Doobie Brothers continue to ride a successful wave
When Pat Simmons wrote “Black Water,” musical floodgates opened, inundating the Billboard charts with high-rising albums and singles.
“It was all just part of a flow that we had going at the time that was just ramping up,” Simmons said. “The thing about hit records or successful radio play is everything builds off a certain momentum you might create and I don’t think anybody can ever predict how you get a hit record or anything else about it.”
The Doobie Brothers, who last year celebrated its career with a 40th anniversary tour, have sold more than 40 million albums and in 2004 were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame.
Simmons, a superb fingerstyle guitarist, symbiotically blended with the band’s other primary songwriter and guitar strummer, Tom Johnson, and his deep, recognizable voice. The band’s momentum was so great, a major personnel change only enhanced it.
“I think our sound in the early ’70s became popular and we kept producing records in a close given time range and we were able to sustain that by having good songs on each record,” Simmons said. “When Tommy left the band in the later ’70s and Michael McDonald came aboard, it was just another one of those things where we continued our success in another direction.”
Johnson and Simmons are together with the Doobies, which perform about 80 to 100 shows per year, including Friday, July 13, in the opening of the Lake Tahoe Summer Outdoor Concert Series at Harveys in a twinbill with Chicago.
The Doobie Brothers have had many different lineups over the years. Simmons is the only member who has always been in the band. He is the songwriter of the hits “South City Midnight Lady,” “Depending on You” and “Echoes of Love.” A motorcycle enthusiast, he also penned “Dangerous.” He also has a pair of solo albums, 1983’s “Arcade,” and “Take Me to the Highway,” released in 1995.
He and his wife, Cris, and three children, Lindsey, Josh and Patrick Jr., live in Maui, Hawaii.
In September 2010, the Doobies released its second, and clearly the best, studio album in two decades, “World Gone Crazy.” It has new material with the vintage Doobie Brothers sound.
Simmons said the new album was the inspiration of producer Ted Templeman, who worked with the band after a 28-year hiatus.
“I was writing some and (Johnston) was writing some and we’d been thinking about it for a long time,” Simmons said. “We just never slowed down long enough. Then we were rehearsing for a tour and our old producer came into the rehearsals and started talking to us and he talked us into going into the studio and recording with him helping us out.”
The album has been well received. Simmons, Johnston, John McFee and Michael Hossack are joined by an impressive group of guest artists, including McDonald, honorary Doobie Billy Payne of Little Feat, Willie Nelson, Tower of Power’s Mic Gillette and Marc Russo, Karl Perazzo, Greg Bissonette and Kim Bullard. Harmonica player Norton Buffalo, who died of lung cancer, also appears, and it likely was the last recording he made.
“We have been able to pop up on a couple of different (radio) formats,” Simmons said. “Some cool jazz stuff a little bit of country, a little Americana, a little coffee house. And then we have more when we play live, we’re a rock ‘n’ roll band, like ‘China Grove’ and even some of our new stuff, ‘Chateau.’ And then we do some really bash it out crazy ’60s rock too. That’s all part of our thing.”
Speaking of crazy ’60s, we asked Simmons why is his band called the Doobie Brothers?
“That was a mistake,” he laughed. “It was one of our buddies.”
Coalescing in 1969, the band had been called Pud, in homage to a character in the Double Bubble gum cartoon strip.
“None of us liked that name, so one of the guys sitting at the table before a show said, ‘Hey, you guys smoke so much pot you ought to call yourselves the Doobie Brothers,’ ” Simmons said. “Of course, we all said that’s stupid, so let’s use that one. That’ll be good. That was how it started and after a while everybody knew us as the Doobie Brothers.”