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Doobie Brothers prefer lighting up stages to joints these days

WANT TO GO?

The Doobie Brothers

WHERE: Clay Center

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Sunday

TICKETS: Sold out. Check for last minute availability. INFO: 304-561-3570 or www.theclaycenter.org

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Doobie Brothers might have gotten their name from an early love for smoking pot but the band's main singer/songwriter, Tom Johnston, doesn't care a lot about the drug these days.

The 65-year-old, who performs with the band Sunday night at the Clay Center, said, "I don't pay a lot of attention to it. I don't smoke it. I'm not part of the culture. Those days are long gone."

That being said, Johnston added that he'd read about how there were a lot of beneficial, medically viable treatments that could be drawn from marijuana. There's been some promising discussion about help for seizures, for example.

"As far as legalizing it goes..."

He sighed and said, "I think they should have done it years ago. The laws we have on that are stupid. I don't want to get on my soapbox because I don't spend any time thinking about it, but I think we're going about it all wrong. That people caught with small amounts getting thrown into prison is ridiculous."

And that's all Johnston has to say about that.

Instead of partying, the band just keeps working, with little sign of slacking off any time soon. Lately, the Doobies have been touring, playing most of their hits, along with a few cuts off their latest record, 2010's "World Gone Crazy."

"At this point, with a 90-minute set, we're doing two songs off the new album," Johnston said. "We were doing five when the record first came out, but we've kind of winnowed it down."

Fans who come to see them Sunday night will hear a lot of hits and a few other tunes from the band's dozen records, with some notable exceptions. Johnston said they're not doing anything from the Doobie Brothers' first record, and they're only doing two songs from the Michael McDonald period of the band's history (1976-1980).

"We're doing 'Taking It To The Streets' and 'Dependin' on You,' which is something Pat [Simmons] wrote," he said.

That likely leaves out some hits like "What A Fool Believes" and "Minute by Minute," but that's not because there's any animosity between the Doobie Brothers and McDonald. The singer/songwriter drops in with the band from time to time as a special guest, but he's not on tour with them -- and other people wrote songs, too.

Slowly, this tour is winding down. Johnston said the Doobie Brothers plan to finish out their year and then, hopefully, get into the studio next year for a new record.

"It's going to be a country thing, actually," he said. "It's something they've been doing a lot of lately. We're doing an album of our songs with country artists -- like an artist per song."

The lineup of who is doing what song with them isn't finalized, but Johnston said they expect to be working with country stars like Blake Shelton, Miranda Lambert and Toby Keith.

"When it's going to get done, I'm not really sure," he said. "It all revolves around everyone's schedules, but I think it will be a really neat project."

He isn't so sure how all of their songs are going to translate, though. Some of the songs, he thinks, are obvious fits. "Black Water" has a country sound to it.

"That's the one everyone seems to think of," he said.

Others might be trickier.

Johnston sounded surprised that people in Nashville were even interested in doing a country record of Doobie Brothers songs.

"But I guess a lot of country is more rock with country-style singing," he said, which sounds perfectly cool to him. Reach Bill Lynch at lynch@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5195.


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