The Doobie Brothers
Continually defying categorization!
The Doobie Brothers are one of the very few American musical groups that have been able to achieve a phenomenal level of success and sustain it for a period of time measured in decades; it is a success that has sold more than 50 million records worldwide. This includes: multiple Grammy awards, 27 chart singles, 16 top 40 hits (including two number 1s), 11 multi-platinum albums, 13 Gold albums and that most rare of distinctions, The Diamond Award, for the sale of 10 million units of a single title, Best Of The Doobies: Vol. 1. Combined with their consistent appeal on the road, The Doobies have earned a fanatical loyalty for their high-energy shows, and are truly one of America’s most loved rock and roll bands. One of the secrets to their success is most certainly in their diversity.
A look at the evolution of the group and the histories of its four long-time core members also gives some insight into the reasons for the group’s enduring appeal. In early 1970, Tom Johnston met fellow Bay area musician Patrick Simmons. Simmons’ musical leanings – with strong acoustic finger picking guitar stylings – were complimentary with the more bluesy orientation of Johnston’s approach. Their mutual recognition of the possibilities that the pairing of their talents might yield led to an artistic alliance of these founding members of the group, and by the fall of 1970, The Doobie Brothers were born. Musical history was about to be made – the band was soon signed to Warner Brothers Records.
The next core member to join the group was drummer Michael Hossack. Michael’s contributions are to be heard as an important part of the group’s first wave of hit recordings, starting with the classic “Listen to the Music” from the group’s breakout album, Toulouse Street. Producer Ted Templeman has often referred to Michael’s drumming as one of the first instances of a drummer who was a member of a group being of a quality on a par with that of a professional “session” drummer – high praise indeed.
The last of the core members to join the group began his tenure more than two and a half decades ago. By the late ‘70s, the group’s musical diversity had reached a point where the need for an instrumentalist capable of facility in a wide range of styles, and on various instruments, led to the addition of “super session” player John McFee to the lineup. McFee had already been part of some of the biggest selling recordings, by some of the most respected artists, of all time; a look at his credits speaks volumes about his versatility and virtuosity – consider: Van Morrison, Steve Miller, The Grateful Dead, Boz Scaggs, Emmy Lou Harris, The Beach Boys, Elvis Costello, Huey Lewis and the News, Link Wray, Rick James, Bill Wyman of the Rolling Stones, Ricky Scaggs, Nick Lowe, guitar legend Michael Bloomfield, Japanese superstar Eikichi Yazawa, and many others.
A look at the group’s recordings reveals one of the more interesting musical histories in popular music. Upon release of their breakthrough album in 1972, Toulouse Street, featuring the hit single “Listen to the Music”, the legend began. This album also produced the hits, “Jesus is Just Alright” and “Rockin’ Down the Highway.” The Captain And Me was released in 1973, and produced the hits “China Grove” and “Long Train Running”, as well as classics such as “South City Midnight Lady” and “Without You”. The Doobies’ 3rd multi-platinum album, What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits, featuring “Black Water”, “Another Park, Another Sunday” and “Eyes of Silver,” built on the success of the previous albums.
In 1975 the band released Stampede and from that album came the classics “Take Me In Your Arms (Rock Me)”, “Sweet Maxine”, and “I Cheat The Hangman.” The following year, Michael McDonald joined the band for the album Takin’ It To The Streets, which produced more hit singles, including the number one “Takin’ it to the Streets” and “It Keeps You Running.”. The stylistic expansion of the group, with more jazz influences being incorporated, led to even more successes.
1977’s album Livin’ on the Fault Line, with hits like “You Belong to Me”, “Little Darlin’”, and the title track, showed the group’s commitment to continue to grow musically. The next year brought even more success with the multi-Grammy winning Minute by Minute, with chart topping singles such as “What a Fool Believes”, “Minute by Minute”, and “Dependin’ on You.”
The group’s next album, One Step Closer, produced more hits, with the hauntingly beautiful “Real Love” and the title track, “One Step Closer”. The album also contained the group’s first Grammy nominated instrumental track, John McFee and Chet McCracken’s jazz composition “South Bay Strut.”
In 1982 the band embarked on their farewell tour, after which the musicians went their separate ways. However, they did remain in close contact, and performed once a year at benefit concerts for The Children’s Hospital at Stanford University. In 1987, on an 11-city tour they raised more than 1 million dollars for a variety of charitable causes. The tour concluded with a performance on July 4th, 1987 at a peace concert in Moscow. This tour reignited interest in The Doobie Brothers for both audiences and the band members. The Doobies then returned to the recording studio for Capitol Records. The resulting album, Cycles, included the top 10 hit “The Doctor” and went Gold. Since that time The Doobies have toured and in 1998 signed with WEA distribution, Pyramid Records. In 1999 the band was awarded the RIAA Diamond Award of the sale of 10 million copies of Best of the Doobies: Vol. 1.
The group spent the next two years working on the 2000 release Sibling Rivalry. Time was not an issue and the band was determined to make a milestone record that was a real musical statement. They succeeded in creating a true musical evolution in a group effort that highlighted all of the multi-faceted talents the band possessed. The essentially self-produced album was unlike anything the Doobies had released before. It is a testament to the incredible diversity that has come to be known as “Doobie Brothers Music.”
After 30 years, The Doobies made music history by releasing their last studio album on the Internet through iMix.com, and 60 days later in stores everywhere through Pyramid’s WEA distribution. As part of that historical release, on June 9th, 10th and 11th, 2000, The Doobie Brothers recorded their greatest hits live. Those live tracks accompanied the Internet release of the studio album and were exclusive to the Internet.
Keeping with the Doobie tradition of touring and supporting album releases, 2001 through 2003 found the band performing all over the world. This included a US amphitheater tour in the summer of 2003 with long-time associates Huey Lewis and the News and a special performance to celebrate the 100th birthday of Harley Davidson. 2004 found the band comfortably on the road again. During the 2004 tour, The Doobie Brothers headlined a special acoustic performance in April at the Meyerson Symphony Hall in Dallas as a fund-raiser for the Dallas Symphony.
Over the years, The Doobie Brothers’ music has evolved from a country/blues base into a sound emphasizing everything from R&B and Jazz elements, to guitar fueled rockers like “China Grove” and “Long Train Running,” to the folky chart topper “Black Water.” They have continually defied categorization, while maintaining their signature sound. Forever in pace with the American Spirit, The Doobie Brothers will continue to rock well into the future.
Listen to the Music
What a Fool Believes
Long Train Runnin'
Takin' It to the Streets