Johnston admits that the primary inspiration for the name was a doobie, but the band didn't come up with it themselves. "A guy lived in a house on 12th Street, where I was living back then. He's the one who gave us the idea for the name." Up to that point, they were playing around San Jose without a name. They didn't love it at first but went with it, and it stuck.
The Doobie Brothers are a band that, even after performing all of these years, are still extremely loved and well-known. They have enjoyed regular airplay on radio stations all over the world. "That's been extremely helpful over the years," Johnston says. "The other thing is, we tour a lot."
They've been on the road since 1989, playing 85 to 1,000 shows a year. "I love playing live, I really do. It's just the traveling that wears you out," he says. They've been everywhere from Japan to Australia, Canada to Europe. "It's been pretty intense," he concedes.
In the early '70s, Johnston became ill due to the unforgiving touring lifestyle. This caused him to leave the band temporarily and let Michael McDonald step in. But he's been back at it since 1976.
They released an album in 2010, World Gone Crazy, which produced three singles. "I like doing the new stuff at this point," he admits of his favorites to play live. At each show, they play four songs off of this album. "As far as the band goes, the best way to look at the Doobie Brothers is that we're an Americana band." Their music is sprinkled with blues, rock 'n' roll, folk, bluegrass, a little jazz, and R&B. He has a blues and R&B background. All of the band's members, though, were influenced by Moby Grape.
Though Johnston's parents tried to discourage him from being a musician, his daughter Lara is following in his footsteps. She appeared on MTV's Rock the Cradle competing against the children of Kenny Loggins and MC Hammer. Now, Lara is working on an album with the support of her father. "She's been at it for some time now, and things are starting to fall into place."
As far as knowing when to quit, he says, "Everyone's still enjoying playing. As long as we're having a good time with it, we're going to do it... You should be having fun with this. If you're not having a good time and you're onstage, you shouldn't be doing it."
The Doobie Brothers will perform at Hard Rock Live, 1 Seminole Way, Hollywood tonight, February 24, at 8 p.m. Tickets cost $55 to $90. Visit ticketmaster.com.