September 1, 1995 in Seven

These Rock Dinosaurs Have Yet To Fossilize

Don Adair Correspondent
 

The contemporary version of the Jurassic Period is lingering longer than anyone expected.

Just look at all the dinosaurs on the road.

The Steve Miller Band and the Doobie Brothers, two of the most durable of the genre, will appear at The Gorge tonight. Both have been around forever and neither seems anxious to go away.

Forever is a relative thing. But we’re talking 25 years, minimum, and in rock ‘n’ roll terms, that’s an epoch.

Long enough for a dozen trends and twice that many fads to come and go. Long enough for each band to have racked up an impressive number of hits.

“Between us, we have 47 charted hits,” crows Steve Miller, who suggested the bill.

“And we even have pillars on stage now,” said Miller in reference to the stage props, “… that’s classic, baby!”

Classic also is the fact that all three of the Doobies’ lead singers - almost 20 musicians have populated this band down the years - will perform together Saturday for the first time in nearly 20 years. Tom Johnston, Patrick Simmons and Michael McDonald all will sing the songs for which they are best-known.

“I really wasn’t doing much this part of the summer,” McDonald said recently. “It’s something I’m always game for doing. I’ve always enjoyed playing with the Doobies.”

McDonald left Steely Dan to join the band in 1975, when Johnston departed for health reasons. With his precise tenor and clean keyboard work, he gave the band a glossy lilt and distanced it from the guitars-and-harmonies punch of such earlier hits as “Listen To The Music” and “China Grove.”

One suspects many of the motorcycle-riding fans of the early band threw in the towel when McDonald came along with songs like “Takin’ It To The Streets” and “When A Fool Believes.”

Steve Miller and the Doobies is a natural road pairing. Although he’s a Texan by birth, Miller is ineluctably linked to San Francisco’s psychedelic rock era and the Summer of Love. He migrated there from Chicago in 1966 and soon was playing such clubs as the Matrix.

The Doobies came out of San Jose, but not until 1970, by which time Miller was a veteran of the scene. Like Miller’s blues-based music, their big-guitars-and-harmonies sound was more song-oriented than that of many of their freak-out brethren.

Miller and the Doobies even shared the stage a time or two in the way-distant past, and Miller and Doobie Brothers singer Tom Johnston wound up being neighbors in the Marin County town of Novato.

“Those days are somewhat hazy,” Johnston says.

Miller has since moved north - first to the Eugene, Ore., area and then to Seattle, where he set up a studio and immediately began to reestablish himself as a bluesman after a detour into the pop world had yielded such massive hits as “The Joker,” “Fly Like An Eagle” and “Abracadabra.”

His 1986 blues and jazz album “Born 2 B Blue,” made critical waves but failed to capture the attention of the public. But in ‘91, he told an interviewer he expected his next record to pop him back into the spotlight.

“I think it’s going to be a real creative period for me during the next two or three years,” he said.

Sure enough, the title track from 1993’s “Wide River” leaped into the charts and reestablished Miller as one of a handful of stars from the ‘60s who can still produce a viable radio hit.

No matter: Miller still likes to mess around with the blues, though. He’s reportedly been dedicating himself of late to the music of Lightning Hopkins, another Texas bluesman for whom Miller played bass when they both lived in San Francisco.

During the fall, he’ll do a short theater blues tour. “I’ve got to do a blues tour for my own sanity,” he said.

His plans reportedly call for him to go out with blues legend Otis Rush and Portland’s Curtis Salgado, the former Robert Cray harp player and blues shouter who recently opened here for Buddy Guy.

MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: Steve Miller/ the Doobie Brothers Location and time: The Gorge, tonight, 8 Tickets: $43.05-$27.85 (only a few remain)

This sidebar appeared with the story: Steve Miller/ the Doobie Brothers Location and time: The Gorge, tonight, 8 Tickets: $43.05-$27.85 (only a few remain)


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