Tom’s favorite music as he grew up included Little Richard, Bo Diddley, Elvis Presley, James Brown, and other rhythm and blues artists featured on the radio in the 1950s. At the age of twelve, Tom took up guitar. He had formed his first band by age fourteen. In his early career he played in a variety of bands, including a Mexican wedding band that played half soul and half Latin music. His interest in rhythm and blues led to his singing in a soul group from a neighboring town and, eventually, his own blues band.
Tom moved to San Jose to finish college and started playing in bands around town. It was here that he met the legendary Skip Spence, original drummer with Jefferson Airplane and founding member of a group that had a major influence on the Doobie Brothers - Moby Grape. Skip introduced Tom to John Hartman. Johnston and Hartman soon formed their own band, “Pud”, featuring Gregg Murph on bass. “Pud” played many clubs in and around the greater San Jose market including the “Golden Horn Lounge” in Cupertino, Ca. which no longer exists. Murph was soon replaced by Shogren, Simmons was recruited, and “Pud” gave way to the Doobie Brothers.
Johnston wrote and sang many of the the Doobie Brothers’ early hits, including “Listen to the Music,” “Rockin’ Down the Highway,” “China Grove,” and “Long Train Runnin’.” He also sang the hit song “Take Me in Your Arms” (written by Holland-Dozier-Holland). Johnston’s gritty voice and distinctive guitar style, combining rhythmic strumming and towering solos, constituted the band’s original trademark sound. He also possessed dynamic energy and stage presence, serving as the focal point of the group’s live performances.
Following years of road touring lifestyle and health challenges, Johnston became severely ill and was hospitalized on the eve of a major tour in 1975 to promote Stampede. Johnston’s illness led to the emergency hiring of Michael McDonald, who almost immediately took over the band that Johnston had co-founded. After a few years of restored health but diminished influence in the group, Johnston finally left in 1977 to pursue a solo career that netted two albums: Everything You’ve Heard Is True and Still Feels Good (reissued on compact disc by Wounded Bird Records). Johnston toured in the late ’70s and early ’80s with the Tom Johnston Band, which featured fellow Doobie alum John Hartman on drums.
In the 1980s, Johnston contributed a tune to the multi-platinum Dirty Dancing soundtrack entitled “Where are You Tonight?”
Edited by will87 on 13 Sep 2007, 13:30
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