China Grove (as made famous by The Doobie Brothers)

“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 number 15 on the Billboard Hot 100.

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 from his cab driver in Houston. [4] 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. [5]

Long Train Runnin’ (as made famous by The Doobie Brothers)

“Long Train Runnin'” (or “Long Train Running”) is a song recorded by The Doobie Brothers and written by band member Tom Johnston. It was included on the band’s 1973 album The Captain and Me and released as a single, becoming a top 10 hit on the US Billboard Hot 100, peaking at number 8.

It was covered by Italian band Traks in 1982 and then by English girl group Bananarama in 1991. In 1993 the Doobie Brothers version was remixed and charted again in several countries, including reaching number 7 in the UK Singles Chart.

The song is sometimes titled “Long Train Runnin’ (Without Love)” due to the words “without love” being sung frequently during the song. The harmonica solo is played by lead vocalist Tom Johnston.

The tune evolved from an untitled and mostly ad-libbed jam that the Doobies developed onstage years before it was finally recorded. Its working title, according to Johnston, was “Rosie Pig Moseley” and later “Osborn”. “I didn’t want to cut it,” Johnston later confessed. “…I just considered it a bar song without a lot of merit. Teddy [Templeman], on the other hand, thought it had some.” Templeman convinced Johnston to write words to the song.

Johnston performed the lead vocal and the rhythmic guitar strumming that propels the song.