06/17/1996 at 01:00 AM EDT
David Gates never succumbed to the temptations of a rock star. Even when the lead singer of Bread was warbling "Baby I'm-a Want You" to crowds of swooning fans in the 1970s, he was a one-woman man. That woman was his high school sweetheart, Jo Rita. They've now been married for 36 years and raised four children—three lawyers and a cardiac surgeon. "He was an excellent father," says Angelyn Gates, 34, who practices criminal law in L.A. "There were times when he was gone on tour, but when he was back, he was there all the time." Gates, 55, who never missed his children's birthdays, recitals or graduations, would have it no other way. "Even though I've ridden in limousines and been onstage and signed autographs, it was not the real world to me. I think it was my upbringing," says Gates, who grew up in Tulsa. "Great people. No fences in people's front yards. We used to play football up and down the block." The son of a high school band-director father and piano teacher mother, Gates formed Bread in 1968 with three studio musicians. "At the end of the '60s, the acid-rock phenomenon had run its course," says Gates, who picked up his guitar, wrote "Make It with You" and "knew I had a hit." Four more Top 10 tunes followed, but Gates began to find the pace of touring unbearable and in 1973 disbanded the group, though they briefly reunited in 1976. While on the road with Bread, Gates began reading books on cattle ranching. "When you're cooped up in Holiday Inns," he says, "you want to get outdoors." He and Jo Rita now share a 1,400-acre cattle ranch in Northern California, financed by royalties from the 250,000 copies of their albums that Bread still sells each year. But he's ready for another tour. Together with bandmates Mike Botts, Larry Knechtel and James Griffin, who have all remained performers, and minus Robb Royer, a songwriter in Nashville, the group will try to make Bread rise again this fall. Says Gates: "People still love music that's melodic."