run in Corvette history.
The C2 Corvette debuted in 1963 as a radical departure from the previous generation, featuring a sleek and aerodynamic design inspired by the 1959 Corvette Sting Ray racer, and a concept penned by designers Peter Brock and Tony Lapine. The C2 Corvette was also the first to adopt the “Sting Ray” moniker, and the first to offer a coupe body style with a distinctive split rear window.
The 1967 Corvette was the result of years of design and engineering improvements, as well as the vision and passion of some of the most influential figures in Corvette’s history. One of them was Zora Arkus-Duntov, the head of the Corvette’s engine and chassis group, who was also known as the “Father of the Corvette.” Duntov was responsible for developing and introducing some of the most powerful and advanced engines and performance options for the Corvette, such as fuel injection, independent rear suspension, four-wheel disc brakes, and the legendary L88 big block engine.
Another key figure was Larry Shinoda, chief designer of the final production C2 Corvette, who worked under the styling direction of Bill Mitchell, vice president of GM Design. Shinoda was influenced by his previous experience as a race car driver and a hot rod builder and his production C2 styling was an expert distillation of all the previous design proposals.
‘Vette Specs for 1967
The 1967 Corvette was offered in two body styles: a coupe and a convertible. It had less ornamentation and a cleaner appearance than the previous models, as some of the exterior trim and badges were removed or restyled. The side louvers were unique and a backup light was added above the license plate. The 1967 Corvette had a base price of $4,240 for the coupe and $4,141 for the convertible.
The 1967 Corvette was powered by a range of V8 engines, from the base 327cid engine with 300 horsepower to the snarly 427cid engine with 430 horsepower. The 1967 Corvette also had a variety of transmission, suspension, brake, exhaust, and wheel options, as well as some new-fangled features like air conditioning, power windows, telescopic steering column, the speed warning indicator, and headrests.
The 1967 Corvette was also the first to offer the L88 engine option, which was a racing engine that produced an estimated 560 horsepower but was officially rated lower to distract GM execs and insurance companies. Only 20 L88 Corvettes were produced in 1967, making them some of the most valuable and sought-after Corvettes ever.
A Bountiful Feast
The 1967 Corvette is widely considered to be one of the best and most beautiful Corvettes of all time. It was also a sales success. Chevy sold 22,940 units, of which 8,504 were coupes and 14,436 were convertibles. The 1967 Corvette also won several awards and accolades, such as the Car and Driver’s Best All-Around Car of 1967, and the SCCA A-Production National Championship. The 1967 Corvette also appeared in various media and cultural outlets, such as the movies Clambake, Corvette Summer, and The Gumball Rally, and the songs Little Red Corvette by Prince, and Shut Down by The Beach Boys.
Just as the Corvette and the country were evolving, The Grass Roots weathered some personnel changes as well. Bratton left the band and was replaced by Terry Furlong, who was later replaced by Dennis Provisor. Coonce left the band in 1972 and was replaced by the original Grass Roots drummer, Joel Larson, who was later replaced by Reed Kailing. Grill and Entner remained the core members of the band until 1975 when they decided to pursue solo careers. Then, the group officially disbanded, and the Grass Roots name was retired.
The Grass Roots legacy lives on today, as their songs are still played on classic rock radio stations and featured in movies and TV shows. Rob Grill, who owned the rights to the Grass Roots name, continued to perform with a new lineup of musicians until his death. Although Grill and drummer Rick Coonce passed away in 2011, Bratton and Entner survive today. A version of the Grass Roots still tours today with no original members.
Next time you fire up your classic Corvette or your plebian daily driver, queue up Spotify or Amazon Prine Music and hit play on The Grass Roots’ “Let’s Live for Today.” Let the soothing, sitar-like intro prime the boosters and rocket you back to a simpler time filled with bellbottoms, big-block Corvettes, the Summer of Love, and groovy So Cal rock.