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Doobie Brothers roll into Ironstone

Patrick Simmons talks about biggest hit written after New Orleans trip

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Posted: Saturday, June 19, 2010 12:00 am

Patrick Simmons grew up in San Jose, and for most of his young life, his music was influenced by his Bay Area upbringing.

But a trip to New Orleans changed all that. Simmons' fondness for his experience in The Big Easy became an inspiration for the Doobie Brothers' most successful hit, "Black Water."

"Well, if it rains, I don't care

Don't make no difference to me.

Just take that streetcar that's goin' up town.

Yeah, I'd like to hear some funky Dixieland

And dance a honky tonk,

And I'll be buying everybody drinks all 'round."

That's the essence of New Orleans, and of "Black Water," which Simmons, 61, and his Doobie Brothers bandmates will perform with Chicago on Sunday at Ironstone Vineyards in Murphys.

While other band members penned such hits as "Long Train Runnin'," "Listen to the Music" and "China Grove," Simmons offered up Doobies songs like "South City Midnight Lady," "Dependin' On You," "Echoes of Love" and the motorcycling song "Dangerous."

Simmons says that some of his musical influences include Chet Atkins, Rev. Gary Davis, Mike Bloomfield, B.B. King, Doc Watson, Moby Grape, Jorma Kaukonen, the Byrds, the Beatles and Bob Dylan.

He and his wife, Cris, lived in Mendocino before moving to Hawaii 13 years ago. They have three children, Lindsey, Josh and Patrick Jr. He and Cris are motorcycle enthusiasts and enjoy horseback riding and surfing.

The Doobie Brothers have toured off and on for 40 years. While waiting for a gig in Phoenix on Tuesday, Simmons commented on his career in a phone interview.

Q: How did the Doobie Brothers get its name? After all, smoking doobies epitomized the rock lifestyle, so how does the name separate you from other musicians?

A: I think you know the answer to that one. It wasn't my idea. (Pause) We did smoke a lot of weed, let's put it that way.

Q: Tell me more about your writing of "Black Water." Listening to it this morning reminded me of my vacation to New Orleans in April. It was the first time I'd been there, and I enjoyed the difference in culture.

A: I grew up in California, so being able to travel probably did the same thing to me that it did for you. That particular song was kind of an "up" kind of a vibe. It's hot in the summertime, and everything's moving a little slower. It's being in a place that's unfamiliar.

Q: The BP oil spill may give new unintended meaning to the "Black Water" lyrics, "Old black water, keep on rollin'." Have you thought about that?

A: It's the worst thing that's ever happened down there, maybe one of the worst things to happen in this country. We're trapped by the oil companies keeping it closed. It's sad that corporations have so much control over Congress.

Doobie Brothers/Chicago concert at a glance

When: Sunday, 7 p.m.

Where: Ironstone Vineyards, 1894 Six Mile Road in Murphys.

Tickets: $46 for general admission; $76, $91, $111 and $161 for reserved; $241 for "platinum VIP winemakers dinner."

More information: Call 728-1251 or visit">

Source: Ironstone Vineyards

Q: Do you prefer playing your big hits from the '70s or your more recent music?

A: It's a question of balance. You certainly owe it to the audience to play the songs they want to hear, but you want play some things they haven't heard to give them a chance to dig a little deeper and learn something about the group. We also want to share new material.

Q: What is your favorite Doobie Brothers song?

A: I think I enjoy all of them. In concert, I enjoy the songs where you get to stretch out. One song ("Don't Start Me Talking"), everyone gets to solo. That's probably my favorite.

Q: Do you prefer smaller venues like Ironstone Vineyards or large arenas?

A: It's probably more enjoyable for everybody at a smaller venue. I know it's a beautiful venue there (at Ironstone). I've played there a few times.

Q: Having Chicago on the bill must be interesting. The Doobie Brothers and Chicago have very different styles.

A: We've been doing shows with them since 1972 or '73. We do perform with them about 40 minutes, which is one of the most interesting parts of the show. They have more brass instruments, and we have more guitars and sing harmonies.

Q: Is there anything you'd like to add?

A: We have a new album coming out. It's our first new album in 10 years. It's coming out in September, I think. A lot of songs are about California. The title is either "World Gone Crazy" or "Far From Home." Both are songs in the album.

Q: Is it still sex, drugs and rock 'm' roll?

A: Of course. Now it's sleep, food, eating right, exercise and rock 'n' roll. Some of us eat pretty well.

Contact reporter Ross Farrow at



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