Toto was an American rock band founded in 1977 by some of the most popular and experienced session musicians of the era. The band enjoyed great commercial success in the 1980s, beginning with the band's self-titled debut, released during 1978. Continuing with 1982's critically acclaimed and commercially successful Toto IV, Toto became one of the best selling music groups of their era. They are known for such hit singles as "Hold the Line", "Rosanna", "Africa", and "Stranger in Town". Although their popularity in the United States diminished in the 1990s and 2000s, they continued to tour and sold out arenas, clubs, and theaters internationally.
Toto was known for their technical skill in the studio, as well as a musical style that combines elements of pop, rock, soul, funk, progressive rock, hard rock, R&B, and jazz. Although they were regularly associated with the soft rock genre, this broad array of musical styles helped them appeal to a variety of musicians and non-musician listeners.
The band released 17 albums and have sold over 30 million records to date. Their 18th album Falling In Between Live, was released in August 2007. It was recorded in March 2007 in Paris. As a result of guitarist Steve Lukather's departure from the band, which he agreed with the other members, Toto broke up after the last leg of their 2008 tour.
1982 in London (Porcaro S, John Smith, Kimball, Lukather, Lenny Castro, Porcaro J)
Toto formed as a group of six studio musicians in 1977. Before the band formed, 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 famed musician and sessions player/arranger Marty Paich, rose to fame after having co-written Boz Scaggs' Silk Degrees album. Having played on many sessions with drummer Jeff Porcaro (the son of noted session percussionist Joe Porcaro whom he'd met while attending Grant High School in North Hollywood, California where they'd formed the band Rural Still Life), the two began to seriously discuss the possibility of forming their own band. They brought in bassist and fellow session vet David Hungate, having played with him on the road with Boz Scaggs. In addition, the duo asked guitarist Steve Lukather (who had also played in Scaggs' band as a replacement for Les Dudek) and Jeff Porcaro's brother Steve Porcaro (keyboards) to join the team. Luke and Steve Porcaro had also attended Grant High and had in fact continued the band Rural Still Life (the name shortened to Still Life) after Paich & Jeff had 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 the debut album
Once all of the songs were written, the band came together in the studio to record the album. According to popular myth, in order to distinguish their own demo tapes from other bands' in the studio, Jeff Porcaro wrote the word "Toto" on them. Although 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 un-named. 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 had played on so many different records and many different musical genres, they adopted the name Toto as their own. The band's name may have elicited a few laughs when they first toured Japan, as TOTO is the name of Japan's largest toilet manufacturer; the name "Toto" is also well-known as the name of Dorothy's dog in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz books and the famous 1939 film.
After its release, Toto hit 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), for a fuller sound. In fact, from the very first tour on, Toto would always carry additional players (See Tour Musicians below).
Hydra and Turn Back
Kimball and Lukather live in 2007
At the close of the tour, the band began work on their next album, entitled Hydra, which was released later that year. The album featured the single "99", inspired by George Lucas' cult film THX 1138, which became one of the band's most popular songs. Despite its popularity, however, in 2007, Steve Lukather admitted that he hates "99" and that it's his least favorite Toto song, which is why it was no longer performed live. Other songs from Hydra include "St George and the Dragon" and "All Us Boys". The band also released four promotional music videos for the album, including the title track, though the song was never released as a single. Although Hydra failed to achieve the commercial success of Toto's first release, it still went Gold. Following the album's release, the band began 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 experimental and featured much more guitar and less keyboards than their previous two records. Ultimately, Turn Back failed to earn the radio play or critical acclaim of either of the previous two records. The song "Goodbye Elenore" was the only official single released worldwide. Because the release was a commercial disappointment, the band did very little touring to promote the record.
Mike Porcaro live
1982 marked the beginning of Toto's most successful era. After the poor sales of Turn Back, the band were under a great deal of pressure from their record company to produce a new smash record. With 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 made several worldwide charts, bringing the band to new audiences. "Africa" topped the charts in February 1983 and was a constant presence on radios across the globe, but it was "Rosanna" that earned the band multiple Grammy nominations. Toto IV was awarded 6 Grammy Awards, including "Record of the Year" for "Rosanna", "Album of the Year" for Toto IV, and "Producer of the Year". In the video for "Rosanna", a young Patrick Swayze can be seen as one of the dancers, and a young Cynthia Rhodes can be seen as the lead dancer. The song was named after Steve Porcaro's ex-girlfriend, actress Rosanna Arquette, but the song itself was not about her, according to writer David Paich. In addition to "Africa" and "Rosanna", Toto IV gained even more success with the release of another single, "Make Believe". Toto toured throughout 1982 in support of Toto IV, but near the end of the tour, Bobby Kimball broke his leg and was forced to perform seated behind a piano for the remaining shows.
