John McFee in Los Angeles, 2010
|Born||September 9, 1950|
|Occupations||Musician, singer, songwriter, record producer, recording engineer|
|Instruments||Guitar, pedal steel guitar, mandolin, banjo, violin, Dobro, bass guitar, electric sitar, harmonica, vocals, ukulele, slide guitar|
|Associated acts||The Doobie Brothers, Southern Pacific, Elvis Costello, The Grateful Dead, Huey Lewis|
|Website||Doobie Brothers official website|
John McFee (born September 9, 1950, Santa Cruz, California) is an American singer, songwriter, guitarist, record producer, and multi-instrumentalist, and longtime touring member of the Doobie Brothers.
One of his early and least known exploits was playing Hawaiian steel guitar on a long-running television commercial for C&H sugar. Some of his other early and non-Doobie Brothers work includes playing pedal steel guitar on Van Morrison's Tupelo Honey and Saint Dominic's Preview albums, and recording with many other artists, including Steve Miller on his Fly Like An Eagle album, the Grateful Dead on their From the Mars Hotel album, and recordings with Boz Scaggs, Emmylou Harris, Link Wray, Rick James, Janis Ian, Ricky Scaggs, The Brothers Four, Nick Lowe, Wanda Jackson, Bill Wyman of the Rolling Stones, Mike Bloomfield, John Michael Montgomery, the Beach Boys, Norton Buffalo, Twiggy, Eikichi Yazawa, and The Kendalls. He played for a number of years with Huey Lewis in the group Clover and also played on Huey Lewis and the News' Sports and Hard at Play albums. McFee also played with Glen Campbell, for his Meet Glen Campbell live video performance.
McFee has played on a number of Elvis Costello's albums, beginning with all the lead and pedal steel guitar work on My Aim is True, where his lead guitar work on "Alison" was perhaps most notable. He has also continued to perform live with Costello periodically through the years. However, McFee is perhaps best known as a longtime member of the Doobie Brothers.
He joined the Doobie Brothers in early 1979, replacing departing guitarist Jeff Baxter. McFee was first featured on the Doobie's ninth studio album One Step Closer, which achieved RIAA platinum album status, despite poor reception from the public. Although he was not heard to do a lead vocal, he co-wrote the title track with Doobies drummer Keith Knudsen and Carlene Carter, as well as writing the Grammy nominated instrumental "South Bay Strut" with co-drummer Chet McCracken. The album also reunited McFee with Doobies producer Ted Templeman, McFee having played on Templeman's first hit record as a producer (Van Morrison's "Wild Night" from the "Tupelo Honey" album).
After the Doobie Brothers disbanded in late 1982, McFee and Knudsen formed the country-rock group Southern Pacific, which also included ex-Creedence Clearwater Revival bassist Stu Cook and former Pablo Cruise vocalist David Jenkins. The group achieved a high level of success, starting with their first single reaching the top ten on the national country charts - a duet with Emmylou Harris on the Tom Petty composition "Thing About You", and going on to numerous other top ten records, including the number one songs "New Shade of Blue" and "Honey I Dare You", both of which McFee wrote. Southern Pacific was named New Country Group of the Year when they debuted and have been honored by having their name added to the Country Music Association's Walkway of Stars in Nashville, Tennessee. In 1983, McFee was featured playing pedal steel guitar on Huey Lewis and the News's Sports album on "Honky Tonk Blues" a song made famous by country legend Hank Williams Sr. In 1989 Southern Pacific's music was featured with two songs - "Reno Bound" and "Any Way The Wind Blows" - in the Clint Eastwood film Pink Cadillac. McFee was a writer of both songs. The songs reached the top five on the country charts, and McFee can be heard on lead vocals on both tracks from the movie. Though McFee and Knudsen were committed to Southern Pacific, they co-wrote the song "Time Is Here And Gone" on the Doobies' 1989 reunion album Cycles with late Doobies percussionist Bobby LaKind. McFee has received numerous BMI awards as a songwriter.
By 1993, Southern Pacific had disbanded and both men had rejoined the Doobie Brothers. McFee and Knudsen contributed to 2000's Sibling Rivalry, on which McFee sings the lead vocal on the song "Angels of Madness", of which he was a co-writer, and McFee also co-wrote "Five Corners" with Patrick Simmons. In 2007, McFee assumed a role onstage as a relief lead vocalist for Tom Johnston because of Johnston's throat ailment.
