109. The Doobie Brothers

The Doobie Brothers are a rock band from San Jose, California. A friendship between guitarist Tom Johnston and drummer John Hartman gradually coalesced into a quartet with guitarist Patrick Simmons and bassist Dave Shogren. A favorite of the local chapter of Hells Angels, the band caught the attention of Warner Brothers Records producers Ted Templeman and Lenny Waronker in 1970. After an inauspicious debut album, the Doobies replaced Shogren with bassist Tiran Porter, and added a second percussionist, Michael Hossack. Their second album, Toulouse Street in 1972, was the first in a string of albums that achieved the band lifelong popularity. A band that experienced major changes in both band personnel and musical styles over the years, The Doobie Brothers sold over forty million records and continue to perform in concert on a semi-regular basis. The group was inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2004.

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Biography of The Doobie Brothers on Wikipedia
The Doobie Brothers’ Official Website
Doobfan.com – Fan Website

The First Successful Lineup:

Tom Johnston (b. 1948), guitar, vocals, songwriter
Patrick Simmons (b. 1948), guitar vocals, songwriter
Tiran Porter (b. 1948), bass, vocals
John Hartman (b. 1950), drums, percussion
Michael Hossack (1946-2012), drums

Three Important Additions:

Michael McDonald (B. 1952), keyboards, vocals, songwriter
Jeff “Skunk” Baxter (b. 1948), guitars
Keith Knudsen (1948-2005), drums, vocals

Listen To The Music

I have a lasting memory of the first time I played Toulouse Street on the home record player. I was a sophomore in high school — Mom took me to the record store to buy it. At the time, “Listen To The Music” was a hit song. The short, edited version was played on fidelity-challenged AM radio, and I couldn’t wait to hear what it sounded like on record. I remember opening the jacket to see the liner notes, and pulling the pristine, shiny jet black vinyl from its clear plastic sleeve. I turned the record on its side, so I could see what the grooves looked like in the reflection of the den’s lamp. Reading the list on Side One, I noted the song’s length [1. Listen To The Music (4:44)], another useless fact etched in memory. Nearly two extra minutes of music to enjoy! Most of all, I remember how crisp and perfect those opening guitar strums sounded on the family headphones, when I laid the phonograph needle upon it. Each new record shared these tactile, visual and aural gifts, but Toulouse Street is the one I remember vividly.

Neal’s Fandango

The Doobie Brothers had two distinct career phases. The original lineup, with Tom Johnston and Patrick Simmons, created a mellow hybrid of folk and rock music, consistent with the post-hippie Bay Area vibe. After the band’s fifth album, Stampede, Johnston dropped out for many years. The band recruited singer and keyboard player Michael McDonald, plus guitarist and government spook Jeff “Skunk” Baxter, Steely Dan veterans who moved the band in a funkier, soulful direction. Both lineups used harmony vocals to great effect, though there’s little similarity between the two. Remarkably, the Doobie Brothers produced a #1 hit single (“Black Water” and “What A Fool Believes”) with each lineup.

The Tom Johnston era lasted five albums, and most of my favorite Doobie Brothers songs are from the early days. The two best albums are Toulouse Street and The Captain & Me, in that order.

The song “Neal’s Fandango” from Stampede holds a special place in my heart:

“Well, a travelin’ man’s affliction makes it hard to settle down,
But I’m stuck here in the flatlands while my heart is homeward bound.
Goin’ back, I’m too tired to roam, Loma Prieta my mountain home,
On the hills above Santa Cruz, to the place where I spent my youth.

Well it was Neal Cassady that started me to travelin’,
All the stories that were told, I believed them every one.
And it’s a windin’ road I’m on you understand,
And no time to worry ’bout tomorrow when you’re followin’ the sun.

Papa don’t you worry now and mama don’t you cry,
Sweet woman don’t forsake me, I’ll be comin’ by and by.
Goin’ back, I’m too tired to roam, Loma Prieta my mountain home,
On the hills above Santa Cruz, to the place where I spent my youth.

— Patrick Simmons

West_Flank_of_Loma_Prieta_Mountain,_April_2012

Loma Prieta Mountain

My parents moved west to California in 1956, and spent their first few years living on Loma Prieta Avenue, on the north slope of Loma Prieta, off the Summit Road south of Highway 17. I spent my first two years living in the Santa Cruz Mountains. By the early sixties, my parents tired of their long commute, and moved down into the flatlands near the San Francisco Bay. The up-tempo “Neal’s Fandango” is the only song I know that mentions Loma Prieta, and has that nice sense of home, a favorite musical subject.

While perusing the Internet for data, I came across this nice blog entry by someone with similar feelings for “Neal’s Fandango”:

Total Music Geek Blog Entry for “Neal’s Fandango”

Concluding Remarks

Here are videos for the band’s two #1 hits, a vintage performance of Michael McDonald’s “What A Fool Believes”, followed by a more recent performance of “Black Water” from the CD/DVD Live at Wolf Trap:

Amazon.com Link to the CD/DVD “Live At Wolf Trap”

The original Doobie Brothers are similar to The Eagles, laid back California music with prominent vocal harmonies. The Doobies also bring to mind Huey Lewis & The News, another Bay Area “bar band” that made it to the top of the charts. During my high school years, the Doobie Brothers reminded me of Creedence Clearwater Revival Band, with strumming guitars, driving rhythms and that high lonesome mindset common among country rock bands in the early seventies.

As life and musical tastes evolved, I left the Doobie Brothers behind, and rarely return. The songs are melodic and toe-tapping, but the lyrics often fail to inspire. Michael McDonald gets short shrift in this collection; only four songs feature his songwriting and deep, distinctive voice. Keeping twenty-three songs seems sentimental; most collectors would see many of these choices as superfluous. I imagine a typical collector from England or the Eastern Seaboard having little interest in the Doobies, and instead suggesting a similar-sized collection of songs by The Clash, or Bon Jovi, or another band nearer and dearer to home.

Doobie Brothers Song Notes:

1. Everything is easy to find, there are no notable alternate versions, and there are no related songs, which is very rare.

Doobie Brothers Songs:

Listen To The Music, Doobie Brothers ✭✭✭
Long Train Runnin’, Doobie Brothers ✭✭✭
Black Water, Doobie Brothers ✭✭✭
Clear As The Driven Snow, Doobie Brothers ✭✭✭

Neal’s Fandango, Doobie Brothers ✭✭
South City Midnight Lady, Doobie Brothers ✭✭
Nobody, Doobie Brothers ✭✭
Toulouse Street, Doobie Brothers ✭✭
Jesus Is Just Alright, Doobie Brothers ✭✭
Another Park, Another Sunday, Doobie Brothers ✭✭
What A Fool Believes, Doobie Brothers ✭✭

Without You, Doobie Brothers
China Grove, Doobie Brothers
Ukiah, Doobie Brothers
Minute By Minute, Doobie Brothers
Slat Key Soquel Rag, Doobie Brothers
I Cheat The Hangman, Doobie Brothers
Rockin’ Down The Highway, Doobie Brothers
White Sun, Doobie Brothers
Snake Man, Doobie Brothers
Takin’ It To The Streets, Doobie Brothers
Spirit, Doobie Brothers
Daughters Of The Sea, Doobie Brothers

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