Soundcheck. Listen To Doobie Brothers’ Pat Simmons.

Pat Simmons, co-founder in 1970 of classic rock legends The Doobie Brothers, is a very familiar face, as is his wife Cris Sommer, in all major motorcycle rallies around the country. A true biker since the late 60’s, he is extremely knowledgeable about motorcycles, especially the pre WWII brands and models on which he works when not touring, and is an avid collector of all memorabilia from this era. Over the years, the Doobies have sold well over 30 million CDs and continue to sell their catalog to new, young fans who have only recently discovered the band. At the same time, during 4 decades, bikers have never stopped digging into their music and their songs are probably the most played in any motorcycle event you attend here in the US and abroad.

Pat and his bandmates, musicians Tom Johnston, John Hartman, and Dave Shogren, just released  “World Gone Crazy” which is their first studio album in 10 years. To the surprise of many skeptics who don’t believe that an aging band can produce any fresh music, the “buzz” in the industry is that this album is one of the major releases of the year (watch the video of the first song “Nobody” after the jump)

The group just returned from a very successful promotional tour in Europe, is now touring the US and got the good idea to give a concert on my turf in West Palm Beach, FL. After the traditional soundcheck and before walking on stage, Pat sat down with me to talk motorcycles…and of course music. (all photography Pat Simmons copyright Cris Sommer)

Cyril. Since your first songs in the 70’s, and although quantitatively a small percentage of your fans, bikers have always had a special affinity for your music. Why do you think that happened, and why do you think it’s still true? Pat. Well, at the time we got together, we were all hanging out with various biker types, some in clubs, many unaffiliated. We all had our sights set on buying bikes. I ended up with a BSA, after attempting to purchase a Matchless 500 (a G 80?, can’t remember now). A few of the clubs that we played, around the San Francisco Bay Area, attracted a lot of bikers, and they kind of adopted us as the local biker band, I guess. I know after we got bikes, and rode more and more, we dressed in leather all the time, and lived the biker lifestyle pretty much. I’m still, more than ever probably, in love with motorcycling on so many different levels. Our music is full of road references, and stories that mirror motorcycling. Our affiliation with Harley and motorcycle events has continued to this day.

What was your first experience with motorcycles. When and how? Pat. Well, in the 60’s I had friends with bikes that I was able to borrow from time to time. That started it all. Then around 1970, as I said, I got hold of an old BSA  that I had to put some work into to make run, and that really convinced me that I was made for the sport. I got a crash course in metrics at the time. Luckily I had friends who were willing to mentor me through the process a little, but I was the one who had to do all the adjustments, and twist all the nuts and bolts. Fortunately, I was able to get it on the road, and I still have great memories of those early days.

Cyril. When did you start collecting motorcycles and motorcycle memorabilia? Pat. In the mid 70’s, I started picking up literature, bits of memorabilia, and such. In ’77-’78 I started getting serious when I opened a shop in Santa Cruz, CA (Classic Motorcycles). We were stocking NOS parts for Harleys (Flatheads, Knucks, and Pans, some Shovel stuff, Indians, Chiefs, scouts mostly ’30’s-’53. I went all over the country looking parts and bikes. I bought a few old bikes to put on the floor, just as conversation pieces, and that’s when I fell in love with the history of motorcycling, and the incredible aspects of technology that had developed among all these companies that had existed earlier in the century. I began to meet other kindred spirits, like Bud Ekins, Mike Parti, Arlen Ness, Mike Egan, Jacob Junker, Mark Allen, Steve Wright, and Dean Hensley, to name a few. They all were as over the top about the old bikes as I was. (Interview continued below video)
Cyril. What is in your garage? The most significant pieces you own? Pat. The bike I’m most excited about right now is a 1913 Thor twin that Steve Huntzinger restored for me. It was damaged in an accident while it was being transported. I was devastated. It was an older restoration, but a complete bike, with original parts. It had to be completely rebuilt, every nut and bolt. It is the most beautiful bike I own since Steve’s rebuild, so beautiful! I’m hoping to put it in the motorcycle museum in Anamosa, Iowa. I’d like to share it with other people, Steve did such a wonderful job. He’s a genius! I’ve got some other cool bikes but that’s probably another article for another time.

