The Doobie Brothers’ total worth is greater than the sum of the band’s parts. The group has had sounds ranging from laid-back country-rock to funky-electric R&B. That owes primarily to three distinct leaders during the band’s 1970s heyday.

The Doobie Brothers’ total worth is greater than the sum of the band’s parts.


The group has had sounds ranging from laid-back country-rock to funky-electric R&B.


That owes primarily to three distinct leaders during the band’s 1970s heyday.


Formed as a Northern California bar band, the Doobie Brothers first found wide success with its second album, “Toulouse Street” (1972).


At the time, the group was under the leadership of founding member Tom Johnston.


In the early years, it scored hits with “Listen to the Music,” “Jesus Is Just Alright,” “Long Train Runnin’” and “China Grove.”


The laid-back vibe and catchy hooks of these songs are backed by acoustic guitars and — in the case of “Listen to the Music” — a banjo.


It’s all right there in the group’s name, which its website defines as “a kind of pasture grass.” The “Rolling Stone Album Guide” has another toke — oops, that was supposed to be “take” — saying the group was “named after the ... end of a joint.”


This direction reached its peak with the multi-part harmonies and easy strumming of “Black Water” (1974), the group’s first No. 1 hit.


The album that song was on, “What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits,” was also the end of an era, as Johnston ceded the creative momentum of the group to other members.


‘Takin’ It to the Streets’


Guitarist Jeff “Skunk” Baxter took the reins of the Doobies for its 1975 album “Stampede,” but aside from a cover of “Take Me in Your Arms,” the best was yet to come.


Enter Michael McDonald, a St. Louis native who first came to prominence singing backup in Steely Dan.


The “blue-eyed soul singer” would lead the Doobie Brothers back to the top of the charts with such hits as “Takin’ It to the Streets” (1976) and “What a Fool Believes” (1979).


McDonald’s soaring vocal range and electric piano dramatically altered the Doobies’ sound. With the strings underlying “What a Fool Believes,” the group’s brand of R&B was rooted in the disco era — albeit with a more mellow sound.


‘Long Train Runnin’’


The Doobies broke up for a time in the 1980s but have been together and touring in various combinations since then.


There were also a few stabs at new material — the late 1980s single “The Doctor,” and the albums “Brotherhood” (1991) and “Sibling Rivalry” (2001) — but little has been as successful as the songs they created in the ’70s.


Michael McDonald has occasionally performed with the group since the late-’80s reunification, but there’s been no indication he’s expected in Springfield (a representative of the Doobie Brothers did not respond to telephone and e-mail requests for an interview).


According to the group’s website, the current lineup consists of three original members: Tom Johnston (vocals, guitar), Pat Simmons (vocals, guitar) and Michael Hossack (drums).


Another member, John McFee (guitar, strings, vocals) has been with the group since 1979. The remaining members are Guy Allison (keyboards, vocals), Marc Russo (saxophones), Ed Toth (drums) and John Cowan (bass, filling in for the ailing regular known as Skylark).


The stylistic variance throughout the group’s career has contributed to its longevity. It also makes for an interesting set list — two bands for the price of one.


Brian Mackey can be reached at 217-747-9587.