|The Doobie Brothers|
|The Doobie Brothers in 1974 (l–r): Knudsen, Porter, Simmons, Johnston (front), Hartman|
|Also known as||The Doobies|
|Origin||San Jose, California, U.S.|
|Past members||See members section|
The Doobie Brothers are an American rock band. The group has sold more than 40 million albums worldwide throughout their career. The band has been active for five decades, with their biggest success occurring in the 1970s.
The band's history can be roughly divided into three eras. From 1969 to 1975 they featured lead vocalist Tom Johnston and featured a mainstream rock and roll sound with elements of folk, country and R&B. Johnston quit the group in 1975, and was replaced with Michael McDonald whose interest in soul music changed the sound of the band until they broke up in 1982. The Doobie Brothers reformed in 1987 with Johnston back in the fold and are active to the present with occasional contributions from McDonald. Every incarnation of the group emphasized vocal harmonies from the band's members, and the Doobie Brothers were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2004.
Drummer John Hartman arrived in California in 1969 determined to meet Skip Spence of Moby Grape and join an aborted Grape reunion. Spence introduced Hartman to singer, guitarist, and songwriter Tom Johnston and the two proceeded to form the nucleus of what would become the Doobie Brothers. Johnston and Hartman called their fledgling group "Pud" and experimented with lineups (occasionally including Spence) and styles as they performed in and around San Jose. They were mostly a power trio (along with bassist Greg Murphy) but briefly worked with a horn section.
In 1970, they teamed up with singer, guitarist, and songwriter Patrick Simmons and bass guitarist Dave Shogren. Simmons had belonged to several area groups (among them "Scratch", an acoustic trio with future Doobies bassist Tiran Porter) and also performed as a solo artist. He was already an accomplished fingerstyle player whose approach to the instrument complemented Johnston's rhythmic R&B strumming.
The Doobie Brothers improved their playing by performing live all over Northern California in 1970. They attracted a particularly strong following among local chapters of the Hells Angels and got a recurring gig at one of the bikers' favorite venues, the Chateau Liberté in the Santa Cruz mountains, and they continued playing the Chateau through the summer of 1975 (although some of these concerts did not include all band members and they were unannounced and of an impromptu nature). An energetic set of demos (eight of which were briefly and illegally released on Pickwick Records in 1980 under the title Introducing the Doobie Brothers, and have since been bootlegged on CD under that title and On Our Way Up as well, both with expanded song selections), showcased fuzz-toned dual lead electric guitars, three-part harmonies and Hartman's frenetic drumming and earned the rock group a contract at Warner Bros. Records in 1971.
At this point in their history, the band's image reflected that of their biggest fans—leather jackets and motorcycles. However, the group's 1971 self-titled debut album departed significantly from that image and their live sound of the period. The album, which failed to chart, emphasized acoustic guitars and frequently reflected country influences. The bouncy lead-off song "Nobody", the band's first single, has surfaced in their live set several times over the ensuing decades. Most recently, this song was re-recorded and added to their 2010 album World Gone Crazy.
Also in 1971, the group toyed with the idea of adding a second drummer, supplementing Hartman's drumming on some of their shows with that of Navy veteran Michael Hossack while still touring behind their first album. In October 1971, the band recorded several songs for their second album with Shogren on bass, guitar, and background vocals. But a little later, during the album's recording, Shogren left after disagreements with the group's new producer, Ted Templeman. Shogren was replaced in December 1971 with singer, songwriter and bass guitarist Tiran Porter, while Hossack was added to the lineup at the same time as a regular. Porter and Hossack were both stalwarts of the Northern California music scene, Porter having previously played in Scratch with Simmons. Porter brought a funkier bass style to the band and added his husky baritone to the voices of Johnston and Simmons, resulting in a rich three-part harmonic vocal blend.
