The Doobie Brothers switched personnel and musical styles on a regular basis; the band remained popular, however, throughout these changes. Although not an innovative act, the Doobies were a case in point that high quality recorded music can be derivative, if adequate attention is placed on songcraft, tight ensemble playing, and competent production values.
The band formed in 1969 as a Northern California trio—guitarist/songwriter Tom Johnston, drummer John Hartman, and bassist Greg Murphy (replaced later that year by Dave Shogren, who in turn gave way to Tiran Porter)—named Pud. With the addition of singer/rhythm guitarist/songwriter Patrick Simmons in 1970, the Doobies began to gel. A demonstration tape led to a contract with Warner Bros., but the debut album, The Doobie Brothers (Warner Bros. 1919; 1971), was only marginally successful.
Toulouse Street (Warner Bros. 2634; 1972; #21; on the charts for 119 weeks), which included the hit singles "Listen to the Music" (Warner Bros. 7619; 1972; #11) and "Jesus Is Just Alright" (Warner Bros. 7661; 1972; #35), catapulted the Doobie Brothers into the public eye. These recordings—along with the next two LPs, The Captain and Me (Warner Bros. 2694; 1973; #7) and What Were Once Vices Now Are Habits (Warner Bros. 2750; 1974; #4)—portrayed a populist, laid-back biker band. Best-selling singles such as "Long Train Runnin’" (Warner Bros. 7698; 1973; #8), "China Grove" (Warner Bros. 7728; 1973; #15), and "Black Water" (Warner Bros. 8062; 1974; #1) exuded an infectious blend of funky roots rock and smooth arrangements that made them a fixture on both AM and FM radio.
The band’s sound began to evolve noticeably in the mid-1970s as talented new members were recruited. Jeff "Skunk" Baxter, a session guitarist formerly with Ultimate Spinach and Steely Dan, placed his stamp on jazz/R&B-oriented Stampede (Warner Bros. 2835; 1975; #4). Another Steely Dan associate, vocalist/pianist/songwriter Michael McDonald, came abroad for Takin’ It to the Streets (Warner Bros. 2899, 1976; #8), endowing it and future releases—Livin’ on the Fault Line (Warner Bros. 3045; 1977; #10), Minute by Minute (Warner Bros. 3193, 1978; #1), and One Step Closer (Warner Bros. 3452; 1980; #3)—with a more urbane polish and broader instrumental palette. Thoroughly dominated by McDonald, Minute by Minute would win four Grammys: Best Pop Vocal Performance by a Duo, Group or Chorus as well as Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best Arrangement Accompanying Vocalists (by McDonald) for "What a Fool Believes" (Warner Bros. 8725; 1979; #1).
Changing musical trends and other attractive career options for band members led to a breakup in 1982. Key members from both early and later editions of the Doobies reunited for selected concerts in 1987. An album, Cycles (Capitol 90371; 1989; #17)—which most closely approximated the early 1970s recordings and featured the hit single, "The Doctor" (Capitol 44376; 1989; #9)—was released in 1989. The band has remained active since that time, producing Brotherhood (Capitol 94623; 1991), Rockin’ Down the Highway: The Wildlife Concert (Sony Legacy 484452; 1996), and Sibling Rivalry (Pyramid; 2000).
|Back to Album Oriented Rock||Back to Table of Contents|