Following His Own Footsteps: Heir To A Musical Legend, Pat Simmons Jr. Finds A Familiar Yet Unique Groove
Born in 1990, Pat Simmons, Jr. was a full decade past his dad’s heyday. That isn’t uncommon. Most children only learn about their parents’ antics—professional and otherwise—from hand-me-down stories and photographs from glory days. But when your dad’s profession and his work is nearly a household name, the impact is different.
Pat Simmons Jr is the son of the founder and most consistent member of the Doobie Brothers, the up-tempo folk-rock band that captured a certain zeitgeist of the 1970s California and still enjoys heavy rotation on radio stations, with instantly recognizable hits like “It Keeps You Runnin’” and “China Grove.”
While other sons may take up their dad’s plumbing business or inherit the law firm, Simmons Jr. began opening for his dad’s band as a teenager, and also soon took the stage with other bands from the same wave length and era—the Allman Brothers, The Wailers, Mick Fleetwood, Willie Nelson and, more recently, fellow islander Jack Johnson. It was an auspicious launching pad for a career.
“I always loved performing,” he recently told the Messenger. “I first began going up on stage with the Doobies when not even two years old; every show I was there, I’d walk out on stage with a little guitar for the last encore song, ‘Listen to the Music.’ I did this every summer up until I was in college.” He adds that his mom claims he learned to walk on the tour bus.
Yet, although weaned on music and touring, Simmons Jr’s life also has taken another route. He grew up most of his life on what he describes as “the rural, rainy side of Maui.”
“I’ve always had a strong relationship with the land and the fruit trees we planted when I was a little boy,” he continues. “Now I’m a father to an almost three year old son, and my wife and I feel that’s it’s more important than ever to raise our son close to nature and that means eating fresh food from our land as much as we have the time to cultivate.”
Being rooted—both literally and figuratively—however, is often at odds with life as a traveling musician. “I’ve been reluctant to follow my dad’s footsteps full force because of my extreme attachment to my home, the wild waters and tropical mountains,” Simmons Jr. confesses. “I’m a nature person first and foremost. I surf every day, harvest and process fresh food from the farm, and it’s honestly challenging to leave home and tour.”
But in late July, Simmons Jr’s will leave his homestead and make a barnstorming, five stop tour through southern Oregon, including a stop at the newly renovated venue, The Dorothy Gale Provolt Theater, located at the gateway to the Applegate Valley.
Like Simmons Jr., the couple that took over the venue four years ago—Chris and Diane Baz— also own a farm on Maui, a seven acre organic fruit orchard. And like Simmons Jr, explains Diane Baz, they also feel that pull between celebrating a sense of place and also enjoying the more ephemeral nature of music and experiences. For the past four years, they have been renovating the space in Provolt, which now includes musical and stage shows, as well as an a bakery and espresso bar.
“We are both very interested in promoting health and culinary adventure in community and in pairing great food with great music,” says Diane Baz—which is why the evening with Simmons Jr. includes a luau/southern Oregon fusion themed dinner!
Simmons Jr. will play five shows in the area: July 24, Applegate River Lodge; July 26, Dorothy Gale’s Provolt Theater (Provolt); July 28, Standing Stone Brewing Co. (Ashland); July 30, Johnny B’s (Medford)