Monday, December 22, 2014

Doobie Brothers, The #18 Artist of the Seventies*

This great group formed when drummer John Hartman met Skip Spence from Moby Grape.  Spence introduced Hartman to singer, songwriter and guitarist Tom Johnson, and the two formed the core of what would become the Doobie Brothers.  Hartman and Johnston called their group Pud in the beginning, and included various lineups as they performed in the area around San Jose, California. 

Bassist Dave Shogren and singer, songwriter and guitarist Patrick Simmons came aboard in 1970.  The Doobie Brothers expanded their concerts to include all of Northern California.  A demo tape earned the Doobies a recording contract with Warner Brothers Records in1971.

Later in the year, the group released their self-titled debut album.  Although no hits emerged from the album, a Johnston-penned song represents some of their best work.  This is "Nobody". 

The Doobie Brothers added a second drummer, Michael Hossack, while on tour--the group would become famous for using multiple drummers.  While working on their follow-up album with producer Ted Templeman, Shogren left the group, replaced by Tiran Porter, and this was a key hire.  Pianist Bill Payne from Little Feat played on the album, beginning a collaboration that would last several decades.  The band achieved their breakthrough with the album Toulouse Street in 1972.
The single "Listen To The Music" reached #3 in Canada, #7 in the Netherlands, and #11 in the United States.

Toulouse Street has passed the one million mark in sales.  A follow-up, "Jesus Is Just Alright", peaked at #35 but is a fan favorite.

Another top track on the album is "Rockin' Down The Highway".

Patrick Simmons came through with the title song.

The following year, the group released the album The Captain and Me.  The lead single "Long Train Runnin'" went to #7 in the U.K. and #8 in both the United States and Canada, and #10 in the Netherlands.

The album was certified Double Platinum.  "China Grove" officially peaked at #15, one of The Top Unknown/Underrated Songs of the Rock Era*.

The Captain and Me also contains another concert favorite, "Without You".

Another great track on the album is "South City Midnight Lady".

And another song worth featuring on one of the group's best career albums is "Ukiah".

Hossack was next to leave the group while rehearsing for a tour to promote the album.  Keith Knudsen came in to replace him.  In 1974, the Doobie Brothers released the album What Were Once Vices are Now Habits.  The single "Another Park, Another Sunday" inexplicably stalled at #32, another of the group's Unknown/Underrated Songs*.

The Doobies achieved their second straight Double Platinum album.  "Black Water" went to #1 in the U.S. and #9 in Canada. 

The group included the Top Track* "Down In The Track".

Meanwhile, Jeff "Skunk" Baxter of Steely Dan learned that his group would retire from touring and that co-founders Walter Becker and Donald Fagen wanted to work exclusively with session musicians in the future.  Baxter, who had already done session work with the Doobies in the past,  inquired about joining the group, which he did in the middle of their tour.

In 1975, the Doobie Brothers released the album Stampede.  Johnston's health was deteriorating, as he needed emergency hospitalization for a bleeding ulcer.  Baxter suggested that keyboardist Michael McDonald, another Steely Dan alum, take his place for the promotional tour. 

Stampede went Gold, thanks to the smash "Take Me In Your Arms (Rock Me)", a #11 song in both the U.S. and Canada.

"I Cheat The Hangman" is a Top Track* on the album.

And the group showed their versatility with "Texas Lullabye".

Since the group were under contract to release an album in 1976, they were in a bit of a quandary.  Johnson, their lead singer and main songwriter, was still not able to join them, so the group turned to McDonald, Porter and Simmons to write songs for the album.  The result was a radical change in the band's sound, going from rock & roll and a guitar sound to blue-eyed soul and soft rock that emphasized keyboards and horns.  The band also added Bobby LaKind as backing vocalist and percussionist.

McDonald's voice became the new sound of the group on the album Takin' It to the Streets.  The title song rose to #11 in Canada and #13 in the United States.

The album has surpassed one million in sales.  The single "It Keeps You Runnin'" is another quality song.

Tiran Porter delivered some soul for the group on "For Someone Special".

The Doobie Brothers released their compilation album Best of the Doobies, which has now gone over ten million in sales.  Johnston had recuperated, and, although he now had a diminished role in the group, joined the band on tour in 1976.  However, Tom left the group he had co-founded prior to the release of their next album.

In 1977, the band released Livin' on the Fault Line.  "Little Darling (I Need You)" is the top song on the album.

In 1979, the Doobie Brothers released the album Minute by Minute.  Kenny Loggins joined McDonald in writing the song "What A Fool Believes", which topped charts in the United States and Canada and hit #10 in the U.K.

"What A Fool Believes" won the Grammy Award for Record of the Year, and Minute by Minute topped the Album chart for five weeks.  The title song got as high as #14 in the U.S. and #17 in Canada.

Minute by Minute has now sold over three million copies.  Both "What A Fool Believes" and the title song were nominated for Song of the Year at the Grammy Awards, and the Doobie Brothers were recognized for their album when they won the Grammy for Best Pop Vocal Performance by a Group and were nominated for Album of the Year.  The single "Dependin' On You" was an underrated song at #25.

Kenny Loggins contributed his songwriting to the group on "Sweet Feelin'".

Another fine track is "Here To Love You".

The Doobies proved their great versatility with this instrumental on the album--"Steamer Lane Breakdown".
As great an album as Minute by Minute was, the constant pressure of touring and recording and worn the members down.  McDonald and Baxter had battled for control of the direction of the group in recent years, and Hartman, Baxter and LaKind left after the album was recorded.

With a promising tour awaiting them, the remaining Doobie Brothers, Simmons, Knudsen, McDonald and Porter continued, bringing in new members.  However, the group was not nearly as successful in the 80's as the 70's, and disbanded shortly afterwards.  There have been several reunions, however, and the group still tours. 

The Doobie Brothers were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2004.

The Doobies landed 19 hits in the decade, with three Top 10's and two #1 songs, and a score of great album tracks.  They sold 20 million albums in the U.S. alone in the 70's.

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