Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music



Rock band formed '70 in San Jose CA, where drummer John Hartman (b 18 March '50, Falls Church VA) had gone to re-form Moby Grape with Skip Spence, instead formed Pud with guitarist Tom Johnston (b Visalia CA); bassist Greg Murph replaced by Dave Shogren (b San Francisco). Guitarist Patrick Simmons (b 23 Jan. '50, Aberdeen WA) was added and the name changed to Doobie Brothers from slang for a marijuana cigarette. They were established in the Bay Area as a hard driving band, but first LP for WB The Doobie Brothers '71, co-prodroduced by Ted Templeman and Larry Waronker, was in the acoustic vein of then-popular labelmates America. They added extra drummer Michael Hossack (b 18 Sep. '50, Paterson NY) and replaced Shogren with Tiran Porter (b L.A.; had worked with Simmons in Scratch). The changes beefed up the sound; with Templeman in complete control Toulouse Street '72 was a more accurate LP: with a solid backbeat, interlocking guitars, everyone in on the harmonies, not unlike a '70s version of Moby Grape. Johnston's more nasal voice and Simmons's softer one alternated vocals; opening track Johnston's 'Listen To The Music' was a no. 11 USA single. The Captain And Me '73 had USA hits in 'Long Train Runnin' ' and 'China Grove'; 'Music' from the first LP made the UK top 30 after a tour there. Elements of country, folk and blues made this the band's finest hour. What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits '74 cloned its predecessor yet confounded the critical charge of sameness with semi-a cappella USA no. 1 'Black Water'.

Hossack had been replaced by ex-Bonaroo Keith Knudson (b 18 Oct. '52, Ames, Iowa; d 10 Feb. 2005 of pneumonia in San Francisco); then Steely Dan refugees guitarist Jeff 'Skunk' Baxter (b 13 Dec. '48, Wash. DC) and keyboardist Michael McDonald (b St Louis) joined; Johnston left due to ill health. By this time he'd been superseded as the main writer; their album output '75-7 was unmemorable but the new lineup hit their stride with Minute By Minute '78, with USA no. 1 'What A Fool Believes'. Only tight harmonies remained of the old Doobies' sound; the album rode on McDonald's electric keyboards and Ray Charles-inspired vocals: AOR but still classy. Success brought four Grammys for 'Fool'; it was now McDonald's band: Baxter and Hartman decided to get off the gravy train, the former to produce, latter to become a vet. One Step Closer '80 included a no. 5 hit 'Real Love', repeating the formula with recruits ex-Clover John McFee (b 18 Nov. '53, Santa Cruz CA) on guitar, Chet McCracken (b 17 July '52, Seattle), drums and ex-Moby Grape Cornelius Bumpus (b 13 Jan. '52; d 3 Feb. 2004), sax and keyboards (Bumpus had worked with Bobby Freeman '66; later with Steely Dan in the '90s). Simmons's guitar-based songs now fitted in poorly; he went solo as the band gave up. Meanwhile Johnston made defiantly old-fashioned solo LPs Everything You've Heard Is True '79, Still Feels Good To Me '81. McDonald's If That's What It Takes '82 was critically acclaimed, Simmons's Arcade less so; both had hit singles: McDonald's 'I Keep Forgettin' (Every Time You're Near)' no. 4 '82; Simmons's 'So Wrong' no. 30 '83. McDonald's second LP was No Lookin' Back '85.

The Doobies began as folk-rockers, shifted gears and were successful each time; best-of LPs '77 and '81 could be by different bands, called Doobies 1 and Doobies 2 by fans. A live two-disc souvenir Farewell Tour was released '83. McDonald had a duet hit 'On My Own' with Patti LaBelle; a Europe-only compilation Sweet Freedom '86 was named after his second UK solo hit and included the duet, tracks with Doobies and James Ingram. Hossack, Hartman, Porter, Johnson, Simmons and late arrival Bobby LaKind re-formed to make top 20 album Cycles '89 on Capitol and toured as a single 'The Doctor' made the top ten; Brotherhood '91 made only no. 82. LaKind had been promoted to drums from the lighting crew; he died of cancer '92. In the late '90s Bumpus and others tried to revive the name but lost a court case. Knudsen and McFee formed Southen Pacific '85 in L.A. and had some hits, with Stu Cook (ex-Creedence Clearwater) on bass, Kurt Howell on keyboards and lead vocalist Tim Goodman, replaced by David Jenkins the next year. Their biggest hits were 'New Shade Of Blue' and 'Honey I Dare You', top fives '88 in the Billboard country chart. Long Train Runnin' '99 on Rhino was a 4-CD Doobie compilation; Doobies' Choice '2002 was just that: they chose 20 of their own favorite tracks. Meanwhile they re-formed for the nostalgia circuit late '90s; recorded evidence included Sibling Rivalry 2000 and Live At Wolf Trap 2004 (CD and DVD), the latter including McFee, Knudsen, Simmons, Johnston, Hossack and several others; these got mixed reviews on Amazon.