|Birth name||Charles Thomas Johnston|
|Born||August 15, 1948|
Visalia, California, U.S.
|Labels||Warner Bros., Elektra|
Charles Thomas Johnston (born August 15, 1948)is an American musician. He is a guitarist and vocalist, known principally as a founder, guitarist, lead vocalist and songwriter for the rock group the Doobie Brothers, as well as for his own solo career. He has played off and on with the Doobie Brothers for 50 years, in several styles. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the Doobie Brothers in 2020.
Johnston is most well known for both his lead guitar and vocal role in the Doobie Brothers, as well as for his adaptation of his own acoustic guitar style, blending a unique strum and percussive accented rhythm at the same time on one instrument. This style, interwoven with melodic hammer-ons,gave Johnston an early signature sound in popular 1970s rock music. All the rhythm structures behind "Long Train Runnin'" and "Listen to the Music" were formulated first for an acoustic guitar, and then re-applied in similar style on an electric guitar.
Johnston was born in Visalia, California. His greatest musical influences during his youth included Little Richard, Bo Diddley, Elvis Presley, James Brown, and other rhythm and blues artists featured on the radio in the 1950s. After brief school stints with the saxophone and clarinet, at the age of twelve Johnston took up guitar. He said, "I started out [on] the clarinet at seven, and I played that for eight years. I also played the saxophone for three years, drums for a year and a half, and took up the guitar when I was in the seventh grade. That was pretty much of a rebellion/image trip. But I felt at home on the guitar. I loved the saxophone and played tenor and baritone. But unfortunately, when I hung the clarinet up, I hung up all the reed instruments and just started playing guitar, and I never touched them again. I taught myself guitar and a little piano at home. I played piano on the first album The Doobie Brothers , and a little harmonica on a few others."In his early career he played in a variety of bands, including a Mexican wedding band that played half soul and half Latin music. His interest in rhythm and blues led to his singing in a soul group from a neighboring town and, eventually, his own blues band.
– Source Interview: Michael Cimino, CottageViews, January 31, 2001
Johnston moved to San Jose to finish college and started playing in bands around town. It was there that he met Skip Spence, a former drummer with Jefferson Airplane, and guitarist/founding member of a group that had a major influence on the Doobie Brothers – Moby Grape. Spence introduced Johnston to John Hartman. Johnston was a graphic design art major at San José State University and wound up living at 285 South 12th Street, which was a musical center for San Jose at the time. "It didn't matter if they played B-3 or drums, guitar, bass, or horns, they all ended up in our basement," Johnston recalls. Johnston and Hartman soon formed their own band, Pud, featuring Greg Murphy on bass. Pud played many clubs in and around San Jose, including the Golden Horn Lounge (which no longer exists) in Cupertino, California. Here they met Pat Simmons. Hartman and Johnston lived in the 12th Street house for about four years; whereupon Dave Shogren joined them to replace Greg Murphy and Pat Simmons was recruited, they had the nucleus of a new band, and Pud gave way to the Doobie Brothers.
Throughout much of an initial seven-year and six-album discography, Johnston wrote and sang many of the Doobie Brothers' early hits, including "Listen to the Music" (#11 Top 100 Billboard Hit −1972), "Rockin' Down the Highway," "China Grove" (#15 Billboard Hot 100 Hit), "Long Train Runnin'" (#8 Billboard Hot 100 Hit), "Another Park, Another Sunday" (#32 Billboard Hot 100 Hit), and "Eyes of Silver" (#52 Billboard Hot 100 Hit). He also sang the hit song "Take Me in Your Arms" (#11 Billboard Hot 100 Hit −1975) (written by Holland-Dozier-Holland).
