Modeled roughly on the three-guitar, three-part
vocal harmony sound of the seminal San Francisco band Moby Grape, The
Doobie Brothers were founded in San Jose, California in 1970. The
blending of the folk-style finger-picking of Pat Simmons with the
rough-hewn rock licks of Tommy Johnston, whose soulful lead vocals
gave the band its initial distinctive sound, helped to define what
would become known as the California sound of the '70s.
The Doobie Brothers
Richard De La Font
The band's self-titled 1971 debut album, "The
Doobie Brothers," yielded no hit singles, but the subsequent
"Toulouse Street" of 1972 burst out with Johnston's
"Listen To The Music" (#11) and "Jesus Is Just
Alright" (#35) in the last three months of the year. The third
album, "The Captain and Me" (1973) established
as concert headliners on the strength of the hits "Long Train
Runnin'" (#8) and "China Grove" (#15) (both penned by
The fourth album, "What Were Once Vices Are Now
Habits" (1974), included "Black Water," the band's
first #1 record which eventually sold more than 2 million copies, and
was the first hit to feature Simmons as lead vocalist (he also wrote
the song). By 1975, with the release of "Stampede," which included the
remake of the Motown classic "Take Me In Your Arms (Rock Me A
Little While)" (#11) and the addition of former
guitarist Jeff "Skunk" Baxter, The Doobies had become one of
the most popular rock bands in the country.
That same year, when illness forced Johnston out of The
Doobies lineup, Baxter suggested another
fill his spot, and
Michael McDonald was drafted. His presence was felt
immediately as The Doobie Brothers scored a platinum million-selling album in 1976
with "Takin' It To The
Streets," propelled by the title-tune single
"Takin' It To The Streets" (#13) written by
McDonald. In the
summer of the year, the band backed up
Carly Simon on her version of
the McDonald composition, "It Keeps You Runnin'," which hit
#46 on the chart; ironically, the Doobies' own version of the
song released five months later did even better for them, hitting #37.
Johnston returned briefly to help record the next
album, "Livin' On the Fault Line" (1977), but for all
intents and purposes
Michael McDonald had taken over the lead vocal chair,
launching a second golden era of hits for The Doobie Brothers.
"What A Fool Believes," a song McDonald wrote with
Loggins, gave the band its second #1 hit. It was included on
"Minute By Minute" (1979), whose title tune "Minute By
Minute" (#14) notched up another hit, followed in turn by "Dependin'
On You" (#25).
1979 also found Baxter leaving The Doobies,
to be replaced by steel guitarist John McFee, a veteran of Clover, the
Marin County country-rockers who not only backed up
Elvis Costello on
his debut album (before the Attractions were formed), but also
nurtured the early career of singer-songwriter
1980 began with The Doobie Brothers nailing
three Grammy awards for "What A Fool Believes" (Record of
the Year, Song of the Year, Best Vocal Arrangement) and a fourth
Grammy going to "Minute By Minute" (Best Pop Vocal Performance,
Duo/Group). The year ended with a new album, "One Step Closer,"
and another pair of hits, "Real Love" (#5) and the title
tune "One Step Closer" (#24).
The Doobies embarked on their final tour in
1982, highlights of which were released the following year on the
double-LP set, "Farewell Tour," which included Johnston's
guest appearance with the band at U.C. Berkeley's Greek Theater. The
musicians then went their separate ways, with Johnston, Simmons and
McDonald all releasing successful solo albums. The band would
reconvene once a year for a traditional concert at the Lucille Salter
Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford University in Palo Alto, not
far from their hometown of San Jose.
Five years passed, until twelve alumni of The
Doobies (with Johnston and Simmons) reformed
for an 11-city tour that raised more than $1 million for a variety of
charities, including a fundraiser at the Hollywood Bowl for the
Vietnam Veterans Aid Foundation that was the second quickest sellout
in the venue's history, second only to the Beatles. The tour
culminated on July 4th in Moscow, at a peace concert featuring Soviet
and American rock bands.
The tour re-ignited interest in The Doobie
Brothers both from the audience's viewpoint and the musicians
themselves. The band finally returned to the recording studio for
Capitol Records. The resulting album, "Cycles" (1989),
included a major new hit, "The Doctor" (#9), a chugging,
driving song that returned the signature sound of the early Doobies
to the radio. A second album was subsequently issued by the reunited
band, "Brotherhood" (1991).
All 12 past and present members of The Doobie
Brothers came together in October 1992 for two shows to raise
money for a trust fund for the children of the band's percussionist
Bobby LaKind, diagnosed with terminal cancer. He died on Christmas Eve
But with more than two decades worth of great music
to feed their hungry fans, core members Johnston, Simmons, McFee, drummer Mike Hossack, drummer/vocalist Keith Knudsen and bass
man Tiran Porter continued to rock, playing 47 dates with
Foreigner in the summer of
1994 alone. This included tours of Europe, Australia and New Zealand.
The 1996 summer tour featured The Doobie Brothers with
What others say --
Richard, you have been wonderful beyond words...we are all sending our heartfelt appreciation for all you did to bring us a wonderful concert last night.
The Doobie Brothers proved to be the exact opposite of what we have come to expect from big rock shows...I am deeply appreciative and grateful for the way John and Gary handled things yesterday - working with us NOT ONLY to get the band to the
Meet and Greet after the show, but even to the prow of the Lady of the Lake for a photo op!!!! What great guys...thanks so very, very much.
Please extend our deepest thanks and appreciation to the band...what a show they gave us (even playing longer than the contract specified) with such energy...I think they sound better than ever! They were wonderful back stage, as well...good natured about making our stage work for them...working with our staff...after so many years on the road they might have been difficult, disinterested, cynical, etc., etc. There was none of that... I sang for many years at the Metropolitan Opera in NYC before returning home and taking on the building of Music by the Lake. I've seen many divas (and divos) over the years...I was expecting that from The Doobies, but was wonderfully surprised to find just the opposite. Please tell them how impressed I was over this...but it really comes from the top down...mille grazie!
We hope to see and work with you again!
-- Christine E. Flasch, Executive Director, Music By The Lake