Cyril. What are your preferred brands, motorcycle era, models? Pat. I like ’em all. I ride a ’90 FLHS Harley that I’ve done a little work on. S & S carb, Performance front brake, new sheet metal and paint, reworked front end, upgraded tires, that kind of thing. I’m nuts about the old bikes ’65 and earlier for the Harleys, and just about anything pre ’16. But I love all the old stuff, Indians, Excelsiors, Thors, Popes, Hendersons, Merkels, Daytons, Sears, Reading Standard, and on and on… I love the custom bike scene these days, and one of these days I’d love to build a chopper, or bobber of some kind.

Cyril. Do you work on your bikes? How did you learn? Pat. Yeah, I do some things, chains, tires, carburetors, brakes, some electrics, linkage, that kind of thing. I have torn down a few engines, trannys, etc. These days I have been putting in so many miles on the road, that I haven’t had time to devote to the total rebuilds. I just wouldn’t want to walk away and leave something torn apart for that long. Most of my experience has come from just going for it. I read a lot of motorcycle literature. Of course I’m always asking all my mechanic friends about this or that. My wife is a good source of advice as well. She’s pretty knowledgeable.

Cyril. How many people in the band ride motorcycles.? Pat. At this point really only John McFee and I. At least regularly anyway.

Cyril. How much did the biker culture influence The Doobie Brothers’ music? How many songs or song themes were inspired by the motorcycle lifestyle? Pat. I don’t know if biker culture actually influenced the music. Like I said there are a lot of road themes in our music, and for me personally I usually visualize bikes somewhere in those stories. I think we are musicians who ride bikes, but our songs are about all kinds of things, so we’re more than just a biker band.

Cyril. You met the love of your life (Cris Sommer Simmons) in Sturgis. Because of motorcycles, of your music, of both? Tell me the story. Pat. I met Cris in 1989 when we were playing a benefit for the Muscular Dystrophy Association sponsored by Harley. She was at the press conference we took part in, representing her magazine, Harley Women. Clyde Fessler, head of marketing at Harley at the time introduced us. We found out we had so much in common, and we spent the next two days getting to know each other. We’ve been together ever since. We’re so lucky we both love motorcycles, and each other!

Cyril. Your wife Cris did the Cannonball Endurace Run, was the only American woman doing it, and successfully completed it. How difficult was it to see your wife “suffering” on the road, how much technical assistance did you provide, and how frustrating was it not to be riding with her? Pat. I was proud of her. She ain’t no cream puff. I think she enjoyed every minute of it. It certainly was a tough run, fatiguing, and challenging, but she’s done a lot of rides across the country, and she knew what she was getting into. We had a great crew Athena “Chicki’ Ransome doing the wrenching, Laura Clock helping with all kinds of stuff, and I was there to help in any way I could. We had a check list that we went over every night. Adjustments that had to be made, fluids to be topped off, inspections to make, nuts and bolts to be tightened. We ended up as a chase vehicle for all the riders because of our modest sized van, so we were actually out on the course a lot.

Cyril. If there is a second edition of the Cannonball, do you intend on participating? Pat. I don’t know. It was a lot of stress to put on such a rare and expensive 1915 Harley. We did major preparation for the event, so the bike did well. But, it was tough to watch the abuse these old bikes had to endure. I’m not saying I wouldn’t, but we’ll see…

Cyril. Heard that you are in negotiation with Harley-Davidson for a cross promotion. Can you talk about it? Pat. We’ve had a great relationship with Harley through the years. We’ve done some in-store appearances and they are featuring the new music in a few shops. I know our record company is working on some other promotional ideas.

Cyril. World Gone Crazy” is the title of your new album. Please explain why? Pat. Well, Tom wrote that tune, and we felt like it was a good title for the album, since I’m sure we’d all agree that life is certainly a little crazy these days. It’s a great song, and we thought it was a pretty bold statement. The new album has been receiving very positive response, both from fans, and the media. We are feeling really good about the songs on this album, and it’s been fun to play some of them live. The audiences have been responding well to the new music. We’ve even got Willie Nelson singing on a track that he and I wrote called “I Know We Won”. Go to Amazon, or iTunes, and check it out.

Cyril. You just came back from a very successful European tour. Is there a difference you can perceive between your public there and in the US when you are on stage or when you meet with your fans? Pat. I felt it was very much the same. When I talked to fans after the shows, they were perhaps a little more excited. We don’t tour in Europe as often as we do here, and they were very enthusiastic about meeting us. The audiences are a little more reserved, but they love the music, and gave us a great reception. We had a great time, and we’re talking about going back next summer to play some outdoor festivals.

