Tom Johnston has noticed a shift in the Doobie Brothers' audience in recent years -- he calls it "stronger," also more diverse.
"We have a lot of people in their 20s and even in their teens once in awhile," says Johnston, 66, who co-founded the Doobies during 1970 in San Jose, starting a career that's included enduring hits such as "Listen to the Music," "China Grove," "Long Train Runnin'," "Black Water" and "Takin' It to the Streets." "So there's people from our age on down, which is kind of interesting.
"I think the advent of social media really helps spread the name. If you go on our Facebook page you can tell just by checking out who's responding or who's commenting on the pictures or whatever. We're definitely adding a younger crowd, which is nice."
The Doobies plan to add some fans from the country side of the music world this year, too, with the Nov. 4 release of "Southbound," a collection of the group's greatest hits re-recorded with a variety of country stars. The list is impressive -- the Zac Brown Band, Blake Shelton, Toby Keith, Bard Paisley, Vince Gill, Hunter Hayes and more, as well as former Doobies member Michael McDonald -- and Johnston says his band is humbled by their participation.
"I was completely blown away," he says. "I had no idea these people were into the band and that there was this kind of interest in Nashville. All these artists and the top-notch studio guys who got involved in the project, they volunteered to do this. They didn't have to do this. Some of them were asked, but they also said yes, and they could've said no."
The Doobies aren't exactly strangers to country, of course. The group appeared on a CMT "Crossroads" episode with Luke Bryan, and some of its songs -- particularly "Black Water" -- show some definite country roots in the Doobies sound.
"When we started playing, we had no plans about representing specific styles of music; we just wrote songs, and whatever your musical background was would be the predominant influence for the song," explains Johnston, noting that bandmates Patrick Simmons and John McFee both come from significant country influences. "We've always been basically a representation of just American music of all types, and country's certainly in there."
The Doobie Brothers and John Waite
7 p.m. Wednesday, August 27
Freedom Hill Amphitheatre, 14900 Metropolitan Parkway, Sterling Heights
Tickets are $25-$75 pavilion, $10 pavilion
Call (586) 268-5100 or visit www.freedomhill.net
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