Creed Bratton got stoned in Algeria in 1964.
Now, fans who followed Bratton on NBC’s “The Office” shouldn’t be too surprised that the high-flying former hippie has used some illegal substances in his lifetime. But in this case, Bratton was actually running away from a rock-throwing mob. He’d pushed away a boy tugging on his hair and calling him “Beatle.”
“They pick up stones, and they start throwing them at me. So I pick up the guitar to cover my head and start running out of town, and – ‘ding!’ To this day I can hear the sound that guitar made through the case with the rock pinging off of it,” he said. “How many people get stoned out of a town? Jesus – and Creed.”
Bratton will revisit his Sacramento roots when he performs at Harlow’s on Aug. 11. The long-tenured musician will play guitar and sing hits from his six albums, filling the time between songs with anecdotes from “The Office” and his travels around the world.
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After graduating from California State University, Sacramento, with a bachelor’s degree in drama, Bratton abandoned afternoons of inner-tubing down the Sacramento River for a nomadic lifestyle. He and a friend hitchhiked their way to New Orleans, and then boarded a freighter for a 28-day journey to Venice, Italy, where he “woke up in St. Mark’s Square covered in pigeon sh--.”
While working at an electronics factory in Germany, Bratton befriended two men who persuaded him to join their musical group, The Young Californians. The trio played all throughout Europe and North Africa, including a stop at a Moroccan club called The Dancing Boy where he tried his first illicit drug.
“These guys took us there and said, ‘You gotta try this stuff called hashish,’” he said. “We didn’t understand (the club name) until we saw the night’s entertainment, which was young boys dressed up as women dancing on the stage.”
After two years overseas, the 6-foot Bratton had withered away from 200 to 145 pounds and had to move back home. Music wasn’t done with Bratton yet, though.
Guitarist Warren Entner had seen Bratton perform on stage at an Israeli festival and persuaded him to join a new band, the 13th Floor – later known as the Grass Roots – after returning to California. The Grass Roots became a major success, releasing tracks like “Let’s Live for Today,” which peaked at No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Still, Bratton (guitar and vocals) left the group after the release of “Midnight Confessions” because he was turned off by the band’s shift toward commercial pop.
He wrote several more songs and toured on his own before settling down in Los Angeles to become an actor. Many acting parts over the years were for minor characters such as those he played in “The Mask” and “Heart Like A Wheel,” so he worked as a caterer on the side.
“The Office” co-creator Ken Kwapis, a Grass Roots fan, was at the set of “The Bernie Mac Show” when Bratton was an extra. Kwapis offered Bratton a nonspeaking role on his new show; Bratton earned lines by creating his own character and recording an audition tape.
From trying to use $3 bills to stealing gifts meant for needy children, Bratton’s character on “The Office” was always strange and often immoral. The real-life Creed Bratton is more down-to-earth than his on-screen counterpart.
“People get a little disappointed (because) they expect me to be a little more bizarre. I say ‘Sorry, I’m just an actor.’ I guess that’s a compliment, really, if they bought it so well that they want me to be that guy,” he said. “He was based on what would have happened if my rock-and-roll guy had stayed doing drugs and drinking.”
That’s not to say Bratton lives a totally conventional life. He occasionally fasts for 11 to 14 days to clear his mind and “jump-start my old body.” Still, he’s more likely to be found fishing rainbow trout in Redding or Alaska with his son than catching a fish with his bare hands, as he did in the show’s third-season finale.
The last song of Bratton’s set Tuesday night will be “All the Faces,” an original composition used in the final scene of “The Office,” which was broadcast in May 2013. Its recollection of old, forgotten friends is a fitting end to his visit to Sacramento, where his formal music and dramatic education began.
What: Performance by former Grass Roots musician and actor on “The Office”
When: 7:30 p.m. Aug. 11
Where: Harlow’s, 2708 J St., Sacramento