Behind the Band Name: The Doobie Brothers

The Doobie Brothers set us straight with their band name. Founded in 1970 in San Jose, California, by lead singer Tom Johnston and guitarist Patrick Simmons, The Doobie Brothers went on to be one of the biggest rock bands of all time.

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The band formed when drummer John Hartman connected with Johnston through Skip Spence of fellow rock band Moby Grape. They joined forces with bassist Greg Murphy to form the trio called Pud, which performed around San Jose. In 1970, they connected with singer/songwriter Simmons and guitarist Dave Shogren to form what would become The Doobie Brothers. Read on to find out how they got the famous moniker.

Meaning Behind the Band Name

When Tiran Porter replaced Shogren as bassist in 1972 and guitarist Jeff Baxter joined in 1974, followed by keyboardist Michael McDonald the next year, the group established its most famous lineup.

A friend of the band and fellow musician, Keith Rosen, is the one who suggested the name The Doobie Brothers, as the word “doobie” is a nickname for a marijuana joint that the bandmates often indulged in. Johnston admits that they couldn’t come up with a band name and didn’t expect Rosen’s suggestion to stick.

“We couldn’t come up with one–there was a guy who lived in the house with us who came up with the name,” explains Johnston in a 2013 interview with The Minnesota Daily about the band name origins. “At that point, we were still playing locally. We had a guy in the house who said, ‘Why don’t you call yourself the Doobie Brothers because you’re always smoking.’ Everybody looked at each other and said, ‘Well that’s really a stupid name.'”

“It was just a name we chose to get us through some early gigs,” Simmons told the Cleveland Sun in 2013. “I didn’t think it was a good name at the time. I don’t think we expected to go forward with that name.”

“The band didn’t have a name when we started playing around San Jose and we started to catch on and still didn’t have a name and this guy who lived by us said, ‘Just call yourself The Doobie Brothers,’” Johnston elaborated to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune in 2015. “I thought The Doobie Brothers was a dumb name that we would just use until we thought of something better, but we never got rid of it.”

The group has been active for 50 years with multiple lineup changes. They’ve released 15 studio albums thus far, seven of which have reached the top 10 on the Billboard 200. Their 1978 album, Minute by Minute, was their only album to hit No. 1 on the chart, where it sat for five weeks. “What a Fool Believes,” “Dependin’ on You” and the title track are the three hits that spawned from Minute by Minute. “Black Water,” “Real Love,” “The Doctor” and “Long Train Runnin'” are among the band’s other famous hits.

The Doobie Brothers were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2020.

Photo by Steve Jennings/Getty Images

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