The Doobie Brothers had their beginnings in folk-rock powerhouse Moby Grape, who broke up shortly after their landmark debut album but were set to reunite in ’69 after the return of founder Skip Spence. Drummer John Hartman traveled to California specifically to join the reunion, but when it fizzled, Spence instead introduced Hartman to guitarist Tom Johnston and the 2 formed a folk-rock band that went by the name of Pud. With the eventual addition of singer/songwriter/guitarist Patrick Simmons, the group began moving in a harder direction; noting the band’s preference for marijuana, a friend jokingly nicknamed them the Doobie Brothers. The name stuck, and the band had soon built up a following among SoCal biker groups such as Hells Angels with their goodtime boogie and country-folk roots.
With that strong following, Warner Brothers signed The Doobie Brothers in 1970, but their eponymous debut album flopped badly, despite a few regional hits penned by Johnston. Following its release, Shogren was replaced by Tiran Porter and the group added a second drummer, Michael Hossack, for 1972’s Toulouse Street. Driven by the singles “Listen to the Music” and “Jesus Is Just Alright,” Toulouse Street became the group’s breakthrough. Producer Ted Templeman found the perfect AM-ready sound to coalesce the band’s many influences and the result was a major hit. The Captain and Me (1973) was even more successful, spawning the Top 10 hits “Long Train Runnin'” and “China Grove.” Keith Knudsen replaced Hossack as the group’s 2nd drummer for 1974’s What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits, which launched their 1st number one single, “Black Water,” and featured the arrival of former Steely Dan member Jeff “Skunk” Baxter, adding to the band’s formidable talent. Baxter officially joined the Doobie Brothers for 1975’s Stampede. The group ruled the airwaves, being slick and catchy enough for pop, progressive and rootsy enough for rock, and hard and bluesy enough for the arenas.
Prior to Stampedes release, Johnston was hospitalized with a stomach ailment and Baxter suggested his former Steely Dan sideman, keyboardist/vocalist Michael McDonald, to temporarily take his place for the supporting tour. Although it peaked at number four, Stampede wasn’t as commercially successful as its 3 predecessors, and the group decided to let McDonald and Baxter, who were now official Doobies, revamp the band’s light country-rock and boogie.
McDonald soon became the lead singer, bringing with him a sweeping change in style to a keyboard-based blend of jazzy soft rock and soul that would define pop in the last half of the ’70s. The new sound was showcased on 1976’s Takin’ It to the Streets, a collection of light funk and jazzy pop that resulted in a platinum album. In 1977, they released Livin’ on the Fault Line, which was successful without producing any big hits. Johnston left the band after the album’s release to pursue an unsuccessful solo career. Following his departure, the Doobies released their most successful album, Minute by Minute (1978), which spent 5 weeks at number 1 on the strength of the number 1 single “What a Fool Believes.” Hartman and Baxter left the group after the album’s supporting tour, leaving the Doobie Brothers as McDonald’s backing band. Following a year of auditions, the Doobies hired ex-Clover guitarist John McFee, session drummer Chet McCracken, and former Moby Grape saxophonist Cornelius Bumpus, and released One Step Closer (1980), a platinum album that produced the Top 10 hit “Real Love.” During the tour for One Step Closer, McCracken was replaced by Andy Newmark. Early in 1982, the Doobie Brothers announced they were breaking up after a farewell tour, which was documented on the 1983 live album Farewell Tour. After the band’s split, McDonald pursued a successful solo career, while Simmons released one unsuccessful solo record. In 1987, the Doobies reunited for a concert at the Hollywood Bowl, which quickly became a brief reunion tour with McDonald declining to participate in the tour.
By 1989, the early ’70s lineup of Johnston, Simmons, Hartman, Porter, and Hossack,as well as percussionist and former roadie Bobby LaKind, signed a contract with Capitol Records. Their reunion album, Cycles, went gold upon its summer release’ in 89, spawning the Top 10 hit “The Doctor.” Brotherhood followed 2 years later. In 1995, McDonald had joined the group again, and the following year saw the release of Rockin’ Down the Highway. But the lineup had once again shifted by 2000. The band, Hossack, Johnston, Knudsen, McFee, and Simmons, issued Sibling Rivalry, which featured touring members Guy Allison on keyboards, Marc Russo on sax, and Skylark on bass. The late ’70s incarnation of the band, Simmons, Johnston, McFee, and Hossack (with Michael McDonald guesting on 1 track) reunited again to put out World Gone Crazy in 2010. The documentary Let the Music Play: The Story of the Doobie Brothers followed in 2012, the same year Hossack died of cancer.
In 2014, the Doobie Brothers, this time featuring McDonald, Johnston, Simmons, and McFee, released Southbound, an album filled with country versions of their greatest hits, featuring Nashville stars Toby Keith, Brad Paisley, Zac Brown, Sara Evans, and Chris Young. As of 2015, the band continues to tour heavily and were featured guests 0n The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, still appealing to younger generations.
- Tom Johnston – guitars, keyboards, harmonica, vocals
- Patrick Simmons – guitars, banjo, flute, vocals
- Michael McDonald – keyboards, synthesizers, vocals
- Jeff “Skunk” Baxter – guitars, backing vocals
- Tiran Porter – bass guitar, guitar, vocals
- John Hartman – drums, percussion, backing vocals
- Keith Knudsen – drums, percussion, vocals
NE OHIO CONCERTS
- Case Western Reserve University-July 15, 1971
- Allen Theater, Cleveland-September 28th 1972, May 22nd 1973
- Memorial Gymnasium, Kent-November 11, 1973
- Richfield Coliseum-September 16, 1975
- Blossom Music Center-August 9th 1976, July 18th & 19th 1977, July 24th & 25th 1978, August 29th 1979, August 26th & 27th 1980, July 14th & 15th 1981, August 17th 1982, June 24th 1989, July 28th 1991, July 20th 1995, July 28th 1999, July 19th 2000,
- Nautica Stage-August 21st 1994, July 22nd 1998, July 29th 2002,
- Time Warner Cable Ampitheater Tower City-July 11, 2010
- Quicken Loans Arena-March 30, 2013
- “What A Fool Believes”
- “China Grove”
- “Takin’ It To The Streets”
- “Long Train Runnin'”
- “Minute By Minute”
- “Black Water”
- “Listen To The Music”
- “Take Me In Your Arms (Rock Me)”
- “Dependin’ On You”
- “It Keeps You Runnin'”