In December 1973, the British music magazine NME reported the relatively trivial news that Johnston had been arrested in California on a charge of marijuana possession.More seriously however, following years of a road touring lifestyle and health issues surrounding stomach ulcers which stood as a challenge since high school, Johnston became severely ill on the eve of a major tour beginning in Memphis, Tennessee in 1975 to promote Stampede . Johnston's condition was so precarious that he required emergency hospitalization for a bleeding ulcer. With Johnston convalescing and the tour already underway, fellow Doobie Brother Jeff Baxter proposed recruiting a fellow Steely Dan alum to fill the hole. This led to the emergency hiring of Michael McDonald, who became the lead singer of the band. Restored to fitness in 1976 and briefly back in the band, Johnston contributed one original song to Takin' It to the Streets ("Turn It Loose"), and also added a vocal cameo to Pat Simmons' tune "Wheels of Fortune". He also made live appearances with the band in 1976 (appearing in a concert filmed that year at 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 Livin' on the 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 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). After a few years of restored health but growing differences in musical direction between band members, Johnston finally left the band in 1977 to pursue a solo career that produced two albums with Warner Bros: Everything You've Heard Is True and Still Feels Good (reissued on compact disc by Wounded Bird Records), and Billboard Hot 100 hit "Savannah Nights" (#34 Top 100 Billboard Hit −1980).
Johnston toured in the late 1970s and early 1980s with the Tom Johnston Band, which featured fellow Doobie John Hartman on drums. While working on his solo projects, in 1982 Johnston rejoined the band for a farewell tour concert, after which the Doobie Brothers ceased performing as a band for the next five years.
In 1985, Johnston toured US clubs with a group called Border Patrol, that also included former Doobies Michael Hossack and briefly Patrick Simmons. This group toured but never recorded. In 1987, he contributed a tune to the Dirty Dancing soundtrack entitled "Where Are You Tonight?"
Johnston joined the Doobie Brothers when they reunited for a brief tour in 1987. This event led to the permanent reformation of the band, with Johnston again performing alongside co-founder Simmons. With Simmons, Johnston wrote Long Train Runnin': Our Story of the Doobie Brothers (2022).
"Mine [first guitar] was an arch-back Harmony acoustic with f-holes. After that I got a Kay single-pickup electric with a cheap amplifier as that's all I could afford.Johnston now owns a mid-50s Fender Stratocaster that has been in his collection since the 1970s. He has a 1970 Les Paul Deluxe goldtop with classic white P-90 'soapbar' pickups affixed with an American Flag, that has been his primary Les Paul for 40 years. He also relies upon a 2008 PRS Custom 24 as a touring backup for his primary PRS. His primary touring guitar is a 2009 PRS 25th Anniversary Custom 24. It has a Modern Eagle inlay on the headstock and 57/08 pickups. "I've got a lot of guitars. Basically, everything I use on the road is PRS and that is what I play live. I use two basic guitars live that I trade off and I have a Martin acoustic that I play as well live. It is pretty much all about Paul Reed Smith right now. At home I have a Stratocaster and I have some older guitars I have had for a long time, an old Les Paul, an old 335, a couple Strats and a Telecaster. But live and when I am out on the road, it is strictly PRS."
While primarily an electric guitarist, Johnston also plays acoustic guitars for exploration and song writing. He started with a Gibson J-50 which was used to record all acoustic guitar parts on the first four Doobie Brother albums and after it was stolen moved to Martin guitars. In his personal collection are a 1962 Martin 00–18 and a 1975 Martin D-42, and he has written various songs on the 00-18.Johnston uses a variety of software in his home studio for writing, and Digital Performer by MOTU as his recording software program.
Johnston has employed traditionally a three finger Clapton-Hendrix lead fingerstyle, only using all four fingers for barre chords. He said, "I use my little finger to play chords, but not for playing solos. The direction in which I bend a string depends on where the string I'm bending is on the neck. The lower strings are going to be pulled down, and the high strings are going to be pushed up. I use a lot of vibrato when I play solo. And for picking, it has to be up and down if you want to do a lot of speed. It's also better for clarity. Anything faster than quarter notes, you either have to use alternating picking or play with a regular flatpick and fingers."
