Rockin' Down the Highway to Boise

A Doobie Brothers co-founder talks tea, motorcycles and rock n' roll royalty


When you think about hitting the open road, The Doobie Brothers are one of those bands that springs to mind for a satisfying highway soundtrack. The group's classic rock repertoire has sold over 48 million albums and garnered it four Grammy awards. Yet through it all, its members are still a humble band of brothers at heart.

"After almost 50 years of doing it, we want to make sure that people come away saying we put out as great a show as ever," said Doobies co-founder Patrick Simmons.

Prior to the group's Saturday, June 9, appearance at Taco Bell Arena, where it will share the stage with Steely Dan, Simmons took a minute to talk about putting together a rock n' roll bill for the ages.

Does being on stage still have the same effect as it did almost five decades ago?

You mean getting really sweaty and tired? The older you get, the more familiar you are with the material, and, hopefully, you learned a few things along the way.

How did this sort of luminary double bill [with Steely Dan] come about?

Since we're both signed to the same management company, that's in many ways how it started. We have such a history with those guys. We played a ton of shows with them in the early '70s and spent time hanging out in hotel rooms after gigs, drinking beer...being crazy kids.

The Doobies have performed in Boise often through the years. Is there anything special about playing to the crowds here?

I love playing in the Northwest. It's such a beautiful part of the country. The proximity means something to me—in terms of feeling like I'm closer to my roots. It's just the beauty of the place and the spirit of the people. There's something magical about that part of the country.

Are you recording any new material, possibly for a new album?

We have about five tunes we're working on, four of them are pretty well fleshed-out. I have a feeling that we'll end up releasing a song or two even before we're finished, just for the fun of it.

Is there anybody in mainstream music today that galvanizes you into turning up the dial?

Well, I love Amos Lee—I really dig his stuff. Adele, I love what she does. Train, I like for a band. My favorite contemporary artist is Tommy Emmanuel. I'm still a guitar guy at heart.

What was the first album you purchased with your own money?

I remember my first 45 [rpm] I ever bought was called Lover Please by Clyde McPhatter. I listened to Elvis and The Everly Brothers, Little Richard.

Would you mind disclosing what's on your tour rider—your provisions for the road?

Organic—that's something I'm always looking for. Healthier snacks, more vegetables than meat. Back in the day, I couldn't care less. I think we were happy to have anything to eat or drink.

Is there a meditative process that you like to get into before playing shows?

You always go a little bit internal, and think about what's coming up. You can rehearse with the band, but there's always going to be those parts you have to get on your own. I do warm up vocally, to hit the notes, before I get out there. That's something I've been doing a long time.

What about warming up in the old days, was that any different?

Back in the day, I'd do about six shots of Jose Cuervo, about a gram of blow, a couple of joints. [Now] I just drink some hot tea.

Have all the band members basically learned their lessons in life by now?

Well, I don't know if I'd go that far. It's definitely changed a lot. We were maniacs in the early days. Now, it's much more sane and we take much better care of ourselves.

The Doobies have sort of a biker heritage, and that especially goes for you. I heard you even rode in the Motorcycle Cannonball last year.

That's coming up again in September. My wife and I are gonna do another one—Portland, Maine, to Portland, Oregon, this year. She's riding her 1915 Harley and I'm riding my 1928 Harley.

It seems like you've led a very enriching life, and been such a part of rock n' roll royalty. Any regrets?

I don't know about the royalty part, but I am totally satisfied. I've felt really great about my life and I can't think of any regrets I have right now.

The Doobies are still so relevant in music to this day. It has to be pretty sublime to think about, and know that you're all a part of something so timeless.

It makes you feel like you've done something right. It's a privilege to be doing what we're doing. I can speak for the rest of the band in that regard—I know everybody feels that same way.