Toto is an American rock band formed in 1977 in Van Nuys in Greater Los Angeles, California. The band's current lineup consists of Joseph Williams (lead vocals), David Paich (keyboards, vocals), Steve Porcaro (keyboards), Steve Lukather (guitars, vocals), and Keith Carlock (drums). Bass player Nathan East is currently touring with Toto as a guest musician, as Mike Porcaro is too ill to tour. Toto is known for a musical style that combines elements of pop, rock, soul, funk, progressive rock, hard rock, R&B and jazz.
David Paich and Jeff Porcaro had played together as session musicians on several albums and decided to form a band. David Hungate, Steve Lukather, Steve Porcaro and Bobby Kimball were recruited before their first album release. The band enjoyed great commercial success in the late 1970s and 1980s, beginning with the band's eponymous debut released in 1978. With the release of the critically acclaimed and commercially successful Toto IV (1982), Toto became one of the best-selling music groups of their era. They are best known for the Top 5 hits "Hold the Line", "Rosanna", and "Africa". Several changes to the lineup have been made over the years. In 2008, Lukather announced his departure from the band, and the remaining band members later went their separate ways. In the summer of 2010, Toto reformed and went on a short European tour, with a new lineup, to benefit Mike Porcaro, who had been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and is no longer an active member of the band.
The band has released a total of 17 albums, and have sold over 35 million albums to date. The group was honored with several Grammy Awards and was inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum in 2009.
The members of Toto were regulars on albums by Steely Dan, Seals and Crofts, Boz Scaggs, Sonny and Cher, and many others, contributing to many of the most popular records of the 1970s. Keyboardist David Paich, son of musician and session player/arranger Marty Paich, rose to fame after having co-written much of Scaggs's Silk Degrees album. Having played on many sessions with drummer Jeff Porcaro (the son of noted session percussionist Joe Porcaro), whom he met while attending Grant High School in Van Nuys, California, where they formed the band Rural Still Life, Paich began to discuss seriously with Porcaro the possibility of their forming their own band. They brought in bassist and fellow session vet David Hungate, having played with him in the backing band for Boz Scaggs. In addition, the duo asked guitarist Steve Lukather (who also played in Scaggs's band as a replacement for Les Dudek) and Jeff Porcaro's brother Steve Porcaro (keyboards) to join the team. Lukather and Steve Porcaro were high school classmates, and continued the band Rural Still Life (the name shortened to Still Life) after Paich and Jeff graduated. With the addition of former S.S. Fools singer Bobby Kimball, the group began to work on their first album in 1977 after signing with Columbia Records.
Band name and debut album (1977–1979)
Once the band came together, David Paich began composing what would become the eponymous debut album, Toto. According to popular myth, at the first recording sessions, in order to distinguish their own demo tapes from other bands' in the studio, Jeff Porcaro wrote the word "Toto" on them. In the early 1980s, band members told the press that the band was named after the dog in The Wizard of Oz. One popular rumor is that the name came from Bobby Kimball's "true" last name, Toteaux. This rumor was in fact only a joke popularized by former bassist David Hungate. After the completion of the first album, the band and record were still unnamed. David Hungate, after viewing the name on the demo tapes, explained to the group that the word "Toto" in Latin translated to "all-encompassing." Because the band members played on so many different records and many different musical genres, they adopted the name "Toto" as their own.
After its release, Toto climbed the charts quickly, earning popularity with the hit single "Hold the Line", as well as the charting "I'll Supply the Love" and "Georgy Porgy". The band garnered international acclaim and was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best New Artist. Shortly thereafter, in early 1979, Toto embarked on their first American tour in support of the debut album. For the tour, Toto brought along two additional musicians, Tom Kelly (guitar, backup vocals) and Lenny Castro (percussion), to increase the depth of the sound, and continued to bring additional touring musicians for all subsequent tours. (See the "Tour Musicians" section below).
