In 1967, Gates produced and arranged the debut album of a band called The Pleasure Fair, of which Robb Royer was a member. A little over a year later, Gates and Royer got together with Jimmy Griffin to form Bread. The group was signed by the Elektra record company, where it would remain for the eight years of its existence. Elektra released Bread’s first album, Bread, in 1969, which peaked at No. 127 on the Billboard 200. The first single, “Dismal Day”, written by Gates, was released in June 1969 but did not sell well.
Bread’s second album, On the Waters (a play on Ecclesiastes 11:1), with a new drummer, Mike Botts, was released in 1970, and became a breakout success. It contained the No. 1 single “Make It with You” and was the first of seven consecutive Bread albums to go Gold in the US. Bread’s next three albums, Manna (1971), Baby I’m-a Want You (1972) (featuring Larry Knechtel as a new member of the band, replacing Royer) and Guitar Man (1972) were also successful, with more chart singles and gold records. From 1970 to 1973, Bread charted 11 singles on the Billboard Hot 100, all of which were written and sung by Gates. That caused some antagonism between Gates and Griffin, who was also a significant contributor to Bread’s albums as a singer and songwriter. Bread disbanded in 1973, much to the surprise of fans and the music industry. Their last concert was performed at the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City, Utah on May 19, 1973.
Gates recorded and produced his solo album First in 1973. The single “Clouds”, an edited version of the album track “Suite Clouds and Rain”, peaked at No. 47 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart, and No. 3 on the Adult Contemporary chart. The full album version was played extensively by Radio Caroline presenter Samantha Dubois at the end of her early morning radio programme, and became her closing theme. A second single, “Sail Around the World”, reached No. 50 on the singles chart and No. 11 on the Adult Contemporary chart. The album reached No. 107 on the Billboard 200 albums chart. In 1975, Gates released the album Never Let Her Go. The title track was released as a single, and reached No. 29 on the Hot 100 chart and No. 3 on the Adult Contemporary chart. The album itself reached No. 102 on the Billboard 200.