Fergie Frederiksen and Isolation
Subsequent to the Toto IV release, bassist David Hungate left the band to spend more time with his family, having already relocated to Nashville by 1980 to pursue a sessions/production career there. Mike Porcaro replaced him on bass and appeared in all the music videos for Toto IV. Lead singer Bobby Kimball was fired in 1984 over personal problems between him and the band. 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 Trillion and Louisiana's LeRoux) was brought in as the new lead singer after he was introduced to Jeff Porcaro, and the band recorded Isolation, released in November 1984. Although Bobby Kimball sang some portion of the record before leaving, the exact amount is unknown. David Paich says it was a third of the record, Steve Lukather also says it was only 3 or 4 songs, but Kimball says it was most of the album.. However, some of Bobby Kimball's background vocals were left on the record. Although still a commercial success, Isolation did not achieve the acclaim of Toto IV and only went Gold. Furthermore, the album did not produce any major hit singles outside of "Stranger in Town". The "Isolation Tour" started in February 1985 and concluded three months later.
Fahrenheit and The Seventh One
David Paich during a live concert
At the close of the Isolation tour, Fergie Frederiksen was let go. Lukather claimed that the band was not meshing well with Fergie because he had a difficult time recording with them in the studio. The band had an audition for a new lead singer and Joseph Williams, son of famous film composer John Williams, was chosen in early 1986 from the individuals who auditioned.
With Joseph Williams now on board officially, Toto wrote and recorded Fahrenheit, released in October 1986, which had already been started with Frederiksen handling lead vocals. The track "Could This Be Love" features Fergie on background vocals.
Fahrenheit showed the band moving back in a more pop direction and featured the hits "I'll Be Over You" and "Without Your Love", which were both sung by Lukather (since the first album, Paich, Lukather, and sometimes even Steve Porcaro, would sing lead vocals on some songs in addition to whoever their front man was). There was also an instrumental piece, "Don't Stop Me Now", performed with jazz great Miles Davis. Furthermore, a then-unknown Paula Abdul appeared as a dancer in their "Till the End" music video. In addition, one of the studio-singers heard on the song "I'll Be Over You" is Michael McDonald. As well, Eagles founder and song writing giant Don Henley offered background vocals on the haunting Steve Porcaro penned track "Lea". Despite its accolades however, the album was not received well compared to previous releases and failed to go Gold initially. 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. The Fahrenheit album 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 tech 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 record's other single, "Pamela" also became very popular and would be the band's last to hit the U.S. Top 40. The Seventh One became the band's most successful release since Toto IV, and according to David Paich, the record was supposed to be their comeback record, but personnel changes at the record company saw the album's promotion and advertising money pulled. The band toured from February until July 1988.
Past To Present and Jean-Michel Byron
Although "The Seventh One Tour" was very successful, after it was finished, the band decided to replace lead singer Joseph Williams. During the European leg of the tour, Joseph had lost his voice before many of the performances because of a combination of the flu, excessive partying and drug-use, prompting Toto to decide that a change needed to be made. 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'. This song was later featured on the Toto XX album as an 'unreleased song'. When Byron was brought in, he and Toto recorded 4 new songs which were included on their greatest hits album, Past to Present 1977-1990, released in 1990. Toto then embarked upon on the "Planet Earth Tour" that lasted from September until December of 1990.
Shortly into this tour, it became clear that Byron's decidedly non-rock image and bizarre on-stage antics would not mesh with Toto's vision for their live shows, and he was subsequently fired. Because many of the fans were so outraged at Byron's stage persona, most of his performance was removed from the subsequent live video release, "Toto Live" and Byron was listed only as a "background singer" in the album credits. All of the live performances of the new songs from Past to Present were removed from the recorded setlist, and the only songs on which Byron appears are "Rosanna" and "Hold The Line" and a few wide shots. The rest of the tracks were sung by Steve Lukather and David Paich.
