John Hartman: 5 Things To Know About The Doobie Brothers Drummer Dead At 72

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Image Credit: Pat Johnson/Shutterstock

Doobie Brothers cofounder and drummer John Hartman died on Thursday, Sept. 22 at the age of 72. The Twitter account for the current Doobie Brothers, who are currently on tour, announced the sad news. “Today we are thinking of John Hartman, or Little John to us,” the statement began. “John was a wild spirit, great drummer and showman during his time in the Doobies. He was also a close friend for many years and an intricate part of the band personality!” A cause of death was not immediately given.

Born in Virginia in 1950, music was always a part of John’s life. In fact, he moved to California when he was just 19 to pursue music, a move that worked wonders for him. Read on to learn more about the original Doobie Brothers drummer.

John Hartman Started The Doobie Brothers By Chance

When an eager John set out for northern California in 1969, he planned to join the special reunion of the band Moby Grape, per the Doobie Brothers’ website. While that didn’t work out, a member of Moby Grape introduced John to local singer/songwriter Tom Johnston, and they immediately hit it off. The duo started playing local bars in the Bay Area, and they eventually met and subsequently added singer/guitarist Pat Simmons to the band. While their first album didn’t see much success, their sophomore album, Toulouse Street, became a huge hit and set the band up for stardom. Some of their most popular songs to date are “Listen to the Music” and “Black Water”. The band was inducted into the The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2020.

John Hartman Quit The Band Nine Years In

Hartman created eight albums with the Doobie Brothers before his departure in 1979. “Everything was falling apart,” John told Rolling Stone in 2020 about his decision to step away from the band just before its 10th anniversary. “I remember sitting in a rehearsal in California and hearing Michael [McDonald] say he didn’t want to get out his car because of some anxiety.” He did, however, return to the band for its 1989 reunion album, Cycles, and played with them until his official retirement in 1992.

Doobie Brothers
John Hartman ended his career with the Doobie Brothers 30 years ago (Photo: Pat Johnson/Shutterstock)

John Hartman Wanted To Change Careers

After leaving the Doobie Brothers, John made a major career change and enrolled in and graduated from the police academy. Unfortunately, his fame got in the way and he wasn’t taken seriously. He was rejected from 20 police departments across California before he gave up on that dream. It also didn’t help that his band was named after a way to smoke cannabis.

John Hartman Used To Smoke Quite A Bit

It was no coincidence that his band was named after marijuana. John admitted to The New York Times in 1994 that he used to smoke enough for the police departments to turn their heads the other way. “These guys still think I’m a credibility problem because of what I used to do,” he theorized. “I’ve picked myself up from the sewer.”

John Hartman Cleaned Up After His Original Departure From The Band

In an interview to promote Cycles in 1989, the band told the Associated Press that they have calmed down since their early years of touring. ″The road treats us the same, we just don’t treat it the same,” John, who lost 70 pounds since his last tour, noted at the time. ″We’re not trashing hotel rooms anymore and we’re not having door wars with rent-a-cars, burning up stages and things of that nature,” Tom Johnston added in agreement. “Everybody’s become a little bit more selective, especially being married, they don’t mess around.″

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