Hydra and Turn Back (1980–1981)
At the close of the first tour, the band began work on their next album, entitled Hydra, which was released later that year and featured the single "99", inspired by George Lucas' cult film THX 1138. Nearly 30 years later, Steve Lukather confessed that, despite the song's popularity, he hated "99" and that it's one of his least favorite Toto songs, which is why it was no longer performed live until in Poland for their 35th Anniversary Tour on the 25th of June 2013. The band also released four promotional music videos for the album, including the title track. Although the album Hydra failed to achieve the commercial success of Toto's first release, it still went Gold. Following the album's release, the band set out on the "Hydra Tour", which featured both American and international dates. The tour lasted from February until June 1980.
In early 1981, Toto released their third album, Turn Back. The album was a venture into arena rock and featured heavier guitar and fewer keyboards than on the previous two records.
On December 15, 1981, Bobby Kimball was arrested for allegedly selling cocaine to an undercover police officer.
Toto IV (1982)
1982 marked the beginning of Toto's most successful era. After the disappointing sales of Turn Back, the band was under a great deal of pressure from the record company to produce a new smash record. With the Triple Platinum-certified Toto IV, the band delivered one of the most commercially successful records of the '80s. The album featured three singles that reached the Top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart: "Rosanna", "Africa" and "I Won't Hold You Back". The album also appeared on several worldwide charts, introducing the band to new audiences around the globe. "Africa" topped the charts in February 1983 and was a constant presence on radios around the world, but it was "Rosanna" that earned the band multiple Grammy nominations. Toto IV earned seven Grammy Awards, including "Record of the Year" for "Rosanna", "Album of the Year" for Toto IV and "Producer of the Year". At the time Steve Porcaro was dating actress Rosanna Arquette, but the song is not about her, according to writer David Paich. In the music video for the song, Cynthia Rhodes plays the title character. In addition to "Africa" and "Rosanna", Toto IV continued its successful run with the release of another single, "Make Believe". Toto toured throughout 1982 in support of Toto IV. Michael Jackson's recording "Human Nature" from his best-selling album Thriller (1982) was co-written and co-composed by Steve Porcaro.
Subsequent to the Toto IV release, bassist David Hungate left the band. Hungate, who had relocated to Nashville in 1982 to pursue a session/production career, felt that the fame surrounding Toto IV would prevent him from spending time with his family. Mike Porcaro replaced him on bass. Lead singer Bobby Kimball spent the early part of 1983 facing prosecution for drug-related charges. Kimball was ordered to stand trial, but pleaded not guilty. The charges were dismissed on May 28 of that year. Kimball was fired from the band in 1984. Toto composed most of the music for the soundtrack to the film Dune.
At one point, Richard Page of the band Mr. Mister was offered the lead singer spot, but turned it down to continue with his band. Fergie Frederiksen (formerly of Angel, Trillion and Le Roux) was brought in as the new vocalist and the band recorded Isolation, released in November 1984. While Isolation did not achieve the acclaim or sales of Toto IV, it did achieve Gold status, largely on the strength of the single "Stranger in Town". The "Isolation" tour began in February 1985 and concluded three months later.
Fahrenheit and The Seventh One with Joseph Williams (1985–1988)
At the close of the Isolation tour in 1985, Fergie Frederiksen was let go. Lukather claimed that the band was not meshing well with Frederiksen because he had a difficult time recording with them in the studio. The band held an audition and Joseph Williams, son of famous film composer John Williams and 1950s singer/actress Barbara Ruick, was chosen to take over lead vocals in early 1986.
With Joseph Williams now onboard officially, Toto wrote and recorded Fahrenheit, released in October 1986. While Williams is credited as lead vocalist, Frederiksen had begun recording a few tracks and is featured as a background vocalist on the track "Could This Be Love".
Fahrenheit brought the band back from the heavier sound of Isolation to their pop/rock roots. "I'll Be Over You" and "Without Your Love," which were both ballads sung by Lukather, were the two hit singles. The band recruited several guest musicians for the album. They recorded an instrumental piece entitled "Don't Stop Me Now" with legendary jazz trumpeter Miles Davis. In addition, a then-unknown Paula Abdul appeared as a dancer in their "Till the End" music video. Michael McDonald provided backup vocals on the song "I'll Be Over You", while Eagles founder and songwriting giant Don Henley appeared on the Steve Porcaro penned track "Lea".
