Creed Bratton’s Journey from the Grass Roots to ‘The Office’ to the Sweetwater

Four months after his scene-stealing character helped close out sitcom’s nine-year run, musician and actor brings his one-man show to downtown Mill Valley.

Creed Bratton. Courtesy photo.
Creed Bratton. Courtesy photo.

Creed Bratton.

He’s one of the most indelible TV characters in recent memory, spending mere seconds per episode on camera in NBC’s The Office but managing to seemingly steal nearly every scene he’s in. From his love of spider solitaire and kleptomania to his fluency in Mandarin Chinese and his decision to surreptitiously sleep under his desk four days a week, Bratton maximized his limited screen time like few characters before him.

Creed Bratton is also the name of the actor who played the character, though there’s much more to that story (see below). 

Bratton, a former member of '60s chart-topping group the Grass Roots, brings his one-man autobiographical show of music and comedy to the Sweetwater Music Hall on Friday, Sept. 27. His latest solo album, Tell Me About It, is a collection of songs he’s written over the past three decades. We spoke to him about his crazy journey to The Office and what fans can expect at Friday night’s show, which he calls “lighthearted and amusing but bittersweet.”

Mill Valley Patch: I read through your bio. Is all of that true? What a life.
Creed Bratton: It really is. I started playing music at 13, at 17 I was in local bands and making money played all through college, dances on the weekends, and there was all that madness in the 60s with the Grass Roots – dropping the acid and dropping the pants.

MVP: And hitchhiking through North Africa, busking all over Europe, and stealing yogurt off doorsteps to fight off starvation.
CB: Yeah, I could’ve died. It was insane. It was very dangerous stuff. But you never think about it when you’re young.

MVP: Your birth name is William Charles Schneider, and you became Chuck Ertmoed when your mother remarried. Did you really pick your current name from a list you’d made with a couple from Oregon on a stolen table cloth in Greece after a night of drinking ouzo?
CB: When I met that couple, I told them I had a vision, a mental image in my mind of being success one day – and I really did. I always knew good things were going to happen. But I also knew that my last name at the time – Ertmoed – sounded like people putting their fingers down their throat. I told that couple that if I had a better name, I’d probably use it. So we started coming up with names. When I woke up the next day, Creed Bratton was the one circled on the table cloth. I took the table cloth and stuffed it in my ruck sack, along with the phone number of Warren Entner (Bratton’s future Grass Roots bandmate).

MVP: And from there it went?
CB: When we signed our record deal, everyone still knew me as Chuck. When I signed all the paperwork as Creed Bratton, everyone rolled their eyes. But it stuck.

MVP: What’s your earliest musical memory, the first thing that made you want to play music yourself?
CB: I grew up surrounded by music. My grandparents were in a western band called the Happy Timers, with my grandmother on drums and my grandfather on guitar. I’d go to shows and fall asleep behind his old amp. It made me feel good. And I played from a young age. I was always able to play, starting with the trumpet. 

MVP: It sounds like the years after you left the Grass Roots were lean – very lean at times.
CB: They were lean but not to say I still didn’t have some great experiences. I just didn’t have a lot of money. I certainly wasn’t living the life that I was during the Grass Roots days.

MVP: So although more than three decades passed between your last album with the Grass Roots and your first official solo album, you continued writing and recording music throughout that time?
CB: Yeah I never stopped. It was just that when The Office started, I was able to take the things I cut and put them out. I just didn’t have the money before.

MVP: The Office gave you the platform to make it happen.
CB: I just so loved The Office. It changed my life in so many wonderful ways. Everybody on the cast knows that we will never have a show with that good of a cast and with those writers and that synergistic magic.

MVP: (The Office director) Ken Kwapis was a Grass Roots fan and your connection to the show. How did it evolve from there?
CB: I started as a background character, and then I wrote this talking head and I wrote a bunch of funny little scenarios and ad libbed a bunch of stuff and gave it to (showrunner) Greg Daniels. They thought it was really funny.

MVP: And then the writers took it from there?
CB: The character I wrote had that quirkiness. He was psychic and when people would come to his desk for something, he already knew that they wanted. He scared people and they just left him alone. The writers took it beyond that, so my insanity had to keep up with the writers.

MVP: We’re several months removed from the finale of that show, which closes with you performing your song “All the Faces.” How did that come about?
CB: That song was the first song I wrote after I left the Grass Roots. As we worked toward the finale, all the cast members at different times would walk into the writers’ room and talk about how they wanted their character to end. For a while, I wanted to be the Scranton Strangler. But they wanted to keep me around until the end. So I met with the execs and I knew I could pluck at their heart strings with that song. I’m biased, but I think it was one of the best finales of any TV show.

MVP: Although the songs on Tell Me About It were written over the span of many years, that album ended up being biographical in many ways. How?
CB: That’s exactly right. They all seem to work together. It was my producer Dave Way’s idea to weave it all together and make it into a show. It’s a journey through the ups and downs, struggling to stay alive, and having this great experience on The Office.

MVP: Tell me what people can expect at your show here next week.
CB: They’ll be this knee jerk laughing and peeing their pants and then crying uncontrollably. I like doing that to people (laughs). 

The 411: Creed Bratton performs at the Sweetwater Music Hall on Friday, Sept. 27. Click here for more info and to buy tickets.


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