The second album, Toulouse Street (which spawned the hits and classic rock staples, "Listen to the Music", and "Jesus Is Just Alright"), brought the band their breakthrough success after its release in July 1972. In collaboration with manager Bruce Cohn, producer Ted Templeman and engineer Donn Landee, the band put forward a more polished and eclectic set of songs. Pianist Bill Payne of Little Feat contributed keyboards for the first time, beginning a decades-long collaboration that included many recording sessions and even a two-week stint touring with the band in early 1974.
A string of hits followed, including Johnston's "Long Train Runnin'" and "China Grove", from the 1973 album The Captain and Me. Other noteworthy songs on the album were Simmons' country-ish ode "South City Midnight Lady" and the explosive, hard rocking raveup "Without You", for which the entire band received songwriting credit. Onstage, the latter song would sometimes stretch into a 15-minute jam with additional lyrics completely ad-libbed by Johnston. A 1973 appearance on the debut episode of the television music variety show Don Kirshner's Rock Concert featured one such epic performance of the tune.
In the midst of recording sessions for their next album, 1974's What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits, and rehearsals for a 1973 fall tour, Hossack abruptly departed the band, citing burnout from constant touring. Drummer, songwriter and vocalist Keith Knudsen (who previously drummed for Lee Michaels of "Do You Know What I Mean" fame) was recruited promptly in September 1973 and left with the Doobies on a major tour a few weeks later (Hossack subsequently replaced Knudsen in the band Bonaroo, which served as an opening act for the Doobies shortly thereafter). Both Hossack's drums and Knudsen's voice are heard on Vices.
In 1974 Steely Dan co-lead guitarist Jeff "Skunk" Baxter learned that his band was retiring from the road and that Donald Fagen and Walter Becker intended to work almost exclusively with session players in the future. In need of a steady gig, he segued into the Doobie Brothers as third lead guitarist in the middle of their current tour. He had previously worked with the band in the studio, adding pedal steel guitar to both Captain ("South City Midnight Lady") and Vices ("Black Water", "Tell Me What You Want") and had already been playing with the band as a "special guest" during that year's tour.
Vices included the band's first No. 1 single: Simmons' signature tune "Black Water". It climbed to the top of the charts in March 1975 and eventually propelled the album to multi-platinum status. Johnston's lyrical "Another Park, Another Sunday" (as a single, it featured "Black Water" as the B-side) and his horn-driven funk song "Eyes of Silver" had also charted at numbers 32 & 52, respectively, the previous year.
During this period and for several subsequent tours, the Doobies were often supported on-stage by Stax Records legends The Memphis Horns. Live recordings with the horn section have aired on radio on the King Biscuit Flower Hour, though none have been officially released. They also appeared as session players on multiple Doobies albums.
By the end of 1974, Johnston's health was suffering from the rigors of the road. He was absent when the band joined The Beach Boys, Chicago, and Olivia Newton-John on "Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve" that December. By then, the western-themed Stampede had been completed for release in 1975. It featured yet another hit single, Johnston's cover of the Holland-Dozier-Holland-written Motown hit "Take Me in Your Arms" (originally sung by Kim Weston and also covered by the Isley Brothers and Blood Sweat and Tears). The song included a distinctive Baxter guitar solo. Simmons contributed the atmospheric "I Cheat the Hangman," as well as "Neal's Fandango," an ode to Santa Cruz, Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady. Ry Cooder added his slide guitar to Johnston's cowboy song, "Rainy Day Crossroad Blues".
By the start of the Spring 1975 promotional tour for Stampede, Johnston's condition was so precarious that he required emergency hospitalization for a bleeding ulcer. With Johnston convalescing and the tour already underway, Baxter proposed recruiting a fellow Steely Dan alum to fill the hole: singer, songwriter and keyboardist Michael McDonald. Simmons, Knudsen, Porter and McDonald divvied up and sang Johnston's parts on tour while Simmons and Baxter shared lead guitar chores.
