Doobie Brothers Drummer And Co-Founder John Hartman Dies Aged 72

Hartman, or ‘Little John’ to his former bandmates, last performed with them in 1992.

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John Hartman (left) with the Doobie Brothers – Photo: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
John Hartman (left) with the Doobie Brothers – Photo: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

The Doobie Brothers’ former drummer and co-founder John Hartman has died at the age of 72, his former bandmates have confirmed on their official social media channels.

“Today we are thinking of John Hartman, or Little John to us,” the band wrote. “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! We send our condolences to all his loved ones at this difficult time. Rest in peace John.”

Hartman was born in Falls Church, Virginia, in 1950 and went on to co-found the group with singer and guitarist Tom Johnston in 1970 after relocating to San Jose, California. He served as The Doobie Brothers’ sole drummer until 1971, when Michael Hossack was also added to the line-up, starting the band’s long-running two-drummer formation.

Although the Doobies would continue to use two drummers until 2016, Hartman wasn’t always a part of the line-up. His first stint with the band took place between 1970 and 1979, after which he quit due to tensions within the group. “Everything was falling apart,” he told Rolling Stone in 2020. “I remember sitting in a rehearsal in California and hearing Michael [McDonald, Johnston’s 1975 replacement when the latter fell ill, before his later reinstatement] say he didn’t want to get out his car because of some anxiety.”

The band eventually split in 1982 but got back together five years later to perform at a benefit concert for the Vietnam Veterans Aid Foundation, with Hartman in their ranks. He then remained with the group until 1992, when he retired from the Doobie Brothers for good.

Hartman appears on all of the classic rock icons’ biggest hits from the 70s, including such recurrent favorites as “Listen To The Music,” “Long Train Runnin’,” “China Grove,” and their two US No.1 singles, 1974’s “Black Water” and 1979’s “What A Fool Believes.” The latter won Grammy Awards for Record Of The Year and Song Of The Year. Minute By Minute, the album from which the single was taken, also won the Grammy for Pop Vocal Performance By A Group.

During his second tenure with the band, Hartman also appeared on the albums Cycles, which was released in 1989, and 1991’s Brotherhood. In 2020, he was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame with his Doobie Brothers bandmates.

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