On March 19, 1976, The Doobie Brothers began the second stage of their still-ongoing career, releasing their first album featuring former Steely Dan member Michael McDonald as their new lead singer.
Recorded at Warner Brothers Studios in North Hollywood and mixed at Sunset Sound in Los Angeles, Takin’ It to the Streets found the Doobies working for the sixth consecutive album with producer Ted Templeman, but despite that bit of stability, there was definitely a very big change for the Brothers this time around. Frontman Tom Johnston had been struggling with the rigors of touring, and when he was diagnosed with stomach ulcers while the band was on the road supporting their 1975 album Stampede, it was clear that the band was either going to have to adapt to the situation and bring someone else into the mix or call it a day.
Thankfully, they opted for the former: guitarist Jeff “Skunk” Baxter suggested inviting Michael McDonald into the fold, having worked with him in the studio with Steely Dan. McDonald agreed to join the band and help them complete the Stampede tour, but figured he was just helping them out of a tough spot - so he was surprised when they invited him to join them in the studio.
Things were a little weird at first, with Warner Brothers being a trifle skittish about bringing in a new singer - but things soon changed when it became clear that McDonald was also a gifted songwriter. That said, Johnston did still contribute to the album, writing one tune (“Turn it Loose”) and singing on the album opener, “Wheels of Fortune.”
Of course, in the long run, it was the new album’s title track that really got the radio request lines lighting up, taking the band to No. 13 on the Billboard Hot 100 and helping lift the album to No. 8 on the Billboard 200 - four spots behind Stampede's peak, but considering this was a band with a (relatively) unproven new singer, that’s actually pretty darned impressive.
Of course, within a few years, McDonald would win over the music world at large enough to help deliver The Doobie Brothers’ first and only No. 1 album...but that’s a story for another time.