Under contract to release another album in 1976, the Doobies were at a crossroads. Their primary songwriter and singer remained unavailable, so they turned to McDonald and Porter for material to supplement that of Simmons. The resulting LP, Takin' it to the Streets, debuted a radical change in their sound. Their electric-guitar-based rock and roll gave way to a more soft rock and blue-eyed soul sound, emphasizing keyboards and horns and subtler, more syncopated rhythms. Baxter contributed jazz-inflected guitar stylings reminiscent of Steely Dan (as he had played with that group), along with more emphasis on compound chords and unusual, complex chords and sophisticated progressions with key changes and longer, more developed melody lines. Above all, McDonald's voice became the band's new signature sound. Takin' It to the Streets featured McDonald's title track and "It Keeps You Runnin'," both hits. (A second version of "It Keeps You Runnin'", performed by Carly Simon, appeared on her album Another Passenger, with the Doobies backing her.) Bassist Porter wrote and sang a tribute to the absent Johnston, entitled "For Someone Special." A greatest hits compilation, Best of the Doobies, followed before year's end. In 1996 the Recording Industry Association of America certified Best of the Doobies "Diamond" for sales in excess of 10 million units.
Their new sound was further refined and McDonald's dominant role cemented with 1977's Livin' on the Fault Line. It featured a cover of the Motown classic "Little Darling (I Need You)" and "Echoes Of Love", which had been written by James Mitchell for, but not recorded by, Al Green. Mitchell (then of the Memphis Horns) and Earl Randle had both worked with Green a good bit. Simmons added some music and lyrics, co-writing the finished version with Mitchell and Randle; the song was later covered not just by the Pointer Sisters but by Lyn Paul, the ex-New Seekers vocalist. The album also featured the song "You Belong To Me" (co-written by McDonald and Carly Simon, who had a hit with her own version of the tune). To help promote Fault Line, the band performed live on the PBS show Soundstage. Jeff Baxter used an early type of guitar synthesizer (made by Roland) on many of the tracks (it is heavily featured in his solo on the title track, as well as on "Chinatown"). The combination of McDonald's cerebral approach to harmony, funkier beats and R&B vocal flavor, along with Baxter's guitar pyrotechnics, pushed the band away from the more proletarian biker-bong-boogie style that made them popular originally. The use of complex jazz chords, built on McDonald's thoroughly composed keyboard parts, tempered by strong pop hooks, resulted in an album that, though not really jazz, had a distinctly urban contemporary finish, adding the flavor of the "cool jazz" era to a pop setting.
Both Streets and Fault Line reflected Johnston's diminished role in the group following his illness. Restored to fitness and briefly back in the fold, he contributed one original song to Streets, ("Turn It Loose"), and also added a vocal cameo to Simmons' tune "Wheels of Fortune." He also made live appearances with the band in 1976 (documented in a concert filmed that year at the Winterland in San Francisco, excerpts from which appear occasionally on VH1 Classic), but was sidelined once again in the fall due to exhaustion. None of Johnston's songs appeared on Fault Line, though he had written and the band had recorded five of his compositions for the album. Finally, before Fault Line was released, Johnston had his songs removed and he left the band that he co-founded (though he received credit for guitars and vocals and was pictured on the album's inner sleeve band photo). He embarked on a solo career that eventually yielded one modestly successful 1979 Warner Brothers album Everything You've Heard is True, which featured the single "Savannah Nights", and the less successful album Still Feels Good in 1981.
During the period of transition, the band also elevated former roadie Bobby LaKind to onstage backup vocalist and percussionist. In the studio, LaKind first contributed percussion to Streets but had been a member of the band's lighting crew since 1974. Additionally, in early 1978, the band appeared as themselves in two episodes of the ABC sitcom What's Happening!! The group performed the songs "Little Darlin' (I Need You)", "Black Water", "Takin' It to the Streets", and "Take Me in Your Arms".
