Celebrity Drive: Doobie Brothers Guitarist Patrick Simmons


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Quick Stats: Patrick Simmons, guitarist/vocalist, Grammy-winning Doobie Brothers
Daily Driver: Late model Toyota Tacoma (Pat’s rating: 10 on a scale of 1 to 10)
Favorite road trip: highway 128 from Cloverdale to Mendocino
Car he learned to drive in: 1953 Chevy
First car bought: 1962 Ford Falcon

Although Doobie Brothers’ cofounder and guitarist/vocalist Patrick Simmons collects his share of old motorcycles, there is one car that he bought years ago that’s still his beloved classic ride.

“It’s a Cadillac, which are pretty cool cars,” he says about his 1949 Cadillac. “I saw a hot rod made from that car, and I fell in love with the lines of the hot rod. This is before the internet. I found it in Hemmings Motor News and made an appointment to go look at the car, and it was the car I was looking for, and I bought it. I’ve had it for over 30 years.”

Although he considers Cadillacs to be pretty cool cars, Simmons also rates it a perfect 10. “Just a fun car, fun driver,” he says. “It’s probably a car I shouldn’t own still. When I moved to Hawaii, I took it with me because I was so in love with the car. and I had an Austin Healey 3000 that was my fun, sporty car—the last model of the Austin Healey.”

He says the Austin Healey would’ve been a perfect car to have in Hawaii, but he sold it before he moved because he wasn’t going to have a garage and only wanted to have one car, so he shipped his Cadillac. “I’m glad I did because I love the old car,” he says.

Even though the Doobie Brothers are on tour all the time, Simmons manages to maintain the Cadillac. “I start it every time I’m home,” he says. “I left it for years and didn’t drive it, and I regretted that because then it became undriveable. So for a couple years I worked on it and rebuilt a number of assemblies on the thing and now it’s running well. I’m still tweaking on it. I’m replacing the insulation on the doors. That kind of stuff I do because it’s easy, and it’s something to do.”

Toyota Tacoma

Rating: 10

Simmons rates his relatively new late model Toyota Tacoma a perfect 10 because these pickups have been so reliable for him.

“I’ve been driving Toyotas for years,” he says. “I bought a brand-new Toyota in 1990, and I put a couple hundred thousand miles, and it performed well. I moved to Hawaii and through the years, it started getting body rot and still drove great. Finally I had a friend that needed a car, and I gave it to him. They’re still driving it. That’s good testimony to the drivability and longevity of the vehicles. I had a Previa. Same thing, drove that Previa till we drove the wheels off it.”

Simmons says Toyotas handle well: “I’m a maintenance guy, so I maintain my cars and that probably adds to the longevity. There’s nothing I could tell you that’s been bad about the car. It’s been very reliable, fun car to drive, if you think driving’s fun. I do.”

He lives out in the country and always had horses, so a pickup was a must. “The utility factor is huge for me—being able to haul stuff,” he says. “I put motorcycles in the back, too. I can put a Harley in the back and haul it wherever I need it to go. I’ve done that a lot. I live out in East Maui, as you go out to Hana. We’re out in the sticks. I grew up in Northern California and lived in Santa Cruz. I had a Toyota back then. too, back in the ’70s. Always been a country guy.”

Car he learned to drive in

Simmons grew up in San Jose, where he learned to drive his dad’s 1953 Chevy.

“I got to drive it a lot, so that’s pretty cool,” he says. “It was a great car. My dad taught me, and you took Driver’s Ed in California. It was an easier way to get your license and lowered your insurance rates. I was happy to do that.”

Back then learning to drive around town was easy because there was a lot of open countryside. “It was a whole different thing. A lot of orchards, mostly, and vineyards,” he says.

There is one late memory driving through the streets of San Jose that’s indelible in Simmons’ mind. “I once drove that car in reverse from a place I worked all the way home because the transmission went out,” he says. “I had to drive it in reverse home about four miles. It was an early power glide transmission, and the band had loosened. The band—it’s a tightening mechanism that can affect the engagement of the automatic transmission.”