Johnston has traditionally employed Herco Nylon Flex 50 flatpicks (old "Herco mediums"), [ failed verification ][ citation needed ] allowing for the right combination of flex and durability for his chukka-style rhythm. He said "I always use Herco medium because they don't break, and they take forever to wear out. Actually the worst thing you can do with a Herco is lose it. They are easy to hold on to as well and I do sweat a lot playing live. In fact, I usually eat the nickel off the strings right down to the brass (circa 1976)."
In 2007C.F. Martin & Co. released a limited run of 35 Tom Johnston Signature Edition Doobie-42 Artist Edition guitars, and Elderly Music Tom Johnston Doobie 42.
Johnston and his wife Diane now live in northern Marin County, California. His daughter Lara Johnston is a singer-songwriter. She has toured both as a solo act opening for the bands KISS and Heart, and as a backing vocalist for Don Henley and Belinda Carlisle. She was a competitor on MTV's Rock the Cradle and was a 2011 participant in American Idol . Tom Johnston's son Christopher lives and works in Marin.
|1971|| The Doobie Brothers |
|1972|| Toulouse Street |
|1973|| The Captain and Me |
|1974|| What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits |
|1976|| Takin' It to the Streets |
|1989|| Cycles |
|1991|| Brotherhood |
|2000|| Sibling Rivalry |
|2010|| World Gone Crazy |
|2014|| Southbound |
|2021|| Liberté |
|1983|| Farewell Tour |
|1996|| Rockin' Down the Highway: The Wildlife Concert |
|1999||Best of The Doobie Brothers Live|
|2004|| Live at Wolf Trap |
|2011||Live at the Greek Theater 1982|
|2019||Live From the Beacon Theatre|
|1972||"Listen to the Music"|
|"Jesus Is Just Alright"|
|1973||"Long Train Runnin'"|
|1974||"Another Park, Another Sunday"|
|"Eyes of Silver"|
|1975||"Take Me in Your Arms (Rock Me)"|
|"I Cheat the Hangman"|
|1976||"Takin' It to the Streets"|
|"Wheels of Fortune"|
|"It Keeps You Runnin'"|
|"Need a Little Taste of Love"|
|"South of the Border"|
|2011||"World Gone Crazy"|
The Doobie Brothers are an American rock band formed in 1970 in San Jose, California, known for their flexibility in performing across numerous genres and their vocal harmonies. Active for five decades, with their greatest success during the 1970s, the group's current lineup consists of founding members Tom Johnston and Patrick Simmons, alongside Michael McDonald and John McFee, and touring musicians including John Cowan, Marc Russo (saxophones), Ed Toth (drums), and Marc Quiñones (percussion). Other long-serving members of the band include guitarist Jeff "Skunk" Baxter (1974–1979), bassist Tiran Porter and drummers John Hartman, Michael Hossack, and Keith Knudsen. They performed gospel influenced songs such as "Take Me in Your Arms " and "Jesus is Just Alright".
The Doobie Brothers is the debut studio album by American rock band The Doobie Brothers. The album was released on April 30, 1971, by Warner Bros. Records. It is their only official studio album to feature original bass player Dave Shogren on all tracks, who left during the recording of their second album.
The Captain and Me is the third studio album by American rock band The Doobie Brothers. The album was released on March 2, 1973, by Warner Bros. Records. It features some of their most popular hits including "Long Train Runnin'", "China Grove" and "Without You". The album is certified 2× Platinum by the RIAA.
What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits is the fourth studio album by American rock band the Doobie Brothers. The album was released on February 1, 1974, by Warner Bros. Records.
Stampede is the fifth studio album by American rock band the Doobie Brothers. The album was released on April 25, 1975, by Warner Bros. Records. It was the final album by the band before Michael McDonald replaced Tom Johnston as lead vocalist and primary songwriter. The album has been certified gold by the RIAA.