Death of Jeff Porcaro
Once again without a lead vocalist, guitarist Steve Lukather stepped up to the microphone and became the new front man, 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. Tragedy then struck, however, just before the record's release when drummer Jeff Porcaro died. On , 1992, Jeff suffered an allergic reaction from a pesticide he was using in his garden. Facing the prospect of a tour without Jeff, Toto almost broke up. However, Jeff Porcaro's family insisted the band continue on. Englishman Simon Phillips was the only drummer ever contacted to replace Jeff Porcaro, since the band knew that Porcaro liked Phillips, and because Lukather had 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 setlist and sung by the 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".
At the close of the tour, the band performed the Tribute to Jeff Porcaro Concert in Los Angeles on December 14, 1992. It featured Toto as well as Don Henley, Eddie Van Halen, Donald Fagen, Walter Becker, Boz Scaggs, James Newton Howard, Michael McDonald, Richard Marx, and many more, and a special appearance by George Harrison. At the close of the tour, the band took a break to pursue individual projects as well as to keep up their session schedules.
Simon Phillips and Tambu
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 session singers on some of the tracks. Jenny also sang lead on the album's bonus track "Blackeye" and also in a duet with Steve Lukather on "Baby He's Your Man". The album did not sell well in the United States (and in fact was not even released there until almost a year after it came out overseas) and the planned second single "Baby He's Your Man" ended up being cancelled. Unlike the domestic disappointment, however, 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 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.
Bobby Kimball's return
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 6 years. The new album featured 3 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.
Toto's 25th anniversary
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. Steve Lukather himself was critical of his performance at this concert.
Greg Phillinganes and David Paich's semi-retirement
Steve Lukather and Greg Phillinganes
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. Steve Lukather, known also for his sense of humor, released a fake story that Paich was actually undertaking a sex-change operation and would become "Davida." The story was posted on the band's website, and was picked up by media all over the world. Although the fans thought it was funny, many people were offended, and Lukather apologized for his post and all references to the joke were removed from the website. Veteran keyboardist Greg Phillinganes filled in for Paich for the rest of the tour.
In late 2003, Toto headlined Night of the Proms for 2 months straight. David returned but was only able to play for a few weeks before he had to leave again, so Greg 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 Greg playing at a majority of the shows. In 2005, Greg 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
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". The album received very positive reviews from both critics and fans, some reviews even saying that it was the best Toto album since Toto IV. 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, USA date on , 2007 and Joseph Williams also made a few guest appearances with the band in June 2007.
Toto has recently released a 2-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".
For 2008, a companion DVD of the show was released, which was recorded in Paris in March 2007.
2008: Toto no more
After a period of rumors and some allusions, on June 5, 2008, Steve Lukather made an official announcement on his website stevelukather.net, 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.
Lukather further stated that after 31 years of recording, producing and playing with Toto without even missing one single gig, he couldn't do it anymore. With Lukather being the only original member left in the band (Bobby Kimball was also an original member, but was out of the band from 1984?1998) there was no other option than to call it quits. As the main motivation for his decision, Lukather said:
When Dave retired that was REAL hard for me 'cause we started the band together. Hell, it's 35 years if you count High School where the core all met. When Mike fell ill and had to leave that was it for me. If there isn't Paich or at least one Porcaro how can we even call it Toto? ... Honestly, I have just had enough. This is NOT a break. It is over. I really can't go out and play Hold The Line with a straight face anymore.
He added later
Well It seems I started a fire storm. That was never my intent. It was really to explain myself. My comment about Hold the Line was a bit harsh and it reads more serious than I meant it. I was a tongue in cheek statement. ALL those songs have been VERY VERY good to me and the guys. I am sorry if I sounded like an asshole. I would like to retract that statement. I am a bit BURNT on it but they have become somewhat classic so who am I to say such stupid things. I am sorry. YOU guys have made Toto and also been there for me as well. I hope that doesnt change.
I also have nothing but the deepest respect for all the guys. I did not want to make it seem otherwise. This was a personal decision that I needed to make and they all knew it before the last tour anyway.