Simmons had a job at a gas station. “My mother and father went away for the weekend, and they told me not to drive the car while they were gone, but I did anyway, and I ended up at where I was working,” he says. “I drove down there to hang with some friends, and the car wouldn’t go in drive. This was about midnight hanging out at the gas station, so I had to get the car home before my parents got home. So I drove the car in reverse all the way back home.”

He was just 16, and Simmons says they were having more fun than usual, as teens can do hanging out late at night. “I couldn’t decide whether I should be driving with traffic in reverse or on the right side of the road that I should be driving on, in reverse though,” he says.

Simmons ended up driving with traffic in reverse. “I figured it’d be better than having a head on with oncoming traffic,” he says. “I couldn’t believe I made it back in one piece. I was so lucky.”

Simmons drove his dad’s Chevy all through high school, and when it came time to go to college, he needed his own car when he moved downtown to the campus at San Jose State.

Photo: Andrew Macpherson

First car bought

Simmons bought a used four-door 1962 Ford Falcon, which was white with a red interior. “It was such a great car. These days it’s a classic. Those cars all of a sudden have value,” he says. “For years they were just an ordinary car. But like so many cars now, they’re collectible. I went and looked at cars. I just started driving cars, and that was one that caught my eye. It was affordable and something that was in my price range.”

He ended up driving the Falcon for a long time. “Really a good car. Good mileage. Dependable. I’ve been so lucky with cars,” he says of the Falcon, which had the gear shift on the steering wheel, like his dad’s Chevy. “Mine was an automatic, that was a luxury.”

In college Simmons was in a fraternity, and the Falcon was the necessary vehicle to transport him and friends to wherever the action was away from campus. “We went up to the Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco a lot because that was the cool psychedelic hangout,” he says. “So I would pile a lot of people in my car and head up to San Francisco. I was the guy with the car.”

He sold the Falcon to a friend and bought his first pickup truck, a circa mid-1960s International. “I loved pickups,” he says. “I always wanted one, but they were more expensive. It was pretty old. I was in a band, but I had animals back then. I had goats, and I needed something I could haul hay and feed with. And motorcycles. I’ve been doing the same thing for a long time.”

The car Simmons regrets he sold

Some people hang on to a car for its emotional attachment, and others have regrets of a car they never should have let go of for the same reason.

“I’ve had a lot of cars,” he says. “Probably my biggest splurge was a Mercedes 300 SL Roadster that I should never have sold. I traded it for a tractor.”

He bought the resplendent 1960 roadster that matched his rock star status in 1977, when the Doobie Brothers were at the peak of their fame in the early days. It was also a year after the Best of the Doobies album came out, which has sold more than 12 million albums and helped him buy that splurge car.

“It said 1960 on the title, but I’ve been told that sometimes the title didn’t match when the cars were made,” he says. “They match when the cars were titled. So when they made them in Germany, they made it a limited run and some of those cars sat in warehouses until they actually sold them. But it only had 14,000 original miles. It was the most amazing car. I never should have sold it.”

Simmons surmises his Mercedes was actually built in the 1950s. “That was a great car. Bought it at a vintage car place,” he says. “It was an amazing car. I never should have sold it.”

Back then, Simmons paid $34,000. “They’re way up there in value,” he says. “I needed a tractor. I made a few bucks on it and turned around and bought a tractor,” he says. “We were doing real well, I never would have bought it earlier. I tend to blow a lot of money, mostly on old motorcycles. I’m a old motorcycle guy more than anything.”

Favorite road trip

“I love driving up to Mendocino, California where I lived for a number of years,” he says. “There’s a wonderful drive, Highway 128, which goes from Highway 1 right near a little town called Cloverdale, and you take it all the way out to Mendocino.”

Simmons still takes this drive a lot because he has a house in Mendocino. “It’s a fabulous little drive through the redwoods and through the hills and comes out at the Navarro River, which empties into the Pacific Ocean. Beautiful,” he says. “It’s probably one of the most beautiful places in the world, and I’ve been all over the place, and it’s way up there with beautiful areas.”

