China Grove (song)

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"China Grove"
China Grove.jpg
Single by The Doobie Brothers
from the album The Captain and Me
B-side "Evil Woman"
Released July 25, 1973
Format 7" single
Recorded 1973
Genre Hard rock
Length 3:16
Label Warner Brothers
Songwriter(s) Tom Johnston
Producer(s) Ted Templeman
The Doobie Brothers singles chronology
"Long Train Runnin'"
"China Grove"
"Black Water"
"Long Train Runnin'"
"China Grove'"
"Black Water"

"China Grove" is a song on The Doobie Brothers' 1973 album The Captain and Me. It was written and sung by original main singer/songwriter Tom Johnston.[1] The song reached #15 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Composition and recording[edit]

Part of the guitar riff uses a variant on the clave rhythm.

In 2010, examination of the master recording tape for the track by recording engineer Chris Baseford, revealed that, similar to most bands of the time, the band played together while tracking in the studio instead of overdubbing the instrumental elements; some guitar amp sound could be heard leaking into the drum tracks and some drum tracks leaking into the guitar track. The production on the song was described as "pretty standard". Aside from the drums, panned slightly off center, there were some additional percussion, tambourine, and handclap overdubs. Baseford described the bass performance and sound on this song as "top notch" with Tiran Porter playing the melodic line using a pick and plugging directly into the mixing board.[2]


Like many songs by Johnston, the music was composed and developed before the lyrics were written. It started with a guitar riff that he and drummer John Hartman developed into a jam with a chord structure. Johnston said that the lyrics were influenced by a piano part in the performance. According to Johnston, "...I really owe Billy Payne for the words because he played this wacky bridge that started the thinking process with this wacky sheriff, samurai swords, and all that."[3]

The song is based on a real town in Texas. Johnston thought he had created a fictional town called "China Grove" near San Antonio, Texas, and later learned it really exists. He explained that the band had been on tour passing through China Grove on the way to or from San Antonio, and he had seen a road sign with the name, but forgot about it. [4]

Chart performance[edit]


  1. ^ Spatz, David J. (April 29, 2010). "Listen to the Doobies". Atlantic City Weekly. Retrieved August 5, 2012. 
  2. ^ Chris Baseford June 16, 2010 (June 16, 2010). "Secrets of the Masters: The Doobie Brothers "China Grove"". Retrieved November 26, 2015. 
  3. ^ Meeker, Ward (August 4, 2012). "Doobie Brothers: A Discussion with Tom Johnston and Patrick Simmons". Vintage Guitar. Retrieved August 5, 2012. 
  4. ^ Interview of Tom Johnston, by Carl Wiser, of Songfacts, October 8, 2009.
  5. ^ [Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles 1955-2002]
  6. ^ "Cash Box Top 100 10/20/73". October 20, 1973. Retrieved May 7, 2016. 
  7. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1999). Pop Annual. Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. p. 316. ISBN 0-89820-142-X. 

External links[edit]