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Doobie Brothers

Rock/R&B-styled group formed in San Jose, CA in 1970.

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Well, lots of hits, award winning, yes, made money....sorry, not a fan they didn't do enough!

  • Jun 16, 2009
I think one of the things I love about The Doobie Brothers is that they DIDN'T bring anything new to the table.  If you look at a top 100 bands list, or a greatest songs of all time book, you may not see these guys get a mention, you just see the same old names for the same old reasons, "changed the way we look at this and that." or  "countless influenced by blah blah blah."  The same thing over and over which makes me wonder why those lists keep getting made. The Doobie's biggest songs are radio staples and always will be, they have over a dozen releases including compilations which includes a "best of" that went Diamond (meaning over 10 million copies sold) and their mix of music has ranged from country bebopping to rock to folk to jazzy fusion.  Playing was solid, harmonizing was great and their tastes were diverse.  Why no love?  Simple.  To many people, it's cause they didn't change anything, they just did what everyone else was doing and did it really well and didn't stand out of the crowd to reinvent the guitar to make an impact.

Now you might think that I have some kind of love of mediocre or bland things, that isn't true.  I love big and grand things but when something tells me that it's going to be great and isn't, it's only dissapointing and doesn't endear me to the product at all and only makes me wonder who the people are that enjoyed said product. Even worse if it comes off as pretentious when you hear the product is going to lecture you and try and tell you why it is smart and special, a cut above the rest.  If it doesn't pass muster it looks foolish.  The Doobie Brothers don't promise anything, they play music with some songs better then others and it's uncomplicated, maybe that was their problem in that they were eager to please everyone and wound up looking average.

Starting in San Jose biker bars in the late 60's and into the early 70's the band consisted of two lead guitar players in Tom Johnston and Patrick Simmons.  Johnston sang the rock songs and the more folkey songs were passed off to Simmons.  A bass player named Dave Shogren and John Hartman was the drummer.  A self produced album came out at the time and is currently under a number of different labels and titles.  It's actually a decent effort but a lot of the songs sound like a real "garage" variety.  They got signed to a major deal not too much later but the self titled debut was a flop with no major hit and it's folk songs dominating.

A second effort Toulouse St. was their breakout with Listen to the Music, Jesus is Just Alright and Rock'in down the Highway as the hits.  Shogren left and was replaces by the superior Tiran Porter on bass and for a nice thicker sound added a second drummer named Michael Hosack.  The third album continued with The Captain and Me with another three hits with the infamous China Grove and it's crunching guitar chords, South City Midnight Lady and Long Train Runn'in.  These two albums are largely considered their best works.  As a note, the harmonizing on the title track to Captain and Me during it's rousing climax is some of their best work.

What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits is their infamous fourth album which some people consider a bit of a miss, some consider a huge success due solely to the track Black Water, their first number 1.

Stampede is my personal favorite and added my personal favorite guitar player, Jeff "Skunk" Baxter.  Only one hit with Take Me in Your Arms "Rock me a little While" but the bouncy Neals Fandango, the laid back Texas Lullabye and the atmospheric I Cheat the Hangman are fan favorites.  Hangman being the most unique of the three and starts it's jarring instrumental piece at the 4:20 mark.  Coincidance?

Tom Johnstons partying and constant touring left him ill and needing a break.  In came Michael McDonald who like Jeff Baxter was a Steely Dan alum.  A jazzier sound was introduced and McDonalds haunting voice took over as the voice of the group.  Surprisingly a band born from Hell's Angels clubs had it's strongest following at this point and the infamous 6th album Tak'in it to the Streets with it's equally infamous title track were born and sales were never better.  A 7th album featuring even more of McDonald was Liv'in on the Fault Line.  Johnston who had little input on the previous album had even less to do here and was a member in name only.  He officially left the band.  The album had no major hits but has it's admirers.

Burning out but not out yet, the Doobies put out their most famous album Minute by Minute and to say it was a smash would be an understatement.  Selling 3 million copies, winning awards and having another #1 hit with What a Fool Believes solidifyed them in music history.  Make sure to listen to Jeff Baxters closing instrumental guitar piece for How Does the Fool Survive?  After this album though, it was a little downhill.