He loves the drive because in addition to the scenery, the area is sparsely populated. “Probably within 60 miles there isn’t more than 10,000 people. It’s kind of like Big Sur, only with stuff to do,” he says. “There’s restaurants, and there’s a movie theater and grocery stores. So it’s a lot more civilized than Big Sur, but the magnificence of the scenery is beyond beautiful. Highway 1 is a great road also to meander on. I like to ride my motorcycle up there. It’s very isolated. It takes about an hour and half to get there from Highway 101.”

Even though he grew up in San Jose, Simmons had never been to Mendocino but had always heard about it. “People always used to say, ‘That’s a great place to go camping and to hike’ and one day I just drove out there and when I hit the coast, I thought, ‘This is it, this is where I want to be,’” Simmons says. “I lived there for nine years, and I thought I’d be retired and that wasn’t the case. I ended up working, so it was a hard place to do what I do from. But some day I might move back there.”

Simmons is based in Hawaii now, where it’s more convenient to go on the road for tour dates than Mendocino. “In Hawaii, in 20 minutes I’m at the airport, as opposed to four or five hours from Mendocino.

Classic East, West, and Northwest with the Eagles

This summer, the Doobie Brothers had hugely successful stadium concerts with the Eagles in the Classic East and Classic West. It was the first time they’d played on the same bill in years, and the first time the Eagles performed since the passing of Glenn Frey.

“We had played gigs with them quite a few times through the years because they’re our era. We had records about same time period in the ’70s,” Simmons says. “We considered it a huge compliment to participate—some great music and a really good atmosphere and really felt like a ’60s festival. It was really cool.”

The Classic concerts were so successful, the two bands will be playing again in Seattle on Sept. 30 in the Classic Northwest. Although they shared the bill with Steely Dan this summer, the Seattle gig is just the Doobie Brothers and the Eagles.

Photo: Kelly A. Swift

The Doobie Brothers on tour

The Doobie Brothers are always touring on their own, having completed a summer tour with Chicago. Throughout September, the band is on the road around the country. In late October, the band leaves for Europe.

Simmons thought he was retiring to Mendocino, but life had other plans. “I just didn’t think we’d be getting the gigs,” he says. “We keep working, we keep getting the offers. I like playing and getting the offers. ‘Let’s go.’ We used to do 150 shows a year. We cut back. We’re doing 70-80 shows these days. We’re getting older, creeping up on 70. At this point 70-80 shows a year is comfortable, so we’re lucky to be able to make it work that way.”

Simmons doesn’t take it lightly that he’s been able to be travel the world for his entire adulthood, doing what he loves, and being able to bring people back to a time that was simpler. He sees it as a privilege.

“It is a blessing,” he says. “It’s not anything that I ever was expecting. I’d play music because I like playing, as a kid. You always dream of being in a band, but more just being in a band. I never thought about what that might bring. It was just, ‘I’ll be able to play with some other people, some other great guitar players and be able to offer something that they might like, and maybe they’ll like me, too.’”

For Simmons, this is what it’s all about. “To be doing this after so many years, it is a gift for sure,” he says. “I think that’s why I keep doing it, and why I’ve always done it. It’s like, ‘I don’t want to let it get away.’ This is what I’ve always wanted—to play, have fun, travel.”

Although they’ve won Grammy awards, there’s a push to get the Doobie Brothers into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. They’ve sold more than 48 million albums, but the band isn’t resting on its laurels. They’re working on new music, and Simmons is hoping for a new album in the spring.

“We’re shooting for that, we’ll see. At least we’ll have something we’re working on. So that’s kind of cool,” he says. “We went into the studio and recorded some tunes. Good songs happening. I had a couple, and the other guitar player Tom (Johnston) had a couple songs, and we recorded them. They came out really good—we were really happy.”

For more information please go to thedoobiebrothers.com.

Photo: Kelly A. Swift


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