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John Hartman, a cofounder of the Doobie Brothers and the California rock band’s original drummer, has died. He was 72.
On Thursday, the band announced Hartman’s death in posts on its official Instagram and Twitter accounts, where they complimented him as “a wild spirit, great drummer, and showman” and offered condolences to his family.
“Today we are thinking of John Hartman, or Little John to us. John was a wild spirit, great drummer, and showman during his time in the Doobies,” the band wrote in its social media posts. “He was also a close friend for many years and an intricate part of the band’s personality! We send our condolences to all his loved ones at this difficult time.”
“Rest In Peace John,” the band added. The Doobie Brothers did not confirm when Hartman died or his cause of death.
Hartman formed the original Doobie Brothers with guitarists and vocalists Patrick Simmons and Tom Johnston in the early 1970s after meeting the pair while playing in Bay Area bars in Northern California, according to the band’s official website.
“It all began in 1969, when a drummer named John Hartman arrived in Northern California. He was there to meet Skip Spence from the band Moby Grape and become part of a supposed band reunion that never quite got off the ground,” an excerpt from the band’s biography on its website reads. “But it wasn’t all for naught. Spence (who had also played in the Jefferson Airplane) introduced Hartman to his friend Tom Johnston, a local singer/songwriter/guitarist -and they connected. Hartman and Johnston began playing local Bay Area bars.”
“They soon met singer/guitarist Pat Simmons, whose finger-style playing richly complimented Johnston’s R&B strumming-style, and the foundation for The Doobie Brothers was set,” the biography adds.
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Hartman served as the Doobie Brothers’ drummer on each of the band’s first eight albums, and performed on popular tracks including 1972’s “Listen To The Music,” 1973’s “Long Train Runnin’,” and 1978’s “What a Fool Believes.” The band also saw two songs hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 during Hartman’s tenure.
Though he was the band’s original drummer, Hartman was not the Doobie Brothers’ only, as the band operated 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 its 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-long career.