After its release, the band embarked on another world tour. Upon its conclusion in 1987, Steve Porcaro left the band to pursue a career in film and television scoring. Fahrenheit eventually went Gold on October 3, 1994. Steve Porcaro was never replaced and Toto decided to continue with only five members. Although Porcaro occasionally assisted the band on synthesizers for their subsequent studio albums (and appeared on their 1988 tour), David Paich handled most of the live keyboard work (with keyboard technician John Jessel assisting on certain dates) post 1988.
In 1988 Toto released their next album The Seventh One, featuring Jon Anderson of Yes on backup vocals on the single "Stop Loving You". The album's other single, "Pamela", became very popular and would be the band's last to hit the US Top 40. The Seventh One became the band's most successful release since Toto IV. The band toured from February through July 1988.
Past To Present and Jean-Michel Byron (1988–1990)
Although "The Seventh One Tour" was very successful, after it was finished the band decided to replace lead singer Joseph Williams. Originally, the band wanted to reunite with original vocalist Bobby Kimball to record new songs for a greatest hits record, but the record company instead insisted they hire South African singer Jean-Michel Byron. Before Byron was brought in, the band recorded "Goin' Home" with Kimball. This song was later featured on the Toto XX album as an 'unreleased song.' When Byron was brought in, he and Toto recorded four new songs which were included on their greatest hits album Past to Present 1977-1990, released in 1990. Toto then embarked upon the "Planet Earth" tour that lasted from September until December 1990. The band didn't get along with Byron, whose diva-like behavior and flamboyant stage presence caused friction during the tour. He was demoted to background vocals before ultimately being fired at the conclusion of the tour. During this time frame, the band also found that former singer, Bobby Kimball, was booking shows and billing himself and his backing band as "Toto". In April, former singer Joseph Williams was arrested on drug related charges.
Kingdom of Desire and Jeff Porcaro's death (1991–1992)
Once again without a lead vocalist, guitarist Steve Lukather stepped up to the microphone and became the new front man. Toto played at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1991 and the band recorded Kingdom of Desire, which was released on Columbia Records in most parts of the world and on Clive Davis' label Relativity Records in the United States.
Jeff Porcaro died in an accident on August 5, 1992, at the age of 38. According to the LA Times Report, the Los Angeles County Coroner's office lists the cause of death to be a heart attack from the hardening of the arteries caused by cocaine use. Facing the prospect of a tour without Jeff, Toto almost broke up. However, Jeff Porcaro's family insisted the band continue. Englishman Simon Phillips was the only drummer ever contacted to replace Jeff Porcaro since the band knew that Porcaro liked Phillips and because Lukather worked with Simon on a previous tour with Santana and Jeff Beck in Japan in 1986.
Phillips joined the band and they went on the tour, which they dedicated to Jeff's memory. In 1993 they released a live album called Absolutely Live. From 1991 on, Steve Lukather would handle a majority of the vocals (until Bobby Kimball's return in 1998), but some older songs originally sung by Kimball, Fergie Frederiksen, and Joseph Williams were put in the set list and sung by new backup singers Fred White (who was replaced by John James in 1992), Jackie McGee (who'd joined for the 1990 tour and was replaced by Donna McDaniel in 1992) and Jenny Douglas-McRae (who'd also come aboard in 1990.) John sang "Stop Loving You" and Bobby's part on "Rosanna", Donna sang "Home of the Brave" and "Angel Don't Cry", and Jenny sang "Hold the Line".
On December 14, 1992, the Tribute to Jeff Porcaro Concert was held at Universal City's Universal Amphitheatre. Performers, including Don Henley, Eddie Van Halen, Donald Fagen, Walter Becker, Boz Scaggs, James Newton Howard, Michael McDonald, Richard Marx and special guest George Harrison, performed various Toto songs along with the four remaining Toto members. At the close of the tour, the band then took a break to pursue individual projects as well as to keep up their session schedules.