After almost a decade on the road, and with seven albums under their belts, the Doobies' career unexpectedly soared with the success of their next album, 1978's Minute by Minute. It spent five weeks at the top of the music charts and dominated several radio formats for the better part of two years. McDonald's song "What a Fool Believes", written with Kenny Loggins, was the band's second No. 1 single and earned the songwriting duo a Grammy Award for Record of the Year. The album won a Grammy Award for Pop Vocal Performance by a Group and was nominated for Album of the Year. Both "What a Fool Believes" and the title track were nominated for Grammys for Song of the Year, with "What a Fool Believes" winning the award. Among the other memorable songs on the album are "Here to Love You," "Dependin' On You" (co-written by McDonald and Simmons), "Steamer Lane Breakdown" (a Simmons bluegrass instrumental) and McDonald's "How Do the Fools Survive?" Nicolette Larson and departed former bandleader Johnston contributed guest vocals on the album.
The triumph of Minute by Minute was bittersweet, however, because it coincided with the near-dissolution of the band. The pressure of touring while recording and releasing an album each year had worn the members down. Jeff Baxter and Michael McDonald had been in the midst of a creative conflict for some time. McDonald desired a direct, soulful and polished rock/R&B sound, while Baxter insisted on embellishing guitar parts in an increasingly avant garde style. (Both McDonald and Baxter elaborated on the matter in the documentary series Behind the Music, which aired on VH1 in February 2001.) Just as the success of Minute by Minute had become apparent, founding drummer Hartman, longtime guitarist Baxter, and percussionist LaKind left the band. A two-song set on the January 27, 1979 broadcast of Saturday Night Live (with guest host Michael Palin) marked the final television appearance of this lineup, and a brief tour of Japan marked the last live performances of the band in its middle-period configuration (Hartman subsequently joined Johnston's touring band in 1979 and taped an appearance with Johnston that aired on Soundstage in 1980).
With the surprise smash album embedded in the charts and more money to be earned on the road, the remaining Doobies (Simmons, Knudsen, McDonald and Porter) decided to forge ahead. In 1979, Hartman was replaced by ace session drummer Chet McCracken and Baxter by multi-instrumental string player John McFee (late of Huey Lewis' early band Clover); Cornelius Bumpus (who had been part of a recent reunion of Moby Grape) was also recruited to add vocals, keyboards, saxophones, and flute to the lineup. This lineup toured throughout 1979, including stops at Madison Square Garden and New York City's Battery Park for the No Nukes benefit shows with like-minded artists such as Bonnie Raitt, Crosby, Stills & Nash, James Taylor, Carly Simon, Jackson Browne, Bruce Springsteen and John Hall.
1980 marked the return of LaKind to the lineup as a full-time member and the "Doobies" released their ninth studio album, One Step Closer. The LP featured the hit title track and the Top 10 smash "Real Love" (not to be confused with the John Lennon composition) but did not dominate the charts and the radio as Minute by Minute had two years earlier, largely due to an oversaturation of the "McDonald sound" by many other artists (such as Robbie Dupree's hit "Steal Away", which copied the "McDonald sound" nearly note for note) heard on the radio at that time—not to mention McDonald's numerous guest vocal appearances on hits by other artists at that time, such as Kenny Loggins, Christopher Cross, and Nicolette Larson. The album itself was also noticeably weaker musically than the previous three with the band itself sounding tired and seemingly devolving to little more than McDonald's "backup band" by then (according to contemporary references at that time). "Ted and Michael became one faction against Pat and the rest of us,” Porter said in an interview. Long frustrated with the realities of relentless touring and yearning for a stable home life, as well as battling self-admitted problems with cocaine, Porter left the band after the recording of Closer. Session bassist Willie Weeks joined the band and the Doobies continued touring throughout 1980 and 1981 (Post-Doobies, Weeks has performed with the Gregg Allman Band, Eric Clapton, and many others).
