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John Hartman, co-founder of the Doobie Brothers and original drummer of the California rock band, has died. He was 72.
On Thursday, the band announced the death of Hartman in a post on its official Instagram and Twitter accounts, where they praised him as “a wild spirit, a great drummer, and a showman” and offered their condolences to his family.
“Today we’re thinking of John Hartman, or Little John to us. John was a wild spirit, a great drummer, and a showman during his time in the Doobies,” the band wrote in their social media posts. “He was also a close friend for many years and an integral part of the band’s personality! Our condolences to all his family at this difficult time.”
“Rest In Peace John,” said the band. The Doobie Brothers have not confirmed when Hartman died or the cause of his death.
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Hartman formed the original Doobie Brothers with guitarists and singers Patrick Simmons and Tom Johnston in the early 1970s after meeting the two while playing in Bay Area bars in Northern California, according to the band’s official website.
“It all started in 1969, when a drummer named John Hartman came to Northern California. He was there to meet Skip Spence from the band Moby Grape and be part of a supposed band reunion that never got off the ground, ” reads an excerpt from the band’s biography on its website. “But it wasn’t at all. Spence (who also played in Jefferson Airplane) introduced Hartman to his friend Tom Johnston, a local singer/songwriter/guitarist – and they connected. Hartman and Johnston started playing local bars Bay Area.”
“They soon met singer/guitarist Pat Simmons, whose R&B strumming style richly complimented Johnston’s, and laid the foundation for The Doobie Brothers,” the biography says.
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Hartman served as the Doobie Brothers’ drummer on each of the band’s first eight albums, and played on popular tracks including “Listen To The Music,” 1972’s “Long Train Runnin’,” and “What a Fool Believes” from 1978. The band also saw two songs hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 during Hartman’s tenure.
Although he was the band’s original drummer, the Doobie Brothers didn’t have Hartman alone, as the band worked with two men behind the kit from 1971 onward, according to Stereogum.
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Hartman left the band after 1979 and returned for their 1989 reunion album Cycles. He then played with the Doobie Brothers again until he retired in 1992.
In 2020, Hartman was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the Doobie Brothers, along with 8 other performers from the band’s decades.