The band was fronted by David Gates (vocals, bass guitar, guitar, keyboards, violin, viola, percussion), with Jimmy Griffin (vocals, guitar, keyboards, percussion) and Robb Royer (bass guitar, guitar, flute, keyboards, percussion, recorder, backing vocals). On their first album session musicians Ron Edgar played drums and Jim Gordon played drums, percussion, and piano. Mike Botts became their permanent drummer when he joined in the summer of 1969, and Larry Knechtel replaced Royer in 1971, playing keyboards, bass guitar, guitar, and harmonica.[5
In January 1972 Bread released Baby I'm-a Want You, their most successful album, peaking at No. 3 on the Billboard 200. The title song was established as a hit in late 1971 before the album was released, also hitting No. 3. Follow-up singles "Everything I Own" and "Diary" also went Top 20.
The next album, Guitar Man, was released ten months later and went to No. 18. The album produced three Top 20 singles, "The Guitar Man" (#11), "Sweet Surrender" (#15), and "Aubrey" (#15), with the first two going to No. 1 on Billboard's adult contemporary chart.