By the end of 1981, even Simmons had resigned from the band. Now faced with the prospect of calling themselves "The Doobie Brothers" with no remaining original members, a sound that was light years away from their original version and a "leader" in McDonald who was ready for a solo career, the group elected instead to disband. It wasn't even decided upon until after a rehearsal done without Simmons in a vain attempt to keep the band going, according to an interview with McDonald for "Listen To The Music," the Doobie Brothers official video history/documentary released in 1989. He went on to say in that interview that by that point they couldn't have gotten further away from the Doobies sound if they had tried to. The reluctant Simmons, already hard at work on his first solo album entitled Arcade, rejoined for a 1982 Farewell Tour on the promise that this truly would be the end of the Doobie Brothers. At their last concert at the Greek Theatre in Berkeley, California, they were joined onstage by founding member Tom Johnston for what was presumed to be the final rendition of his staple, "China Grove". Former members Porter, Hossack and Hartman subsequently took the stage for an extended version of "Listen to the Music". Knudsen sang lead vocals while Johnston, Simmons and McFee traded licks on guitar. The live album Farewell Tour followed in 1983.
The Doobies did not work together for the next five years, with various members getting together in different configurations for annual Christmas season performances for the patients and staff at the Stanford Children's Hospital in the Bay area. Simmons released a commercially disappointing solo album, Arcade, in 1983. During the mid-1980s, Johnston toured U.S. clubs with a band called Border Patrol, which did not release any recordings. Hossack and (briefly) Simmons worked with the group. Around 1986, Johnston and Simmons began working on an album together (according to a 1989 interview with Simmons), but abandoned the project soon after with no known finished tracks. In 1983, Knudsen and McFee formed the band Southern Pacific and recorded four albums that found success in the country charts (Former Creedence Clearwater Revival bassist Stu Cook would join the band in 1986 and former Pablo Cruise guitarist David Jenkins in 1988). Out of print for many years, Simmons' Arcade was reissued on compact disc in 2007 by specialty label Wounded Bird Records, which is also the home of Southern Pacific's and Tom Johnston's catalogs. Post-Doobies, McDonald became established as a solo artist. His voice dominated adult contemporary radio throughout the 1980s. He experienced a renaissance of popularity in the new century as an interpreter of Motown classics.
The reformation of the Doobie Brothers was not intentional. On a personal quest for a worthy cause and after ridding of his drug addiction, Knudsen had become active in the Vietnam Veterans Aid Foundation. In early 1987, he persuaded eleven of the Doobie alumni to join him for a concert to benefit veterans' causes. Answering the call were Tom Johnston, Pat Simmons, Jeff Baxter, John McFee, John Hartman, Michael Hossack, Chet McCracken, Michael McDonald, Cornelius Bumpus, Bobby LaKind and Tiran Porter. There were no surplus bass players as Weeks had other commitments. They soon discovered that tickets were in great demand, so the one concert quickly evolved into a twelve-city tour which began on May 21, 1987 in San Diego, California. The third concert, held at the Hollywood Bowl, was reportedly the fastest sell-out at the venue since The Beatles had played there in the 1960s. The band performed selections from every album using a wide variety of instrumentation that they could not have previously duplicated onstage without the expanded lineup. Baxter and McFee played pedal steel and violin, respectively, during Black Water and Steamer Lane Breakdown. Without You featured four drummers and four lead guitarists. Producer Ted Templeman played percussion and LaKind sometimes played Knudsen's drum set while Knudsen went to the front of the stage to join the chorus. The tour culminated (sans McDonald, McFee and Knudsen) at the Glasnost-inspired July 4 "Peace Concert" in Moscow, with Bonnie Raitt, James Taylor and Santana sharing the bill. Excerpts appearing later that year on the Showtime cable network included a performance of "China Grove".
