Original drummer John Hartman of Doobie Brothers dies at 72

John Hartmann, the original drummer for the Doobie Brothers and one of the founders of the band, has died at the age of 72.

In a statement on social media on Thursday, calling him a “wild spirit” and a “close friend,” the band refused to reveal the date of the cause of death.

Today we’re thinking of John Hartmann, or Little John for us. John was a wild spirit, great drummer, and showman during his time on the Doobies,” the band wrote.

The way it was: John Hartman, the original drummer for the Doobie Brothers and one of the band’s founders, has died at age 72; Pictured in 1978

“He has also been a close friend for many years and a complex part of the band’s personality!” The statement continued. We send our condolences to all his loved ones at this difficult time. Rest in peace, John.

Born in 1950 in Falls Church, Virginia, Hartmann became a musician and moved to Northern California at the dawn of the 1970s.

While in San Jose, he was introduced to Tom Johnston, who became the captain of the Doobie Brothers and remains so to this day.

The band gradually formed and began playing around the San Jose area, naming itself after one of the era’s slang terms for marijuana cigarettes.

Throwback: The 1976 Doobie Brothers lineup, photographed for wit (clockwise from bottom left) Skunk Baxter, Hartman, Patrick Simmons, Keith Knudsen, Tiran Porter, Michael McDonald

Throwback: The 1976 Doobie Brothers lineup, photographed for wit (clockwise from bottom left) Skunk Baxter, Hartman, Patrick Simmons, Keith Knudsen, Tiran Porter, Michael McDonald

By 1971 they had released their self-titled debut album, but stardom continued to elude because neither the LP nor the lead single was able to hit the charts.

They continued to perform and eventually added Michael Husack, who was in the US Navy during the Vietnam War, as the second drummer alongside Hartmann.

With two drummers, they released their second album on Rue Toulouse in 1972 – and they became a worldwide sensation.

As the 1970s progressed, the band’s successes soared, with Hartmann playing drums on most of their songs.

Original playback: Hartmann, filmed in concert in 1974 in London, was one of the founding members of the band in 1970 and played their songs throughout that decade

Original playback: Hartmann, filmed in concert in 1974 in London, was one of the founding members of the band in 1970 and played their songs throughout that decade

In 1978, they released their most popular album Minute By Minute, which features the Grammy-winning single What A Fool Believes – which did not include Hartman.

However, the band was shaken by internal tensions, including the growing health problems that Tom Johnston encountered on the road.

In the mid-1970s, Johnston was so physically exhausted from touring that he had to be hospitalized with a stomach ulcer—leading singer Michael MacDonald to replace him while he recovered.

MacDonald remained a part of the Doobie Brothers even when Johnston returned, and it was MacDonald who co-wrote and sang What A Fool Believes.

On the drums: Although he left the band in 1979, he returned about a decade later for the Cycles reunion album and was photographed performing with them in Minnesota in 1989

On the drums: Although he left the band in 1979, he returned about a decade later for the Cycles reunion album and was photographed performing with them in Minnesota in 1989

Despite the success of the Doobie Brothers in 1978, Hartmann was tired of the band and its faltering inner dynamic, and in 1979 he departed.

“It was all falling apart,” Hartmann told Rolling Stone two years ago. “I remember sitting in rehearsal in California and hearing Michael say he didn’t want to get out of his car because of some anxiety.”

After leaving the band, Hartmann embarked on a drastic career change and tried to become a policeman, even graduating from the Reserve Police Academy.

But his past stood in his way – after he became famous for a band named after drugs, he was turned down by 20 police departments across Northern California.

Operation: Hartmann continued recording and touring with the band, including a 1989 concert in Bloomington, Minnesota, but retired again in 1992

Operation: Hartmann continued recording and touring with the band, including a 1989 concert in Bloomington, Minnesota, but retired again in 1992

He admitted to the New York Times in the 1990s that his history with marijuana had become a “major hindrance” to his struggling police career.

“These guys still thought I was a credibility problem because of what I was doing,” he grumbled, “I just picked myself up out of the sewer.”

When his dreams of being a vine cop died in the late ’80s, he found himself drifting back into the career that made him a star.

As seen in 1976: In the 1970s, the squad was shaken by internal tensions, and striker Tom Johnston was temporarily replaced by Michael MacDonald (third from left).

As seen in 1976: In the 1970s, the squad was shaken by internal tensions, and striker Tom Johnston was temporarily replaced by Michael MacDonald (third from left).

He jumped aboard the Doobie Brothers for Vietnam Veterans in 1987 and joined them full time on album reunion courses in 1989.

Hartmann continued recording and touring with the band, taking international gigs to destinations as far away as the collapsing Soviet Union.

Now in middle age, he’s adopted a more moderate approach to the itinerant lifestyle, telling the Associated Press, “The road treats us the same way, we don’t treat it the same way.”

Details: The Doobie Brothers enjoyed their highest profile in the '70s and were filmed in 1975 after being awarded a record gold by Warner Brothers Chairman Mo Ostin

Details: The Doobie Brothers enjoyed their highest profile in the ’70s and were filmed in 1975 after being awarded a record gold by Warner Brothers Chairman Mo Ostin

“We don’t demolish hotel rooms anymore, we don’t have car rental wars, burn theaters and things like that,” Johnston explained.

Hartmann beat the drums on the band’s 1991 album Brotherhood but left again the following year, beginning a permanent retirement from the Doobie Brothers.

Two years ago, he and his former co-stars were inducted together into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but were denied the opportunity for a physical reunion because the concert was virtual amid the coronavirus lockdown.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.