Addition of Simon Phillips and Tambu (1995–1997)
In 1995 Toto recorded Tambu, their first album with Simon Phillips, which saw the band back with CBS (now Sony). A departure from Toto's sound of the late 1970s and 1980s, Tambu was a very organic release and featured the single "I Will Remember", which received moderate radio play. Other singles released were "Drag Him To The Roof" and "The Turning Point". Tambu also featured John James and Jenny Douglas-McRae as backup singers on some of the tracks. Jenny even sang lead on the album's bonus track, "Blackeye", and also in a duet with Steve Lukather on "Baby He's Your Man". Tambu sold 600,000 copies worldwide.
The "Tambu Tour" proved to be another success, although there were no North American dates. Simon Phillips suffered from a back problem, so Gregg Bissonette had to fill in for him during the first leg of the tour in late 1995. The tour concluded in 1996. The rest of the tour personnel remained the same, with the exception of Donna McDaniel who'd left in 1994 shortly after the "Night of the Proms" performances (which Jenny had missed since she was out touring with Joe Cocker). The song "Hold the Line" was now sung as a duet between Jenny and John. Both Jenny and John were dropped from the band at the conclusion of the 1997 tour.
Toto XX, Bobby Kimball's return and Mindfields (1997–2001)
1997 marked the band's 20th anniversary, and in order to commemorate it, David Paich and Steve Lukather started to go through several old tapes and demos for a special record of unreleased songs. In 1998 they released Toto XX with the single "Goin Home". Toto went on a small promotional tour with former members Bobby Kimball, Steve Porcaro and Joseph Williams.
After the "Toto XX" tour, Bobby Kimball rejoined the band as lead singer after 14 years. The band released Mindfields in early 1999 and embarked on the "Reunion" tour, touring worldwide and returning to the United States for the first time in six years. The new album featured three singles, "Melanie", "Cruel" and "Mad About You", a song co-written by David Paich and former Toto vocalist Joseph Williams. Later that year, a live album titled Livefields was released. The tour officially concluded in 2000, but the band played a few shows throughout 2001. David Paich briefly took a break from touring in 2000, so Jeff Babko filled in on keyboards. Paich then resumed touring with Toto in 2001.
Through the Looking Glass and Toto's 25th anniversary (2002–2003)
In 2002, in celebration of Toto's 25th anniversary, the band released Through the Looking Glass, a covers album that paid tribute to the band's musical influences, such as Bob Marley, Steely Dan, George Harrison and Elton John. Two singles were released, "Could You Be Loved", a Bob Marley cover, and "While My Guitar Gently Weeps", a Beatles cover. The album was not a commercial success and many fans were upset about the release, thinking that the band should have written new material instead. However, the record gave the band material to promote their "25th Anniversary Tour", which started in 2002 and concluded in 2003. After the tour, Toto released a live album and DVD of the show titled Live in Amsterdam. Both the live album and the DVD were released in late 2003.
Greg Phillinganes and David Paich's semi-retirement (2003–2005)
Beginning in June 2003, near the end of their "25th Anniversary Tour", keyboardist David Paich took a leave of absence from touring to spend time with a sick family member. Veteran keyboardist Greg Phillinganes filled in for Paich for the rest of the tour.
In late 2003, Toto headlined Night of the Proms for two months straight. Paich returned but was only able to play for a few weeks before he had to leave again, so Phillinganes once again filled in for the remainder of the shows. In early 2004, the band embarked on a small world tour that went throughout all of 2004 as well as 2005. David Paich only occasionally appeared, with Phillinganes playing at a majority of the shows. In 2005, he was asked to permanently join the band and David Paich then retired from touring altogether. Paich was still a member of Toto, however, as he continued to record and produce on all of Toto's releases.