The successful 1987 reunion sparked discussions about reconstituting the band on a permanent basis. They eventually decided to replicate the Toulouse Street/Captain and Me incarnation, settling on a lineup featuring Johnston, Simmons, Hartman, Porter and Hossack, plus more recent addition LaKind, and released Cycles on Capitol Records in 1989. The album featured a Top 10 single, "The Doctor", which showcased Johnston's unmistakable voice and soaring lead guitar and reminded listeners of the band's pre-McDonald heyday and triumph, which was natural given the line-up of the band at this time. The song is very similar to "China Grove," and the connection was further enhanced by guest Bill Payne's tinkling piano. There was more strong material on the album, including Johnston's "South of the Border", Dale Ockerman's and Pat Simmons' "Take Me To The Highway", and "I Can Read Your Mind", a great version of the Isley Brothers' "Need A Little Taste Of Love", and a version of The Four Tops classic, "One Chain (Don't Make No Prison"), which had been covered by Santana years before. Cycles proved a successful, strong and very solid comeback album and was certified Gold. Bumpus participated in the 1989 and 1990 tours, adding his distinctive voice, keyboards, saxophone and flute to the proceedings. His presence bridged the gap between the current band and the McDonald era; he sang lead vocals on the song "One Step Closer" (as he originally had on the 1980 album) while Simmons took McDonald's part. The group was further augmented on the 1989 tour by Dale Ockerman (keyboards, guitar, backing vocals), Richard Bryant (percussion, vocals) and Jimi Fox (percussion, backing vocals). After being diagnosed with terminal colon cancer, LaKind stepped down before the tour.
The success of Cycles led to the release of 1991's Brotherhood, also on Capitol. The group members grew their hair back out, wore denim and leather, and attempted to revive their biker image of the early 1970s. In spite of the makeover and strong material led by Simmons' now trademark "Dangerous" (featured in the Brian Bosworth biker film vehicle, Stone Cold), Brotherhood was unsuccessful, in part due to a lack of support on the part of Capitol Records.
The accompanying tour (with the 1989 line-up sans Bumpus) was ranked among the ten least profitable tours of the disappointing 1991 summer season by the North American Concert Promoters Association.
The 1987 Doobie Brothers alumni band reunited on October 17 and 19, 1992 at the Concord Pavilion in Concord, California to perform benefit shows for LaKind's children. LaKind, who was terminally ill with colon cancer and noticeably frail, nevertheless joined the group on percussion for a few numbers. The concerts were recorded and subsequently broadcast on the Superstars in Concert radio series accompanied by a plea for contributions to the LaKind family fund.
A brief period of hiatus followed during which Simmons collaborated with bassist and songwriter John Cowan (ex-New Grass Revival), Rusty Young (of Poco) and Bill Lloyd (of Foster & Lloyd) on an unreleased project called Four Wheel Drive. When the band emerged yet again in 1993, Hartman and Porter retired from the road for good but former members Keith Knudsen and John McFee had rejoined the Doobie Brothers on a full-time basis after Southern Pacific disbanded. Joined by Ockerman, Bumpus, and former member Willie Weeks, the group toured with Four Wheel Drive as the opening act. After Weeks left the tour to resume his session work, Cowan played bass for both bands. Bumpus also left to join the reunited Steely Dan, giving way to saxophonist, keyboardist, and harmonica player Danny Hull. Former band member Chet McCracken temporarily filled in for an injured Hossack in July, 1993. Their 1994 tour included co-headlining appearances with the band Foreigner.
With renewed energy in the mid-1990s, the band began to experiment with different arrangements of several tunes. They even sampled McDonald's songbook from time to time, eventually restoring Takin' it to the Streets to the setlist on a permanent basis with Simmons and new bassist Skylark (who joined in 1995) substituting for McDonald on lead vocals.
The band has toured continuously since 1993. In 1995, they reunited with McDonald for a brief co-headlining tour with the Steve Miller Band. The "Dreams Come True" tour featured all three primary songwriters and singers and reflected all phases of the band's career. Cornelius Bumpus rejoined for the 1995 tour, with Chet McCracken replacing the absent Knudsen and Bernie Chiaravalle sitting in for John McFee. A 1996 double live album, Rockin' Down the Highway: The Wildlife Concert, featured guest star McDonald on three of his signature tunes. McDonald remains an occasional "special guest" and has joined the group for benefits, private corporate shows and parties (such as the wedding reception of Liza Minnelli and David Gest), as well. Baxter has also played with the band during some concerts.
