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Catching up with Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Tom Johnston of The Doobie Brothers

Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Tom Johnston of The Doobie Brothers chatted about their 50th anniversary tour.

The Doobie Brothers
The Doobie Brothers. Photo Credit: Clay Patrick McBride
The Doobie Brothers. Photo Credit: Clay Patrick McBride

Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Tom Johnston of The Doobie Brothers chatted about their 50th anniversary tour.

The Doobie Brothers (comprised of Tom Johnson, Michael McDonald, Pat Simmons, and John McFee) are back on the road together for the first  time in over 25 years. They kicked off this tour back in 2021, and they are set to play over 50 concerts throughout this year.

Reunited with Michael McDonald

Johnston opened up about being back with Michael McDonald in the band. “It has been great. Michael has been a real fine addition, and it has also been great for the crowd, they loved him as well, so it has been good all around,” he said.

50th anniversary tour

“The tour has been going for quite a while,” Johnston said. “We started it in 2021 — because we were interrupted by COVID in 2020 — and then we went back out again. We just performed in Australia, Japan and Singapore, and now, we are back in the United States. We will be playing in Maui tomorrow, and after we play Honolulu, we will be going home for a couple of weeks.”

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

The Doobie Brothers are four-time Grammy award winners, and they were inducted into the coveted Rock and Roll Hall of Fame back in 2020.

“That was interesting because it was during COVID,” Johnston said. “We couldn’t go to the venue to actually play like most inductees do, we had to do it all virtually. Getting into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was amazing, it was a big honor, and we really appreciate it.”

Commercial success

They have sold nearly 50 million albums worldwide, The Doobie Brothers have had five top-10 singles, 16 top-40 hits, 3 multi-platinum albums, 7 platinum albums, 14 gold albums and own a rare diamond record for their 1976 album, Best of the Doobies.

Their No. 1 singles “Black Water” and “What a Fool Believes,” both certified gold, lead a catalog of indelible songs that include: “Listen to the Music,” “China Grove,” “Jesus Is Just All Right,” “Rockin’ Down the Highway,” “Long Train Runnin’,” “Take Me In Your Arms,” “Takin’ it to the Streets,” “Minute by Minute,” “You Belong to Me,” and “The Doctor,” among others.

Upcoming shows in New Jersey

This July, the Doobie Brothers will be performing two shows at State Theatre in New Brunswick, New Jersey, on July 8 and 9, as well as two shows at the Mayo Performing Arts Center in Morristown, New Jersey on July 11 and 12.

“I think the fans are going to enjoy this tour, if they haven’t seen it already. Some people have been to five different shows in several different countries, which is always amazing,” he said.

The digital age

On being an artist in the digital age, Johnston said, “It’s all over the place, it reflects what is going on in the world. It’s how things are done now. A lot of people get their music via streaming these days, but there is nothing like popping a needle on a record or putting in a cassette, or a CD.”

“There are people still getting albums and special editions of recordings. Other than that, it is pretty much streaming these days,” he added.

Key to longevity in the music business

Regarding the key to longevity in the music business these days, he said, “First of all, the demand of people wanting to see the band. That’s a huge part of it. The other half of that is a band that keeps wanting to work. When you put those things together, you are out and doing it.”

Advice for aspiring singer-songwriters

For young and aspiring artists, he said, “Times have changed drastically in this business. It’s still a matter of getting next to your instrument and playing it. Also, singing, practice every day and do vocal exercises but use your own style, whatever that is, and keep practicing. Get to as many places as you can so people can see you, that’s very important.”

“For us, it has been a lot of hard work. We have toured a lot, we’ve put out a lot of records, and we’ve been doing what we are supposed to be doing,” he said.

On the title of the current chapter of his life, he said with a sweet laugh, “To Be Continued…”

Success

Regarding his definition of the word success, Johnston said, “Enjoying what you do and being good at it enough to make a living. We are not megastars in that sense, but we have been at it for so many years, that we are a household name. We also enjoy what we do, and that’s hugely important.”

To learn more about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band The Doobie Brothers, check out their official website, and their Facebook page.

Markos Papadatos
Written By

Markos Papadatos is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for Music News. Papadatos is a Greek-American journalist and educator that has authored over 21,000 original articles over the past 18 years. He has interviewed some of the biggest names in music, entertainment, lifestyle, magic, and sports. He is a 16-time "Best of Long Island" winner, where for three consecutive years (2020, 2021, and 2022), he was honored as the "Best Long Island Personality" in Arts & Entertainment, an honor that has gone to Billy Joel six times.

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