Falling In Between and Falling In Between Live (2006–2007)
In early 2006, Toto released Falling in Between on the Italian label Frontiers, their first album of new material since 1999. The release featured extensive keyboard work from Steve Porcaro and a duet with Joseph Williams on the first single, "Bottom of Your Soul". Following the record's release, Toto embarked on an extensive worldwide tour in 2006, which continued into 2007 for a second leg. The 2007 leg featured Leland Sklar filling in on bass for Mike Porcaro due to an undisclosed illness. 2007 featured extensive dates in both Europe and the United States, including an appearance at Moondance Jam in Walker, Minnesota. Former lead singer Fergie Frederiksen made a guest appearance at the Minneapolis date on May 5, 2007 and Joseph Williams also made a few guest appearances with the band in June 2007.
Toto released a two-CD set Falling in Between Live on Eagle Records to commemorate the tour. This live set marks the fourth for the band, following 1993's Absolutely Live, 1999's Livefields and 2003's Live In Amsterdam.
In 2008, a companion DVD of the show which was recorded in Paris in March 2007 was released.
After a period of rumors and some allusions, on June 5, 2008, Lukather posted a message on his official website, stating, "The fact is yes I have left Toto. There is no more Toto. I just can't do it anymore and at 50 years old I wanted to start over and give it one last try on my own."
As the main motivation for his decision, Lukather said:
On February 26, 2010, the band reformed and reunited for a brief tour of Europe in the summer to benefit Mike Porcaro, who has ALS. The lineup featured David Paich, Steve Lukather, Steve Porcaro, Simon Phillips, Joseph Williams and special guest Nathan East.
Steve Lukather stated that the band still exists:
Another tour in the summer of 2011 took place with former backup singer Jenny Douglas once again joining. Their show on July 17, 2011 in Verona, Italy was recorded for a live DVD but has yet to be released because of a contractual issue with their former label. They once again toured Europe in 2012 & 2013. Their show on June 25, 2013 in Lodz, Poland was recorded for a live release and was released on the 2nd of May 2014.
35th Anniversary and new album (2013)
On November 5, 2013, it was confirmed both on Toto's and David Paich's official Facebook pages that a new studio album is in the works. The band plans to go into the studio early 2014. On January 18, 2014, former vocalist Fergie Frederiksen died after a long battle with liver cancer. On January 23, 2014, it was revealed via the band's official website that Simon Phillips had departed the band to pursue a solo career and had been replaced by Keith Carlock.
2014 tour: Personnel changes
It was recently reported that while Keith Carlock was now part of the band, he would not join them for at least the 2014 America tour. He will be filled in by Shannon Forrest. Bass player Nathan East, who has been touring with them since 2010, will leave after the Japanese tour to pursue his own projects. Instead, initial bass player David Hungate will rejoin the band. It will be Hungate's farewell tour before he retires.
Current official members
- Steve Lukather – guitars, vocals, keyboards (1977–2008, 2010–present)
- David Paich – keyboards, vocals (1977–2008, 2010–present)
- Steve Porcaro – keyboards, synthesizers, vocals (1977–1987, 2010–present)
- Mike Porcaro – bass guitar (1982–2008, 2010-present; inactive due to illness)
- Joseph Williams – vocals (1986–1989, 2010–present)
- Keith Carlock – drums, percussion (2014–present)
- Current touring musicians
- David Hungate - bass guitar (2014-present; official member 1977-1982)
- Mabvuto Carpenter – backup vocals (2010–present)
- Amy Keys – backup vocals (2013–present)
- Shannon Forrest - drums (2014-present)
- Jeff Porcaro – drums, percussion (1977–1992; died 1992)
- Bobby Kimball – vocals, occasional keyboards (1977–1984, 1998–2008)
- Fergie Frederiksen – vocals (1984–1985; died 2014)
- Jean-Michel Byron – vocals (1990–1991)
- Simon Phillips – drums, percussion, keyboards (1992–2008, 2010–2014)
- Greg Phillinganes – keyboards, synthesizers, vocals (2005–2008; touring 2003-2008)
- Former touring musicians
Awards and nominations
- Grammy Awards
- Official website
- Toto at WorldMusicDatabase
- The French website exclusively dedicated to Porcaro
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Image from Discogs