In 1996, Dale Ockerman was replaced by keyboardist Guy Allison (ex-Moody Blues and Air Supply). Marc Russo (ex-Yellowjackets) joined in early 1998, replacing Danny Hull.
In the late 1990s, the current band was forced to obtain an injunction preventing confusing or misleading uses of "The Doobie Brothers" moniker in advertisements promoting a tribute band featuring former members McCracken, Bumpus and Shogren and backup musicians.
In 1999, Rhino Records released the group's first box set, entitled Long Train Runnin': 1970–2000 which featured remastered tunes from the band's entire catalog, a new studio recording of the live concert staple "Little Bitty Pretty One," and an entire disc of previously unreleased studio outtakes and live recordings. Rhino's release the following year, Sibling Rivalry, offered the band's first new studio album since 1991. The material, which reflected significant contributions from both Knudsen and McFee, ranged from rock to hip-hop, jazz to adult contemporary, and even country. The album sold poorly, reflecting the declining sales throughout the adult-oriented rock musical scene.
On June 22, 2001, while heading to a show at Caesars Tahoe in Lake Tahoe, Hossack suffered multiple fractures from a motorcycle accident on Highway 88 and had to be airlifted to a Sacramento-area hospital where he underwent surgery. Drummer and percussionist M.B. Gordy was recruited to fill in for Hossack. After being sidelined for months, Hossack returned to the band in mid-2002. Gordy remained with the band until 2005.
From April to August 2002, Ed Wynne substituted for Russo on saxophones.
On October 26, 2004, the Doobie Brothers released Live at Wolf Trap, a live album that was recorded at Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts in Vienna, Virginia on July 25 of that year. The live album features the final recordings of drummer and vocalist Keith Knudsen.
Tom Johnston was forced to miss several shows in late summer and early fall of 2007 following surgery for Gastroesophageal reflux disease. Upon his return, he received vocal assistance from Simmons and McFee on certain tunes that he traditionally sang in their entirety.
The Doobie Brothers provided the halftime entertainment for the 2009 Orange Bowl football game on January 1, 2009 in Miami, Florida.
For their 2010 and 2012 summer tours, the band was once again paired with the band Chicago, as they had been previously in 1999 and 2008.
In March 2010, longtime bassist/vocalist Skylark had to resign following a serious stroke. John Cowan returned to take Skylark's place, and has been with the band since. Three months later, before the band would embark on their 2010 summer tour with Chicago, Hossack was forced to sit out following a diagnosis of cancer. Tony Pia, a member of the Brian Setzer Orchestra, was recruited to substitute for Hossack. Following Hossack's death in 2012, Pia became a member of the band.
On September 28, 2010, the Doobie Brothers released their thirteenth studio album, entitled World Gone Crazy, which was produced with their longtime producer Ted Templeman. World Gone Crazy is the first Doobie Brothers album to be produced by Templeman since 1980's One Step Closer. The first single from the album was entitled "Nobody" and was free-streamed on their official website.
On February 26, 2011, the Doobie Brothers performed at the Grand Ole Opry for the first time in their career, leading the audience in singing favorites such as Black Water and Listen to the Music.
By March 2012, five members of the Doobie Brothers family were deceased: percussionist / vocalist LaKind on December 24, 1992 following his lengthy struggle with terminal colon cancer; original bassist Shogren of unreported causes on December 14, 1999; saxophonist, keyboardist, vocalist, and flutist Bumpus of a heart attack on February 3, 2004 while in the air en route to California for a solo tour; drummer, vocalist, and activist Keith Knudsen on February 8, 2005 of cancer and chronic pneumonia; and drummer Michael Hossack of cancer on March 12, 2012.
