“Listen to the Music.”
That’s the mantra and signature song of one of classic rock’s most beloved bands: The Doobie Brothers, who will bring their feel-good brand of rock ’n roll to the Plaza Theatre Sunday, Sept. 22.
Led by founding singer/guitarists Pat Simmons and Tom Johnston alongside longtime multi-instrumentalist John McFee, the Doobie Brothers embody the carefree R&B-infused pop rock that dominated the airwaves during the 1970s with hits like “Black Water,” “China Grove” and “Long Train Runnin.”
But how much do you know about the band?
Here are four things you may not know about The Doobie Brothers:
Rock to rockets
Jeff “Skunk” Baxter, the Doobies’ lead guitarist between 1974 and 1979 (and before that, a member of Steely Dan) developed an interest in missile defense systems in the mid-1980s.
He was eventually appointed to chair the Civilian Advisory Board for Ballistic Missile Defense in 1995. Since then, Baxter has had consulting contracts with the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency and continues to consult with the U.S. Department of Defense, only occasionally playing music.
Iconic singer Michael McDonald was brought in as a last-minute replacement. Here’s what happened: In 1974, Tom Johnston’s health began to falter as a result of heavy drug use and the rigors of touring. In 1975, he was hospitalized with a bleeding ulcer and was forced to leave the band.
Guitarist Jeff Baxter suggested the band recruit fellow former Steely Dan contributor Michael McDonald to take Johnston’s place. The addition of McDonald’s voice led to an artistic and commercial resurgence with hits like “What a Fool Believes” and “Taking It To the Streets.”
McDonald later left to pursue a solo career, leading to Johnston’s reunion with the Doobies in 1987.
What’s in a name?
According to an interview by Cleveland.com with Pat Simmons, in the band’s formative days, a fellow musician named Keith “Dyno” Rosen suggested the band call themselves “The Doobie Brothers” because they were constantly partaking in said herbal indulgences.
The band thought the name was dumb, but used it for their first few gigs. They intended to change the name when they came up with something better, but never did.
Classic rock veterans
Keyboardist Bill Payne, who has toured with the Doobies since 2015, is also the founder and sole constant member of fellow classic rock band Little Feat and is regarded by many (including Elton John) to be one of the greatest American keyboardists in rock.
Despite not being an official member, his work with the Doobies goes back as far as 1972, having contributed the boogie-woogie piano on “China Grove,” the organ on “Jesus Is Just Alright” and many other records.
Also playing with the Doobies this year are drummer Ed Toth – formerly with Vertical Horizon, and percussionist Marc Quiñones – formerly with The Allman Brothers Band.