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The San Jose home that started it all for the world-famous rock band Doobie Brothers is on its way to becoming a historical landmark.
On Wednesday night, San Jose’s Historic Landmark Commission unanimously voted to recommend that the City Council make the designation for the Downtown San Jose single-story house, located near Naglee Park.
The Craftsman-style home located at 285 S. 12th St. has been dubbed the Doobie Brothers House for quite some time, with many fans stopping by the house to snap some pictures.
The Doobie Brothers are one of the few purely San Jose bands to make it big — selling more than 40 million albums worldwide.
Within five years of the band’s inception in 1970 in the 12th Street home, they became world-renowned for the music style they called “rugged, real and authentic” rock and roll that seamlessly incorporated influences of a myriad of genres like the blues, country and R&B.
The band’s singer, songwriter and guitarist Tom Johnston rented the 12th Street house from 1969 to 1973 while he studied art at San Jose State University.
After meeting guitarist Patrick Simmons at a gig in Campbell, they formed the band alongside drummer John Hartman and bass player Dave Shogren.
Where it all started
The Doobies used the house as their creative hub, where they practiced and crafted some of their most famous songs. In several interviews, Johnston describes how he came up with the opening riffs to the hit song “China Grove” in his bedroom. Another one of their bangers, “Listen to the Music,” was created in the living room.
It is also the home where the band released its first three studio albums.
In a 2011 interview with Vintage Guitar, Johnston said the house “was kind of a musical center for San Jose. It didn’t matter if they played B-3 or drums, guitar, bass, or horns, they all ended up in our basement.”
And the house seems to have a certain pull to musicians because Radio Hall of Famer Steven Seaweed, who graduated from SJSU in 1969, lived there just before the Doobie Brothers did.
“San Jose has in many ways shaped the soundtrack of this planet … and 285 S. 12th St. is home to hits that help tell a story to a unique place on this planet that drives great music.”Dan Orloff, San Jose Rocks
Considering the great success of the band, historical status to the San Jose home may seem long overdue, but it comes at a good time as the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in November 2020, marking the band’s 50th anniversary.
“San Jose has in many ways shaped the soundtrack of this planet … and 285 S. 12th St. is home to hits that help tell a story to a unique place on this planet that drives great music,” San Jose Rocks’ founder Dan Orloff said during Wednesday’s commission meeting.
Current property owners of the Doobie Brothers house, John and Lauren White, submitted applications to designate historical status in May.
If approved by the City Council, the house would be restored, rehabilitated and maintained over the next decade.
And if given historical landmark status, the house would not only honor the Doobies and other musicians who played in the home, but also the locally prominent architect Wesley Warren Hastings who designed more than 120 homes in San Jose from 1904 to 1910 near Naglee Park.
It would also commemorate Louis Normandin — a father of San Jose’s car dealership industry — because Hastings designed the house for Normandin.
And the Normandins’ impact is still felt in San Jose, as the family’s fifth generation operates the Normandin Chrysler dealership on Capitol Expressway, according to its website.
The vote to commemorate the Doobie Brothers’ home is expected to come to the council within the next few weeks.