John Hartman, the group’s original drummer and a founding member of the Doobie Brothers, has recently gone away. He was 72.
On Thursday, the band announced Hartman’s death via their Instagram and Twitter accounts, paying tribute to him as “a wild spirit, amazing drummer, and showman” and expressing their condolences to his family.
Today, we remember John Hartman, or Little John as we call him. During his time with the Doobies, “John was a free character, a superb drummer, and a showman,” the band said in a series of social media posts. For many years, he was also a trusted friend and integral to the band’s dynamic. Our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family at this time.
The band then added, “Rest In Peace, John.” The Doobie Brothers have been vague about Hartman’s death date and circumstances.
Hartman, Patrick Simmons, and Tom Johnston formed the original Doobie Brothers after meeting in the San Francisco Bay Area bars, as stated on the band’s official website.
In 1969, a drummer named John Hartman settled in the North Bay Area. An excerpt from the band’s biography on their website reads, “He was there to meet Skip Spence from the band Moby Grape and become part of a claimed band reunion that never quite got off the ground.”
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That Nevertheless, our efforts were not completely fruitless. Spence, a former Jefferson Airplane member, introduced Hartman to his friend, local singer/songwriter/guitarist Tom Johnston. It wasn’t long before Hartman and Johnston performed in bars around the Bay Area.
The biography says that “they soon met singer/guitarist Pat Simmons, whose finger-style playing nicely matched Johnston’s R&B strumming-style,” establishing the groundwork for The Doobie Brothers.
Hartman played drums on the first eight albums released by the Doobie Brothers. Popular tracks from 1972 and 1973 on which he was featured include “Listen To The Music” and 1978’s “What a Fool Believes.” Two of the band’s songs peaked at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 while Hartman was at the helm.
Although Hartman was the group’s initial drummer, the Doobie Brothers eventually employed a second drummer, beginning in 1971. That’s what Stereogum says.