The Doobie Brothers formed as a quartet in San Jose during 1970 (taking inspiration for their name from the slang term for a joint). The original line-up comprised Tom Johnston (vocals/guitar), Pat Simmons (guitar/vocals), Dave Shogren (bass), and John Hartman (drums). They started out playing a brand of bar room boogie that drew good crowds. In 1971, they signed to Warner Brothers, and released an eponymous debut album, produced by Ted Templeman, that missed the charts. Bassist Tiran Porter then joined in place of Shogren, and a second drummer was added to the mix in the form of Michael Hossack.
1974’s ‘What Were Vices Are Now Habits’ (US#4/ UK#19/OZ#24), yielded the Doobie Brothers’ first chart topping single. ‘Black Water’ (OZ#22) debuted on the U.S. charts in December of ‘74, and bubbled to the top of the Hot 100 in March of ‘75. Guitarists Tom Johnston and Pat Simmons handled most of the song writing duties during this part of the band’s tenure. In what was the continuation of a virtual revolving door policy with regards personnel, ex-Steely Dan guitarist Jeff ‘Skunk’ Baxter came on board in place of Payne (on went on to join Little Feat).
April ‘75 marked the release of the Doobie Brothers’ fifth studio album, and the last for some time with Tom Johnston in the mix. ‘Stampede’ didn’t exactly cause one among record fans, but it sold in good numbers to reach #4 Stateside (UK#14/OZ#6). It yielded the rollicking ‘Take Me In Your Arms’ as a top 30 single (US#29/OZ#94).
The first ‘McDonald era’ album hit the streets in March of ‘76, in the form of ‘Takin’ It To The Streets’ (US#8/ UK#42/OZ#7), supported by the title track single (US#13 /OZ#94). In addition to having substantial input into the writing of new material, McDonald also oversaw the reworking of old Doobie Brothers’ songs to suit his vocal style, and more polished R&B/funk come AOR (adult oriented rock) sound. In essence he was the key figure in creative control. A ‘best of’ collection was issued in late ‘76, and Johnston attempted a return to the band, but when it was clear McDonald was now in firm control, he opted out again.
A relatively stable band line-up was in evidence during this period, led by McDonald (vocals/keyboards), Baxter (guitar), Simmons (guitar/vocals), Porter (bass), Hartman (drums), Knudsen (percussion). 1977’s ‘Livin’ On The Fault Line’ (US#10/ OZ#16/UK#25), yielded the hit single ‘Little Darling (I Need You)’ (US#48/OZ#55), but it would be the band’s late ‘78 album release that would yield the biggest hit of the Doobie Brothers’ career.
No new material surfaced over the ensuing eighteen months and in March of ‘82 it was announced that the Doobie Brothers had disbanded. A live album (US#79) was recorded later that year and released in June of ‘83. By this time Michael McDonald was already forging ahead on his solo career.
It hadn’t taken Michael McDonald long to fashion himself as a solo act. He released his debut set, ‘If That’s What It Takes’ (US#6/OZ#41), in late ‘82, spawning the hit single ‘I Keep Forgettin’ (Every Time You’re Near)’ (US#4/ OZ#64/UK#43). In 1983, McDonald teamed up with James Ingram on the duet ‘Yah Mo B There’ (US#19/UK#12). His 1985 album featured a harder edged sound, but ‘No Lookin’ Back’ looked forward at #45 on the charts, with its title track single peaking at #34.
McDonald ran into the US top ten a few months later with the single ‘Sweet Freedom’ (US#7/UK#12), lifted from the soundtrack to the Gregory Hines, Billy Crystal action comedy ‘Running Scared’. McDonald didn’t release another album of solo material until 1990’s ‘Take It To Heart’ (US#110), but did return to the top 20 once more with the 1992 hit duet ‘Ever Changing Times’ with Aretha Franklin (see previous post). His fourth solo album, 1993’s ‘Blink Of An Eye’ proved to be a missed in the blink of an eye effort. After stints back touring with the Doobie Brothers, and involvement with Steely Dan alumnus Donald Fagen’s ‘New York Rock and Soul Revue’, McDonald released his first album in three years with 1997’s ‘Blue Obession’. Over the ensuing decade, McDonald release a number of Motown and Christmas related albums, before returning to his soul roots on 2008’s covers album ‘Soul Speak’.