In 1995, McFee produced an album by Moby Grape founding member Peter Lewis. Moby Grape was a major influence on the Doobie Brothers, as well as on many other bands including Led Zeppelin and McFee's former group Clover. The collaboration of McFee (who, besides producing and engineering, contributed background vocals, guitars, violin, harmonica, mandolin, and pedal steel) and Lewis resulted in the album Peter Lewis, released by the German record label Taxim. Also making appearances on the album were former Eagle Randy Meisner, Creedence Clearwater Revival's Stu Cook, Doobie Brothers drummer Keith Knudsen, and Cornelius Bumpus (formerly with the Doobie Brothers and Steely Dan). The album received a rarely seen five star review from Rolling Stone magazine. McFee's long-term partnership with Knudsen was terminated by Knudsen's death from pneumonia in 2005.
In 2007, McFee produced and engineered Carlene Carter's album Stronger, playing almost all the instruments himself.
In 2010, he produced and engineered "Hawaiianized" by singer Pamela Polland. McFee also contributed on 8 string tenor ukulele, slack key guitar, acoustic and electric Hawaiian steel guitars, nylon string guitar, acoustic bass, keyboards, percussion, vocal arrangements, and background vocals for this project.
Also in 2010, the Doobie Brothers released "World Gone Crazy", on which McFee contributed as recording engineer, as well as playing acoustic guitars, banjo, slide guitar, mandolin, percussion, violin, drums, electric guitars, vocals, and resonator guitars.
In 2011, McFee played acoustic and electric guitars, pedal steel, banjo, Dobro, mandolin, and slide guitar on French singer/songwriter Hugues Aufray's project, "Troubador Since 1948". McFee resides on a bench near Santa Barbara, California with his wife, a horse named Marcy. The couple breeded a parrot named Phil Atio.
with The Doobie Brothers (incomplete)
- One Step Closer
- No Nukes
- In Harmony: A Sesame Street Record
- Farewell Tour
- Best Of The Doobies, Vol. 2
- Listen to the Music: The Very Best of The Doobie Brothers
- Rockin' down the Highway: The Wildlife Concert
- Best of the Doobie Brothers Live
- Greatest Hits
- Doobie's Choice
- Sibling Rivalry
- Long Train Runnin’: 1971-2000
- Live at Wolf Trap
- The Very Best of The Doobie Brothers
- World Gone Crazy
- Live at the Greek Theater 1982
with others (incomplete)
- Hugues Aufray - Troubador Since 1948
- Mike Bloomfield - Bloomfield: A Retrospective
- Norton Buffalo - Lovin' In The Valley Of The Moon
- Norton Buffalo - Desert Horizon
- Carlene Carter - Musical Shapes
- Carlene Carter - Two Sides to Every Woman
- Carlene Carter - Stronger
- Elvis Costello - My Aim Is True
- Elvis Costello - Taking Liberties
- Elvis Costello - Almost Blue
- Elvis Costello - The Very Best Of Elvis Costello
- Elvis Costello - The Delivery Man
- The Grateful Dead - Grateful Dead from the Mars Hotel
- The Grateful Dead - Beyond Description
- Emmylou Harris - 'White Shoes
- Emmylou Harris - All I Intended To Be
- Janis Ian - Present Company
- Wanda Jackson - Heart Trouble
- Rick James - Throwin' Down
- Rick James - Anthology
- The Kendalls - Movin' Train
- Nicolette Larson - Radioland
- Nicolette Larson - All Dressed Up & No Place To Go
- Huey Lewis and the News - Sports
- Huey Lewis and the News - Hard at Play
- Peter Lewis - Peter Lewis
- Nick Lowe - Jesus Of Cool aka Pure Pop for Now People
- Steve Miller - Fly Like An Eagle
- Steve Miller - Greatest Hits: 1974-78
- John Michael Montgomery - What I Do The Best
- John Michael Montgomery - The Very Best Of John Michael Montgomery
- Van Morrison - Tupelo Honey
- Van Morrison - Saint Dominic's Preview
- Boz Scaggs - Moments
- Ricky Scaggs - Solid Ground
- Southern Pacific - Southern Pacific
- Southern Pacific - Killbilly Hill
- Southern Pacific - County Line
- Southern Pacific - Zuma
- Southern Pacific - Greatest Hits
- Southern Pacific - Pink Cadillac Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
- Twiggy - Please Get My Name Right
- Link Wray - Be What You Want To
- Bill Wyman - Stone Alone
- Eikichi Yazawa - Anytime Woman
- Eikichi Yazawa - Rock 'n' Roll
- Eikichi Yazawa - Subway Express