1980 gave us One Step Closer, and while it wasn't bad, nothing really stood out as being fantastic.  Baxter and Hartman left the band before this leaving John McFee to take over for Baxter and Chet McCracken a roadie for Hartmans spot.  Simmons the only original member left was ready to throw in the towel leaving McDonald ready to have the band fold up.  A major tour was planned to close out the band and have Simmons and McDonald join Johnston on solo projects.

Flash forward a few years shows that McDonalds solor career is doing very well but Simmons and Johnston's aren't.  After a reuinon tour, a new deal was in the works with Capitol Records and we got in 1989 Cycles.  The original Toulouse St. lineup plus former roadie turned percussionist Bobby LaKind.  Cycles sold well with a big hit with The Doctor but lately is looked at as a weaker entry in their catalog.  Brotherhood came out in 91 and was a better quality of songs then Cycles it met with fewer sales with a subject of one of the worst tours at the time with the grunge movement settling in and the Doobies stuck to regular tours with a signifigant one in 96 for the Wildlife Conservation Society. 

1999 gave us a nice box set collection on 4 cds with the first 3 CDs covering the bands different phases of music and a wonderful 4th disc of unreleased material.  2000 saw the year of their first new material in a while, Sibling Rivalry to say it was quaint would be correct but to say it tanked would be also.  The lead track is also a bit silly with a lyric decrying kids on corners selling drugs-and your band is named, what exactly?  A major concert at Wolftrap a few years ago was the last major point of their career and it led to a live CD and DVD release.

Getting back to what I said above, it's a funny thing when I said about not standing out.  Consider this now it may be hard to picture but imagine about a dozen kids, the middle school and early high school variety, and one of them is wearing a Doobie Brothers T Shirt, the others all have Led Zepplin shirts.  Now who stands out?  I bet you even more the Doobie Brother kid actually has listened to the band he's representing.
Well, lots of hits, award winning, yes, made money....sorry, not a fan they didn't do enough! Well, lots of hits, award winning, yes, made money....sorry, not a fan they didn't do enough!

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June 16, 2009
I had no idea that there was so much turnover in the band. I have enjoyed their music for years, but never was a hard core fan. I agree that they get lost in the shuffle when "the greatest bands" are discussed and also agree that they made some classic music. Great take!
June 16, 2009
They had a lot more turnover then what I mentioned, sometimes in their early years one guy would leave and another guy would sign on.
More The Doobie Brothers reviews
review by . September 25, 2009
posted in Music Matters
Doobies 3
While I am not a particularly big fan of the music of the 1970's one group that stood head and shoulders above the rest was the Doobie Brothers.  Led by vocalist Tom Johnston, this group successfully combined elements of rock 'n roll and R&B and made some of the most memorable music of the decade.  And despite a rash of personnel changes along the way the group continued to make great music throughout the 1970's.      It did not take long for the group …
Quick Tip by . October 06, 2009
One of the biggest US rock bands has plenty of hits but doesn't get the love they should for not reinventing the wheel in music.
About the reviewer
John Nelson ()
Born in Wausau Wisconsin. Move at an early age to Ventura California and lived for 8 years. Growing up in a big city landscape didn't prepare me for my next move: Archbold Ohio with a population of … more
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Stephen Thomas Erlewine
As one of the most popular Californian pop/rock bands of the '70s, the Doobie Brothers evolved from a mellow, post-hippie boogie band to a slick, soul-inflected pop band by the end of the decade. Along the way, the group racked up a string of gold and platinum albums in the U.S., along with a number of radio hits like "Listen to the Music," "Black Water," and "China Grove."

The roots of the Doobie Brothers lie in Pud, a short-lived Californian country-rock band in the vein of Moby Grape featuring guitarist/vocalist Tom Johnston and drummer John Hartman. After Pud collapsed in 1969, the pair began jamming with bassist Dave Shogren and guitarist Patrick Simmons. Eventually, the quartet decided to form a group, naming themselves the Doobie Brothers after a slang term for marijuana. Soon, the Doobies earned a strong following throughout Southern California, especially among Hell's Angels, and they were signed to Warner Bros. in 1970. The band's eponymous debut was ignored upon its 1971 release. 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. The Captain and Me (1973) was even more successful, spawning the Top Ten hit "Long Train Runnin'" and ...

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