Official Website: The Doobie Brothers
Doobie Brothers incredible history at Wikipedia.
New album “World Gone Crazy” in stores or online at Amazon or iTunes.

34 Responses to “Soundcheck. Listen To Doobie Brothers’ Pat Simmons.”

  1. 1 John E Adams Nov 22nd, 2010 at 8:43 am

    Thanks for the great piece Cyril. Growing up in the Bay Area have been a big fan and supporter of these guys from the beginning, a big treat to have some new stuff from them this year!


    John E Adams

  2. 2 barefootjerry Nov 22nd, 2010 at 8:46 am

    The Doobie-Bros are THE BEST !
    sinceres salutations from a French Musician !

  3. 3 Steve 'brewdude' Garn Nov 22nd, 2010 at 8:52 am

    Great article!!!!

  4. 4 ROGUE Nov 22nd, 2010 at 8:58 am

    I am a friend and fan of Pat and the band. Good to see this interview.
    I am off to get the new album.

  5. 5 morpion Nov 22nd, 2010 at 9:26 am

    listen to the music

  6. 6 Jeremy Nov 22nd, 2010 at 9:27 am

    Hey Cyril. Great interview. I know you are show biz connected. Give us more articles about musicians who ride.

  7. 7 Shifter Nov 22nd, 2010 at 9:30 am

    Grew up with the Doobies. Aging with them and their music. Just downloaded new album from iTunes.

  8. 8 Larry R. Nov 22nd, 2010 at 9:31 am

    Is a Thor on the bottom picture?

  9. 9 Kirk Perry Nov 22nd, 2010 at 9:44 am

    “Be a man…. ride a Pan.”
    “Change your luck…… ride a Knuck.”
    Words to live by.

  10. 10 Jansen Nov 22nd, 2010 at 9:50 am

    Saw the Doobie Brothers in Sturgis. Great california sound that never gets old.

  11. 11 P. Daniell Nov 22nd, 2010 at 9:53 am

    It’s time they enter the Rock ‘N Roll Hall Of Fame.

  12. 12 Bean're Nov 22nd, 2010 at 10:41 am

    having gotten to hang with Pat, Cris and the crew during most of the Cannonball, I can tell everyone first hand that Pat is a righteous dude. He was there even when he had other obligations, never was afraid to get his hands dirty, and always had time for everyone along the way that recognized him even though they were so busy with all the logistics of the rally. I’m looking forward to our pathes crossing again.

  13. 13 Seymour Nov 22nd, 2010 at 10:50 am

    Nice! Thanks Cyril..

  14. 14 Rich Nov 22nd, 2010 at 10:54 am

    Interesting questions and answers. More like that Cyril.

  15. 15 Nov 22nd, 2010 at 12:24 pm

    Cyrill that’s a real “Rolling Stones type of Interview, Cyril. No Offense, even though you Interviewed some Motorcycle Legends, most of the Interviews were DUDS. By the way “They were all a Devo, until they came with the Evo”! Eh, Kirk.

  16. 16 Tommy Nov 22nd, 2010 at 1:39 pm

    Love the band. I have great memories with their music around.

  17. 17 Shovelmind Nov 22nd, 2010 at 1:41 pm

    Don’t have much money but just downloaded the new album.

  18. 18 J. Carter Nov 22nd, 2010 at 5:37 pm

    Listened to their music during many, many years while doing some doobies…

  19. 19 Greg Manson Nov 22nd, 2010 at 5:37 pm

    Cyril. A feature on this Thor would be nice.

  20. 20 golfish Nov 22nd, 2010 at 9:56 pm

    Its a great california sound. I’ve never bought an album yet I’ve never changed the dial.