Takin' It to the Streets is the sixth studio album by American rock band The Doobie Brothers. The album was released on March 19, 1976, by Warner Bros. Records. It was the first to feature Michael McDonald on lead vocals.
Livin' on the Fault Line is the seventh studio album by the American rock band The Doobie Brothers. The album was released on August 19, 1977, by Warner Bros. Records. It is one of the few Doobie Brothers albums of the 1970s which did not produce a Top 40 hit on the Billboard Hot 100. Still, the album received modest critical acclaim. Tom Johnston left the band early in the sessions. He is listed as part of the band but appears on little or none of the actual album: he wrote and sang five songs during the sessions for the album, but they were not included on the final release. Much of this consistently mellow album has a jazz tinge, and the influences of R&B are palpable throughout. The track "Little Darling " is a remake of the Marvin Gaye 1966 hit.
Minute by Minute is the eighth studio album by American rock band The Doobie Brothers, released on December 1, 1978, by Warner Bros. Records. It was their last album to include members John Hartman and Jeff "Skunk" Baxter.
Farewell Tour is the first live album by American rock band The Doobie Brothers, released in 1983. It documents the group's 1982 Farewell Tour and is a double album set.
Cycles is the tenth studio album by American rock band The Doobie Brothers. The album was released on May 17, 1989, by Capitol Records.
Brotherhood is the eleventh studio album by American rock band The Doobie Brothers. The album was released on April 15, 1991, by Capitol Records. It was their second and final album for Capitol. It also marked the final appearances on a Doobie Brothers album by bassist Tiran Porter and original drummer John Hartman.
Live at Wolf Trap is the third live album by US rock band The Doobie Brothers, released in 2004.
Best of The Doobies is the first greatest hits album by the Doobie Brothers. The album has material from Toulouse Street through Takin' It to the Streets, and is also a diamond record. The album was released by Warner Bros. Records on October 29, 1976, and has been re-released numerous times.
"Black Water" is a song recorded by the American music group the Doobie Brothers from their 1974 album What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits. The track features its composer Patrick Simmons on lead vocals and, in mid-March 1975, became the first of the Doobie Brothers' two No. 1 hit singles.
"Long Train Runnin'" is a song recorded by American rock band the Doobie Brothers and written by band member Tom Johnston. It was included on the band's 1973 album The Captain and Me and was released as a single, becoming a hit and peaking at No. 8 on the US Billboard Hot 100.
"China Grove" is a song by American rock band the Doobie Brothers, released in 1973 for their third studio album The Captain and Me. It was written and sung by original lead singer/songwriter Tom Johnston. The song reached number 15 on the Billboard Hot 100. While there is a real China Grove, Texas, a real China Grove, North Carolina and a real China Grove, Alabama, Johnston's lyrics about the community are fictional. The song spent eight weeks in the Top 40.
"Listen to the Music" is a song recorded by American rock band the Doobie Brothers on their second album, Toulouse Street (1972). The song was the Doobie Brothers' first big hit in 1972. It was written by Tom Johnston. In 1994, it received a remix by Steve Rodway a.k.a. Motiv8 in 1994, which eventually peaked at #37 UK.
Patrick Simmons is an American musician best known as a founding member of the rock band The Doobie Brothers, with whom he was inducted as into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2020. Born in Aberdeen, Washington, he has been the only consistent member of the band throughout their tenure.
"It Keeps You Runnin'" is a song by the American rock band The Doobie Brothers. The song was written by band member Michael McDonald, and served as the third single from their sixth studio album Takin' It to the Streets. It was also covered and released as a single by Carly Simon.
"Wheels of Fortune" is a song written by Patrick Simmons, Jeff Baxter and John Hartman. It was first released by the Doobie Brothers on their 1976 album Takin' It to the Streets. It was also released as the second single from the album.