Doobie Brothers try to keep long train running, 50 years on
The Doobie Brothers are celebrating their 50th anniversary in their 51st year, heading out tenuously on a delayed tour and hoping they can keep taking it to the streets and letting audiences listen to the music as cancellations abound around them.
2020 ought to have been a banner year for the band, with an anniversary tour that united its two eras — the original Tom Johnston-led version of the early 1970s, and the more R&B Michael McDonald-led version of the late 1970s — and an invite to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame that many fans felt was decades overdue.
“We had everything going and it got dumped on by the pandemic, which kind of sucked,” Johnston told The Associated Press in an interview at the group’s rehearsal space as they prepared for the tour. “We did the virtual induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, that was pretty much it. Then it was a year of every day’s Thursday and nothing ever changes. It was pretty much a lost year.”
They’re trying to make up for it with the tour that finally launched Sunday in Des Moines, Iowa, continues Tuesday in Milwaukee, and runs through late October, with previously scrapped dates rebooked for the summer of 2022.
The tour, which comes as a new album drops in October, includes two founders, Johnston and the group’s most constant member, Patrick Simmons, who began playing for mostly bikers in dive bars and rugged roadhouses near their hometown of San Jose, California, in 1970.
They were forced to sit out the 50th anniversary of those first shows, but plenty more landmarks remain. Their self-titled debut album was released 50 years ago this year. Their breakthrough, “Toulouse Street,” with the hits “Listen to the Music” and “Jesus Is Just Alright,” will have its 50th in 2022.
The tour comes as many other bigvenue acts, including Garth Brooks, BTS, Nine Inch Nails and Stevie Nicks have either canceled dates or entire tours as the delta variant of the coronavirus threatens the resumption of public entertainment around the country.