  21. 21 Wiz Nov 23rd, 2010 at 6:19 am

    The Doobies have been in my life for many years now and I have fond memories of them in the background and foreground at different stages and locations. When big stereos [you know, the one’s stacked 7 feet tall with thousands of buttons, knobs {only used two of ’em, “ON” and “VOLUME”}, switches, sliders, an’ lights that dance with the music] were the status symbol the Doobies [“Let’s roll a doobie an’ listen to the JOINT BROTHERS”] were always in everyone’s record [not CD’s] collection. I remember living out in the cypress swamps down in Florida in an abandoned church, fresh out of jail, no money, no work, alone, far from home, an’ I had a cassette of “The Captain and Me”. I would listen to “Dark-eyed Cajun Woman” in my ’67 Grand Prix over and over again to ease my despair and pain. It was beautiful and fit with the moss hanging off the trees, I really needed the escape that their music provided. Thank you for being there for me, and everyone. Wiz

  22. 22 bigalyts Nov 23rd, 2010 at 8:44 am

    Man, Wiz talk about Associating. Times like the ones you went through are how we form that bond with the Music that these Jerk Off kids could never have with their Hip Hop,crap. M, top 3 favorite Bands of ALL TIME!! I remember having the 5′ Klipsch and My Crown DC 300 and my Mac Pre Amp and Listening to the Bells. And the Crisp Notes in Black Water CRANKED up to 300 True Watts RMS of power. I wish I could go back there, sometimes I wish I could go back there and I almost forgot. The 1970 Mach III sitting in the Garage,

  23. 23 Mark Shubin Nov 23rd, 2010 at 8:46 am

    “Trashed! rid’in on my 74” Bikes, Bay Area 101, San Jose, Santa Cruz Mts., Felton, and the shop in the Twin Palms Center on Mission. Listening to the “Doobie’s” on Bose 901’s at my neighbor’s house for the first time. Wow! Hope they play in Ut. again next year.

  24. 24 Larry R Nov 23rd, 2010 at 10:49 am

    Love their music. Brings back many memories. New stuff sounds just as good. Thanks Cyril and Pat.

  25. 25 Mike Tomas, Kiwi Indian MotorCycle Co Nov 23rd, 2010 at 11:04 am

    Pat is a great guy and has a lovely motorcycling family. Thanks for the good times you guys.

  26. 26 CAROLYN TOMAS-KIWI INDIAN MOTORCYCLES Nov 23rd, 2010 at 12:44 pm

    Pat & Cris are wondeful folks, I have had a great time with them at a concert & at the Cannon Ball Run. Kiwi Mike sees them at Bike shows around the country & has a wonderful time with them, very nice people.Thanks for the great time that The Kiwi & I had with you. Have a Happy Thanksgiving to you, your familes, Cyril & all the readers of Cyril’s Blog.

  27. 27 Ken. Hubbard Nov 23rd, 2010 at 1:32 pm

    Some bands’ music age nicely. The Doobies belong to this group.

  28. 28 jerry kant Nov 24th, 2010 at 3:15 pm

    love the doobies wold love to jam with them drummer jerrykant

  29. 29 jerry kant Nov 24th, 2010 at 3:16 pm

    thats a cool motor bike patrick drummer jerry kant

  30. 30 jerry kant Nov 24th, 2010 at 3:18 pm

    I want to play drums for the doobies

  31. 31 Jerry Nov 25th, 2010 at 7:42 am

    They played 2 songs live on CNN yesterday evening in the political show Parker/Spitzer. Cool.

  32. 32 Rigo Nov 25th, 2010 at 7:48 am

    The Concert in West Palm Beach was like wildfire in steroids… After all these years, I can’t believe they still can play with such zeal and energy.

    “NOBODY” from the new album is my favorite song followed by CHATTEAU. Of course my favorite songs remains the oldies hits such as “Black Water” and such.
    I never like to wear a t-shirt of any band or idol ’cause I despise authority. I would suffer if if I have to carry a politician image on my chest. yuk and I’m too proud of myself to follow a cult leader… But that evening for the very first time I bought a DOOBIE BROTHER’s T_SHIRT with the face cover of the new album.
    And I wish somehow the RADIO STATIONS and MTV monopolies are broken, so we can listen to FREE and REAL MUSIC like it used to be, where musicians play UNIQUE and REAL MUSIC.

    The DOOBIE BROTHERS’ music is not the GARBAGE of incoherent and pungent primitive noise We are forced to listen to nowadays and I wish them good luck with the new album.

  33. 33 Wiz Nov 29th, 2010 at 3:59 am

    I wuz listin’ to a Live Doobies CD last nite an’ “South City Midnight Lady” played, Man, that’s one beautiful piece of work. Wiz

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