I want to thank everyone for the well wishes and understanding. This is NOT a hateful move at all. It has been a long time coming for me and those around me. Paich and the Porcaro's knew and totally understood and I asked them before I posted. I was just getting alot of e mail about all of it due to my comments so I wanted to post my feelings. You might get other opinions from other people but speculation on WHY I left is ridiculous unless you know me or someone in the band and even then one mans truth is not another mans truth alot of the time. Sometimes one just has to move on.
I hope to see some of you at one of my shows and hope we can still be friends. I know some of you may be upset with me. I guess I cant help that Anyone who REALLY knows me knows where I am at. I am sorry if I have upset anyone. The music will live on. I am very proud of what we have done over ALL the years and I am sorry if I made it sound like I wasnt. Have a great day, Luke." .
The break-up of Toto after 31 years received mixed reactions from the fans. On April 5, 2008, Toto played what would be their last show ever, in Seoul, Korea, as a part of their Falling In Between Live tour. This left many fans without a real farewell tour, which was something that the band had said they would do. In their 31 years of existence, Toto sold over 30 million records, scored a worldwide number 1 hit with the song "Africa" and other hits that topped various charts. Toto did over ten world tours which consistently sold out everywhere but in the US. The band and its individual members worked with and wrote for artists such as Michael Jackson, Boz Scaggs, Steely Dan, Santana, Stevie Wonder, Miles Davis, Larry Carlton, Chicago, Elton John, Eric Clapton, Quincy Jones, Paul McCartney, Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Lionel Richie, Olivia Newton-John and hundreds more.
In October 2009, the individual founding members of Toto will be inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame.
For more details on this topic, see Toto band members.
Official band members
Steve Lukather - guitars, vocals, keyboards, mandolin (1977?2008)
David Paich - keyboards, vocals (1977?2008; 2003-2008 retirement from touring)
Bobby Kimball - vocals, occasional keyboards (1977?1984; 1998?2008)
Mike Porcaro - Bass guitar, cello (1982?2008)
Simon Phillips - Drums, percussion, keyboards (1992?2008)
Greg Phillinganes - keyboards, vocals (2005?2008)
David Hungate - Bass guitar (1977?1982)
Fergie Frederiksen - Vocals (1984?1985)
Steve Porcaro - keyboards, synthesizers, vocals (1977?1988)
Joseph Williams - Vocals (1986?1988)
Jeff Porcaro - Drums, percussion (1977?1992; his death)
Jean-Michel Byron - Vocals (1990)
Former lead/co-lead vocalists
Jenny Douglas-McRae - Vocals (1990?1993, 1995, 1996-1997)
John James - Vocals (1992?1997)
Tony Spinner - Guitar, vocals (1999?2008)
Leland Sklar - Bass guitar (Filling in for Mike Porcaro in 2007-2008)
Ricky Lawson - Drums, percussion (Filled in for Simon Phillips in late 2003)
Jon Farriss - Drums (Filled in for Simon Phillips in October 2003)
Jeff Babko - Keyboards (Filled in for David Paich for the 2000 tour)
John Jessel - Backup keyboards/effects/vocals (1990-2003)
Buddy Hyatt - Percussion/guitar/vocals (1999)
Gregg Bissonette - Drums (Filled in for Simon Phillips in late 1995)
Donna McDaniel - Vocals (1992?1994)
Sofia Bender - Vocals (filled in for McRae in early 1996)
Chris Trujillo - Percussion (1990-1993)
Denny Dias - Guitar (1991)
Fred White - Vocals (1991)
Jackie McGhee - Vocals (1990?1991)
Luis Cont? - Percussion (1988)
Warren Ham - Sax/harmonica/keyboards/guitar/vocals (1986?1988)
Ralph Rickert - Horns/Backup vocals (1986-1987)
Paulette Brown - Backup vocals (1985-1987)
Scott Page - Sax/guitar/backup vocals (1985)
Jon Smith - Sax/backup vocals (1981-1982)
James Newton Howard - Keyboards (1981-1982)
Timothy B. Schmit - Backup Vocals (1981, 1982)
Keith Landry - Guitar/backup vocals (1980)
Lenny Castro - Percussion (1979-1981, 1982-1987)
Tom Kelly - Guitar/backup vocals (1979)