Johnny C back with The Doobie Brothers

John Cowan has quite a history in and around bluegrass music. He first burst onto the scene in 1974 as the bass player with Newgrass Revival, with whom he toured and recorded until 1990. His soaring vocals became as much a trademark of the band’s sound as Sam Bush’s distinctive mandolin or Béla Fleck’s banjo.

Sam tells the story of John’s audition to join NGR, where he was offered the job on bass after just a few tunes. Upon being welcomed in, John asked if they would mind if he sang one. Bush jokingly says that he puffed up a bit and went Barney Fife on John… “I do all the singin’ around here!” Cowan then sang an old Flatt & Scruggs song – which blew everyone away – and Sam had to eat those words.

When Newgrass folded and the members went their separate ways, Cowan explored a variety of music, including a two year stint with the Doobie Brothers from 1993-1995 before his solo career took off. Starting today (4/23), John is back with the Doobies, filling in on bass for a few weeks.

“As a fan of The Doobie Bros since purchasing Toulose Street my freshman year in college, it has been no less than an amazing surprise to find my self singing and playing music I have such regard and reverence for. One of other many gifts is that these gentlemen, their families, and their entire organization, are some of the kindest, most humble people I’ve ever had the pleasure to be in close quarters with and work around. I need to say that this situation was unfortunately born of some serious health issues with their bassist Skylark. His recuperation is on all our hearts, and I wish and pray for his happy, speedy return.”

Skylark took over for John when he left the Doobies 15 years ago so it was a natural fit to ask John to keep the bass spot warm for a few weeks. As soon as Skylark is ready to return, John will resume his normal activities and continue the promotion of his new CD, The Massenburg Sessions, released April 6.

He wanted to especially thank the members of his own band and the many show promoters who agreed to this change of plans, and allow John the chance to repay this kindness to his old friends.

Here’s a look at the ’90s version of John Cowan on stage, rockin’ out with The Doobie Brothers.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.