Michael Hossack: Drummer with the Doobie Brothers


Click to follow
The Independent Online

When the drummer Michael Hossack jammed with the Doobie Brothers at Bimbo's 365 Club in San Francisco in June 1971, he proved such a natural fit alongside founding drummer John Hartman that the other two mainstays of the group, the guitarists, vocalists and songwriters Tom Johnston and Patrick Simmmons, asked him to perform with them at the Fillmore West. Within weeks, "Big Mike" Hossack and "Little John" Hartman forged a drumming partnership to match those driving the Grateful Dead and the Allman Brothers.

With the addition of bassist and baritone singer Tiran Porter, the Doobies developed the trademark blend of sunny harmonies, rock, rhythm and blues, country, funk and boogie that endeared them to millions of fans and radio programmers throughout the 1970s. Hossack drummed on three of their definitive albums, Toulouse Street (1972), The Captain And Me (1973 – featuring the explosive band composition "Without You") and What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits (1974) as well as the enduring hit singles "Listen To The Music", "Jesus Is Just Alright", "Long Train Runnin'", "China Grove" and the US No 1 "Black Water", but left at the end of 1973 after a particularly gruelling tour.

A Vietnam war veteran, Hossack returned to the group when they reformed in 1987 after a five-year hiatus to play a series of benefits for Vietnam vets. As the reformation became permanent, he continued with the many subsequent incarnations of the Doobies, first alongside Hartman, from 1993 with Keith Knudsen, the drummer who had replaced him two decades earlier – until he died in 2005 – and finally with Ed Toth of Vertical Horizon. Hossack contributed to the band's last significant hit, "The Doctor", in 1989, and featured on several more live and studio albums, including the best-selling Cycles (1989) and World Gone Crazy (2010), on which the musicians reunited with Ted Templeman, the producer who had helped shape their classic sound.

Born in Paterson, New Jersey, in 1946, Hossack was a member of several Boy Scout marching bands during his teens and often credited his instructors with instilling the discipline of a team player in him. "People always ask me if it's hard to play with another drummer," he said. "I tell them that after playing along with up to 12 other drummers at once in the drum corps, this is a snap!"

After four years in the Navy he was set to enter the New Jersey police force in 1969 when a friend suggested heaudition for Mourning Reign, a Californian outfit in need of a drummerfor a series of engagements on the East Coast. He accompanied them back to the Bay Area, where they signed to the same production company as theDoobies. After the demise of Mourning Reign, the Harley-Davidson-riding Hossack was a shoo-in for the SanJosé group with a Hells Angels following and a name derived from the local slang for a joint.

In 1974, he helped form Bonaroo and recorded their sole eponymous album. The next year, they took part in The Warner Brothers Looney Tunes package tour of Europe which also featured the Doobies, Little Feat, Graham Central Station, Montrose and Tower of Power. In 1977, he became a partner in Chateau Recorders, a studio in North Hollywood where assorted Doobies, Devo and Ronnie Wood recorded. Hossack's tenure with the reunited Doobies was interrupted by a motorcycle accident in June 2001 but he was back behind the kit within a few months until he was diagnosed with cancer in 2010.

Michael Hossack, drummer and songwriter: born Paterson, New Jersey 17 October 1946; (one daughter, one son); died Dubois, Wyoming 12 March 2012.