On November 13, 2012, the Doobie Brothers released an official documentary entitled Let the Music Play: The Story of The Doobie Brothers which featured interviews and rare footage from their early days of the 1970s to the present day. Johnston, Simmons, McFee, McDonald, Porter, and Baxter, along with manager Bruce Cohn and longtime producer Ted Templeman were among those interviewed for the film.
In March 2014, the Doobie Brothers, in conjunction with Sony Music Nashville, announced that its fourteenth studio album would be released featuring the greatest hits of their 40+ year career. The album would feature lead and backing vocals from several country artists and Michael McDonald returned to collaborate on the album. Featured artists included Sara Evans, Vince Gill, Hunter Hayes, Casey James, Toby Keith, Love and Theft, Jerrod Niemann, Brad Paisley, Blake Shelton, Tyler Farr, Chris Young, Charlie Worsham, and the Zac Brown Band.
The album, entitled Southbound, was released on November 4, 2014. The following day, on November 5, 2014, the Doobie Brothers and Michael McDonald were featured musical guests on the 47th Annual CMA Awards to celebrate the release of Southbound, joined by Hunter Hayes, Jennifer Nettles, and Hillary Scott in their performance of Listen to the Music. At the end of the awards ceremony, they were also joined by host Brad Paisley for Takin' it to the Streets.
The Doobie Brothers performed at Music City Roots on May 13, 2015, sharing the stage with Béla Fleck and Dan Tyminski. This was the band's second performance at the venue - their first performance being an all-acoustic performance back in March, 2011. The acoustic portion of the 2015 show featured songs that had not been heard by audiences in years, including the bluesy Chicago and the title track from Toulouse Street.
In early August 2015, keyboardist / vocalist Guy Allison was called to fly out to Japan to work on an album project. Bill Payne was selected to temporarily fill in for Allison in his absence. Allison returned to the band after their September 5 show at Susquehanna Bank Center in Camden, New Jersey.
On August 20, 2015, the Doobie Brothers and Michael McDonald were the featured musical guests on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, where they performed a medley of Long Train Runnin' and Takin' it to the Streets. The band also performed a Web-exclusive performance of What a Fool Believes that was made available via The Tonight Show's website.
On the afternoon of September 11, 2015, the Doobie Brothers performed at the Lockn' Festival in Arrington, Virginia, sharing the stage with the jam band String Cheese Incident. That same date, following the performance, the Doobies flew to Cherokee, North Carolina for an evening concert.
In October 2015, Bill Payne took over Guy Allison's duties as the Doobies' keyboardist. The announcement was officially made by the band on December 1, 2015.
On November 24, 2015, the Doobie Brothers, together with Journey, launched a 2016 tour featuring Dave Mason. The tour started on May 12, 2016 at the Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre and concluded on September 4, 2016 when the Doobies and Journey joined the Steve Miller Band and Santana at AT&T Park.
Johnston was forced to miss the Warren Haynes Christmas Jam on December 12, 2015 due to knee surgery that he had a few weeks earlier.
Since the early 2000s, they have headlined and performed at many benefit concerts including manager Cohn's B.R. Cohn Winery in Glen Ellen (once again sharing the stage with McDonald in 2006 and 2012). Cohn sold the winery in 2015 to focus on managing the band, and the B.R. Cohn Charity Fall Music Festival was relocated to the Sonoma Valley Field of Dreams. The festival was renamed the Sonoma Music Festival. The Doobie Brothers and McDonald, Chicago, and Ringo Starr headlined the three-day event, respectively.
In March 2016, the Doobie Brothers announced the hiring of Irving Azoff for personal management. It is unknown if Cohn decided to retire from the position or was forced to step down.
As of 2016, the band continues to tour regularly. They continue to remain popular among their audiences. They have maintained a continuous and active presence on the Internet through their official website since 1996. In addition, they maintain an active presence on their Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages.
On January 1st 2017, the Doobie Brothers announced a co-headlining "Chicago and The Doobie Brothers North American Summer Tour".
Doobie Brothers has 24 upcoming shows:
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