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Simmons duo kicks off slate of MACC shows

Father and son play classics, unreleased tune for virtual concert

Pat Simmons Sr. (left) and son Pat Simmons Jr. perform at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center in 2018. The father and son duo will kick off the latest series of “Live @ the MACC” virtual shows starting Saturday. Photo courtesy of the MACC

Inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in November as a founding member of the Doobie Brothers, Pat Simmons delivered his acceptance speech virtually from his Haiku home.

“Some day we will all be together again, sharing the music and the love,” he said during a pandemic-era broadcast. “Thank you, aloha.”

Performing with the Doobie Brothers for 50 years, Simmons will team with his son Pat Simmons Jr. for a special livestream concert at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, presented by the Maui Arts & Cultural Center.

“Art Vento at the MACC asked if we could recreate the father and son show we presented a couple of years ago,” Simmons explained. “It’s nice to help out a little and do something different. We sat down and came up with a dozen songs, some stuff we had done before and a few new things. He has a new song and I have a new song.”

Prerecorded in the Castle Theater, the Saturday concert will kick off a series of “Live @ the MACC” streaming shows running through Jan. 30.

With the pandemic causing a temporary halt to touring with the Doobie Brothers, Simmons is looking forward to the Maui broadcast with his son, and debuting a new song called “Cannonball.”

“It’s a new Doobie Brothers’ tune I wrote that hasn’t been released yet,” he said. “This will be the premiere. It’s really a hard rocking song, and Pat (Jr.) really stepped up. He brought a great background harmony and laid into it with his guitar.

“I’m also playing some traditional stuff, the Doc Watson tune ‘Deep River Blues’ and Tom Paxton’s ‘I Can’t Help but Wonder Where I’m Bound,’ which I played in the early ’60s in coffee houses. And I’m playing some old Doobie’s stuff, ‘Black Water’ of course.”

In a normal year, Simmons would have headed to Cleveland, Ohio, in May to celebrate his band’s induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. The annual ceremony was pushed back to November and then canceled and replaced with a virtual event, hence Simmons’ speech from Maui.

The Doobies were inducted by country star Luke Bryan, who proclaimed the group: “One of those iconic American bands that seem to have been with us forever, making incredible music.”

“It was a nice presentation with interviews from different eras,” said Simmons. “Nancy Wilson from Heart said some really nice things about us. Mike (McDonald) and Tommy (Johnston) and I spoke, and I did my acceptance speech in my backyard.”

With a lot of downtime, the Doobie Brothers have been posting new videos online with the musicians recorded in their individual homes. In October, they teamed with rock legend Peter Frampton for an inspired cover of Eric Clapton’s song “Let It Rain.” The YouTube video has garnered around 400,000 views.

“It was so much fun,” Simmons said. “I was knocked out. We’re having some fun and keeping our connection with our audience.”

Next up, they plan a new cover of the McDonald-composed, Doobie’s classic “Takin’ it to the Streets,” from their 1976 album of the same name. With the musicians playing in front of green screens, various street scenes will be superimposed behind them.

“We all bought green screens and self-produced our own parts,” he said. “With the green screens, it’s taking it to the streets with more social relevance that Mike was thinking about in the first place, and so there’s images of civil rights marches from the ’60s and more recent marches.”

The band is also working on a cover of the Staples Singers’ civil rights anthem “Freedom Highway,” which they will release as a future video.

“Our arrangement is so amazing,” Simmons said. “It started out as a typical Staples’ thing and ended up going into almost progressive jazz. It’s phenomenal. I’m really thrilled.”

It’s been more than a year since Pat Simmons Jr. has played a live gig, as he’s been busy raising new twins with his wife.

“We rehearsed between parenting hours,” he explained. Collaborating with his father on stage, “was cool, but it was obviously different with no audience. There’s a couple of tunes like ‘Slippery St. Paul’ from their first record I wasn’t familiar with, and it was cool for me to learn more well-known Doobie’s songs like ‘South City Midnight Lady.’ It was really fun to have just my dad and I on stage.”

The free “Live @ the MACC” series is made possible by the support of the County of Maui and the Office of Economic Development. Shows are available for viewing on the MACC’s website as well as its Facebook and YouTube pages.

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