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Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Calendar > Arts and Culture

He was a Doobie from the start

Patrick Simmons of the Doobie Brothers talks

By Margaret Bruetsch - reporter/photographer

By: Contributed
Patrick Simmons, center, with John McFee, right, who's been part of the band since 1978 and fellow original member Tom Johnston at left.
BETHEL — The Doobie Brothers will be returning to Bethel Woods for the fourth time on July 12, co-headlining with Peter Frampton. With Special Guest Michael Curry. Lots open at 3:30 p.m., gates open at 6 p.m.
and the concert starts at 7:30 p.m.
The Doobies are celebrating their 45th anniversary this year. The band formed in 1969, disbanded in 1982 but regrouped in 1987 to perform Veterans' Benefits concerts. The band came out of its hiatus officially in 1993 and is still touring and putting out new CDs.
This fall the band will be releasing a new collaborations album this fall, teaming up with big time country stars including Brad Paisley, Sara Evans, Blake Shelton, Hunter Hayes and many more for new versions of hits including “China Grove,” “Blackwater,” “Long Train Runnin'” and “China Grove.”
The Sullivan County Democrat recently got a chance to talk with original member Patrick Simmons about the band, the new album and why they keep returning to “Woodstock.”

Democrat: July 12th is the fourth time the Doobies are returning to Bethel Woods. Why do you keep coming back?
Simmons: Probably one reason is it's one of the premiere venues in the country. It's a great place to play. There's so much history at the site and in the area. I know it's not Woodstock, but it feels closer to the source for me. And I love that part of the country. It has this Americana thing that really shines through.
To play with Peter Frampton again is another highlight for me. I know it's going to be a great concert.

Democrat: Why have The Doobies decided to do a collaborations album of their biggest hits?
Simmons: That was kind of cool. This producer, David Huff came to us and said, “I had this idea for a record using your songs from your records and getting country artists to play on them with you.” We… had a great time doing it and met some nice people. The studio band David put together was great. Great studio players with great energy and great playing that took the songs to another level. We did a lot of fun things. I think you'll be surprised.

Democrat: How was it to have Michael McDonald back in the studio with the band again for the new album?
Simmons: It's always a pleasure to work with Mike. He's such a killer singer and player. His songs were interesting for me. They're not what you'd call country songs; they're not played on country radio. Sara Evans sang on “What a Fool Believes” and I just love her.

Democrat: Did you have a favorite collaboration off the new album?
Simmons: I guess I should talk about my own songs. Jerrod Niemann sang “South City Midnight Lady” and I think he sang the heck out of it and brought it to another place. It's always been a country song but we focused on this orchestral kind of thing originally, this is more barebones, more country. We used acoustic guitar, banjo, bouzouki, and steel guitar on it this time.
Toby Keith sang “Long Train Runnin'” and Toby is a rough-edged kind of a guy. The song was a real bluesy song and now it's honky tonk. Even if you're not a fan of Toby Keith you'll love the song.

Democrat: The Doobies have “the most loyal fanbase” in music and it's now multigenerational. I know my mom became a fan in 1979 and then passed the love of your music on to my sister and I. What is it like having this huge fanbase?
Simmons: It's always humbling to know people love music. I think we all of us have a time when we have memories associated with music. That song that was playing when we looked up and saw someone and first fell in love, or the song playing on the beach one summer. I've had people come up to me and say “I listened to you guys when I was in Vietnam” or “We listened to you going across the country.” Those are all just great stories. They just become things you always remember.

Democrat: I couldn't believe the Doobies hadn't performed at the Grand Ole Opry until 2011. How was it performing there for the first time?
Simmons: Unbelieveable. We were invited, we were in town doing something and we got the message asking if we'd like to play. We have this little acoustic event we do for special events, benefits and such, so that's what we threw together.
We walked in and there was Little Jimmy Dickens, Vince Gill, Keb' Mo' and Allison Krauss. You walk in and you see all these pictures...and you just think “this is so cool to be included in this little circle.”
The audience was incredible, singing along and clapping their hands, stomping their feet. It was very cool. It's a lifelong memory for me.

Democrat: You've been the only original Doobie Brother to stay with the band since its formation until the 1982 disbandment and then came back again for the benefit concerts in 1987 and 1993. And you've been with the band since it's comeback, you never took a break. You've seen the highs, lows and all the in betweens. Any reflection on that?
Simmons: For me, I just feel that I've been privileged to work with these wonderful artists, players, writers and singers. I don't know what I'd be doing if I wasn't here. I'd still be playing but I don't know where or with who. To have a great band like this - incredible writers, players and singers like Tom Johnston and John McFee who actually made the records. I'm not going to say we're the last of our kind but there aren't as many of us still playing these days. To still have this momentum and this band… it's a gift. And I don't take that for granted. I'm planning on doing this until I can't do it anymore.

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