The Doobie Brothers have been on a long train runnin’ ever since rolling out of San Jose, Calif., 37 years ago.
Amidst myriad lineup changes — 14 members have been part of the group over the years — and a temporary breakup between 1982-88, the Doobies have sold 50 million copies of their 12 studio albums, plus live and best-of collections, and scored 18 Top 40 hits such as “Listen to the Music,” “Black Water,” the Grammy-winning “What a Fool Believes” and “Long Train Runnin’.”
“It’s pretty amazing,” says guitarist and co-founder Patrick Simmons.“It’s been a good, a fun time for me. I feel very fortunate to still be doing it.”
The Doobies return to the Detroit area this week for a pair of shows at DTE Energy Music Theatre — a venue that, under its previous guise as Pine Knob, holds quite a few memories in the band’s long history.
In their ’70s heyday, Pine Knob was a regular Doobies stop, often for multishow stands.
“It’s always been a bit of an occasion,” Sim mons, 57, recalls, mostly because Doobies stops there often brought other musicians out to their shows.
“They all used to come and jam with us,” Sim mons says. “I can remember the guys in (Bob) Seger’s band showing up a lot. Another night the guys in Rare Earth came by. (Kiss bassist) Gene Simmons showed up there once and came and hung with us.
“There were always a lot of musicians in the area, either living there or playing nearby. If they had a night off, we’d always invite anybody down that wanted to, just as friends. Somebody would always be showing up. It was kind of amazing.”
It also was at Pine Knob that percussionist Bobby LaKind won the respect of the Doobies. He wasn’t a musician at the time; he was part of the lighting company that toured with the band, coiling cable and performing other maintenance tasks. And he was so dedicated that, after suffering burns from a flash pot that went off at the wrong time, he refused to take any time off.
“He said, ‘Please don’t send me home. I need the money, and I want to be out here. I want to be part of it. I want to work,’ ” Simmons remembers. “He could’ve said, ‘I’m outta here. Just send me my workman’s comp,’ but he stuck with it.”
LaKind, who died in 1992 after battling cancer, eventually coerced the group into letting him play congas on “Listen to the Music” at the end of the shows. He slowly parlayed his school into playing on other songs until he finally became a full-fl edged band member in the late ’70s, co-writing songs such as “Too High a Price,” “One By One” and “Time is Here and Gone,” and was still part of the group when it reunited in 1988.
“We weren’t paying him any extra for sitting in with us at the beginning,” Simmons notes. “We were just letting him play. After a while, everybody started realizing, ‘Wow, this guy can really play,’ and he was really making the band sound more like the records.
“So pretty soon he was playing all the time with us, and it just seemed natural to say, ‘Hey, you want to play in the band?’ ”
Returning to DTE this week will rekindle even more memories for Simmons and company, who have already started work on their next album. But the guitarist says that while the Doobies are well aware that the venue has changed its name, they’re part of the defi ant legion of longtime visitors that won’t wrap its arms around the moniker.
“Oh, we know what (the name) is now,” he says with a laugh. “I don’t think anybody will ever look at it like that. We’re just old and stuck in our ways; it’s always Pine Knob to us.”
The Doobie Brothers perform at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday (August 1st and 2nd) at the DTE Energy Music Theatre, Sashabaw Road east of I-75, Independence Township. Tickets are $34.50 pavilion, $10 lawn. Call (248) 377-0100 or visit
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