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Very few rock bands have had the longevity and success of the Doobie Brothers. Born out of late 1960s NorCal music scene, and led by Pat Simmons and Tom Johnston, they stood alongside their contemporaries the Grateful Dead, the Allman Brothers, and many others as an iconic American rock band. The hits like Listen to the Music, China Grove, Long Train Runnin’, Rockin’ Down the Highway, Black Water and Jesus Is Just Alright, just kept coming and arenas were packed with fans who wanted to see them live. Then Tom Johnston, the band’s front man contracted a bacterial infection and stomach ulcers from constant touring had to leave.

All of a sudden the band started contemplating the end of the road only seven years into their career, just as things were taking off. But Pat Simmons made sure they were far from the end and began the process of keeping the band together through most of the next decade. The collaborative, almost communal sense of family within the band allowed them to stay fresh and unpredictable over the years, while never forsaking their deep American musical roots, boogie-jams and all.

A soul-steeped session singer for Steely Dan named Michael McDonald took a shot at singing some of the Doobies’ songs on tour, and just like that a new chapter in the Doobie Brothers’ story began. Michael McDonald’s soulful vocals and songwriting led to the award-winning hits What a Fool Believes, Minute by Minute, Takin’ It To The Streets, and You Belong To Me. Multi-instrumentalist and vocalist, John McFee, joined in 1978 bringing his wide range of musical styles and experience recording with Van Morrison, Steve Miller, Elvis Costello, further strengthening the band’s credentials.

When it came time for a reunion concert in the ’80s, a healthier Tom Johnston got the call to come back to the mix. Led once again by Pat and Tom, the Doobie Brothers have been touring ever since and maintain a massive fan base the world over. Around 40 band members have been through the group but for the most part of the journey, give or take a year or two here and there, the constants have been guitarist/vocalists Tom Johnston and Pat Simmons.

Heading to Australia to perform at Bluesfest Byron Bay, Bluesfest Melbourne and Bluesfest Perth, with a bunch of side shows in Sydney, the two most successful versions of the band merge as Tom Johnston, Michael McDonald, Patrick Simmons and John McFee join together on their 50th anniversary tour.

Ahead of their April trip to Australia, Australian Musician editor Greg Phillips sat down with Doobie Brothers’ co-founder Tom Johnston to chat about the band’s career, their latest album Liberte, and of course their upcoming April tour of Australia.


Doobie Brothers Website –

April 1. Bluesfest  Perth –

April 4, 5, 6. Bluesfest Touring/Doobies Sydney shows-

April 8. Bluesfest  Melbourne –

April 10. Bluesfest Byron Bay –

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