Doobie Brothers — China Grove

As one of the most popular Californian pop/rock bands of the ’70s, The Doobie Brothers, founded by guitarist Tom Johnston, evolved from a mellow, post-hippie boogie band in 1969 to a slick, soul-inflected pop band by the end of the decade. They honed their live chops by playing many dates in 1970 over much of Northern California. They had a strong following among many local chapters of Hells Angels. Along the way, the group achieved a string of gold and platinum albums in the United States. A number of radio hits like «Listen to the Music», «Black Water», «China Grove», and «What a Fool Believes.»

Driven by the singles «Listen to the Music» and «Jesus Is Just Alright», Toulouse Street became the group’s breakthrough album. The Captain and Me (1973) was even more successful, spawning the Top Ten hits, «Long Train Runnin’» and «China Grove.»

1974’s What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits, which launched their first number one single, «Black Water» and featured heavy contributions from former Steely Dan member Jeff «Skunk» Baxter, the virtuoso guitarist. Baxter officially joined the Doobie Brothers for 1975’s Stampede. Many of the Doobie Brothers’ guitar solos are famous because of Baxter. Prior to the album’s spring release, keyboardist/vocalist Michael McDonald replaced the current guitarist, who had also worked with Steely Dan. (Incidently, Bill Payne of Little Feat provided his keyboard chops on the Toulouse Street album, and performed on many subsequent albums.)

McDonald’s distinctive voice became the band’s new signature sound. Although it peaked at number four, Stampede wasn’t as commercially successful as its three predecessors, and the group decided to let McDonald and Baxter, who were now official Doobies, revamp the band’s light country-rock and boogie style.

The new sound showcased on 1976’s Takin’ it to the Streets, a collection of light funk and jazzy pop that resulted in a platinum album. Possibly the best of the Doobie Brothers’ guitar music is on this album. In 1977, the group released Livin’ on the Fault Line, which was successful without producing any big hits.

The Doobies released their most successful album, Minute by Minute (1978), which spent five weeks at number one on the strength of the number one single, «What a Fool Believes», written by Kenny Loggins. It was the Grammy Song of the Year. Minute by Minute, written by McDonald, was the Grammy Record of the Year.

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Early in 1982, The Doobie Brothers announced they were breaking up after a farewell tour, which was documented on the 1983 live album, Farewell Tour. After the band’s split, McDonald pursued a successful solo career. In 1987, The Doobies reunited for a concert at the Hollywood Bowl, which quickly became a brief reunion tour; McDonald declined to participate in the tour.

To order the China Grove guitar lesson or to see what other Doobie Brothers songs are available, please check the Song Library page on our website.

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