The legendary rock band is set to hit the road next year with former lead singer Michael McDonald for the first time in 25 years

By Nancy Kruh
November 19, 2019 07:45 PM
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If you’re a Doobie Brothers fan, it could hardly get any better than Monday night: core members Tom Johnston, Pat Simmons and John McFee, backed by seven other musicians, rip-roaring their way through two of their most iconic albums, Toulouse Street and The Captain and Me,at Nashville’s historic Ryman Auditorium.

And yet maybe there was one thing missing.

No worries. At evening’s end, Simmons remedied that, teasing the audience with supreme understatement: “It’s a special night, and it just so happens one of our good friends is here in town. He’s gonna sit in with us. You might remember him from … Well, he has his own band these days, but you might remember him from his band, the Doobie Brothers?”

The next words out of his mouth — “Mister Michael McDonald!” — sent the sold-out crowd into a frenzy as the “other” lead vocalist for the Doobies appeared from the wings, took his familiar seat at the keyboard, and topped the evening with an effervescent “Takin’ It to the Streets.”

Doobie Brothers
Credit: Clay Patrick McBride

Afterward, though few could hear his words over the roar, Simmons had one more surprise in store. “Hey, this sounds pretty good,” he told the crowd. “Maybe we should take this on the road next year.”

Actually, there are no maybes about it. The Doobies have officially announced a 50th-anniversary arena tour that will take them to 30 North American cities in 2020, beginning June 9 in West Palm Beach, Florida, and ending Oct. 10 in Houston. Tickets go on sale Dec. 6.

The tour marks the first time that the four principals — Johnston, McDonald, Simmons and McFee — will be on the road together in 25 years. And could there be a better time for a reunion tour? Last month, it was announced the band is among the 16 nominees for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It’s the band’s first nomination, and many rock historians and critics consider it long overdue.

The Doobie Brothers Perform Toulouse Street And The Captain and Me Albums Live at The Ryman on November 18, 2019 in Nashville, Tennessee
Performing at the Ryman on Monday evening
| Credit: Jason Kempin/Getty

The Doobies provided much of the soundtrack for the 1970s and 1980s, releasing 14 studio albums and producing such timeless hits as “Long Train Runnin’,” “China Grove,” “Listen to the Music,” “Black Water,” “What a Fool Believes” and “Minute By Minute.” Over the years, the band has included more than a dozen “official” members and just as many touring members.

Johnston held down lead vocals in the Doobies’ original iteration from 1970 to 1975 before leaving the band for health reasons, and McDonald became the Doobies’ voice from 1975 to 1982. After disbanding in 1982, the Doobies regrouped in 1987 with Johnston again, and they have recorded and toured ever since, with McDonald making occasional appearances.

Earlier this year, the group released a live album and DVD of its 2018 show at New York’s Beacon Theatre, where they performed Toulouse Street and The Captain and Me in their entirety, as they did for the Nashville show. The band also will release an EP early next year with five new songs.

The 2020 class of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame will be announced in January, and induction will be in May.