In 1976, drummer Jeff Porcaro and keyboardist David Paich, two seasoned L.A. session musicians renowned for their work with Steely Dan and Boz Scaggs, decided to trim back their session work and form a band of their own. Jeff and David brought in guitarist Steve Lukather and keyboardist Steve Porcaro, both of whom had played with Jeff and David in high school. David Hungate, another acclaimed studio musician, shared many of the same sessions with Jeff and David, and they felt that Hungate was a perfect fit on bass. In order to produce the depth of vocal harmonies and breadth of musicianship the live performance of their material would require, Bobby Kimball, a singer from Louisiana, was brought in on lead vocals.
After the band’s formation, David Paich set about writing what became the eponymous debut album. Once written, the new band came together in the studio to cut its first demos. Having just recently watched The Wizard of Oz, Jeff Porcaro began to write the word "toto" on the demo tapes so that they would be easily identifiable. When the time came to choose a name for the band, the band explored the roots of the word "toto" more thoroughly. David Hungate explained to them that, in Latin, the word "toto" means "total" or "all-encompassing," and given this group's long list of studio accolades and their collective ability to play in any given situation, the name TOTO was chosen as the official title of the new record and the band name. "It's representative of our music," said Jeff Porcaro. "Mishmash. A goulash."
Upon its release in September, 1977, TOTO spawned the single hit, “Hold the Line,” which rapidly climbed the charts. Followed by two more hit singles, “I’ll Supply the Love” and “Georgy Porgy,” the record set new standards in pop and rock music at the time and earned them a Grammy nomination in 1978 for Best New Artist.
Lukather and Kimball recall that TOTO’s opening year passed like a whirlwind, but they still remember the first time they heard themselves on the radio. “I was asleep,” says Kimball. “I had set my alarm for early because we were going to do some promo in the studio that day, and when it came on, there was ‘Hold the Line.’ I phoned Paich and screamed into the phone, and he was screaming and stumbling around in the dark trying to turn his radio on.” Lukather recalls, “I remember one of the guys called me. I actually sat there in my first house by myself, a little tear in my eye. I mean, wow. We were on the radio in L.A. It was a great feeling.”
In 1979, TOTO released their second record, Hydra. A bit of a harder edge than TOTO’s first record, Hydra features one of TOTO’s biggest hits, “99”, a song inspired by the George Lucas movie THX-1138 about a society where people were given numbers instead of names. In point of fact, music video of “99” features the band in an all-white room dressed in white, a set piece designed around Lucas’ visionary film.
Following the release of Hydra, TOTO turned their musical talents in a new direction, and in 1981 their third record, Turn Back, was released. The band had recorded a much harder-edged album than either of the previous two releases, but unfortunately it did not achieve the radio-play the band wanted.
The beginning of 1982 marked the start of the most successful era of TOTO’s career. After an extensive schedule in the studio, TOTO released the iconic TOTO IV. The record immediately exploded onto the charts, producing the smash hits “Africa” and “Rosanna” and rocketing the band to instant international stardom. TOTO IV hit platinum and yielded 5 singles.
In 1983, while TOTO IV continued to sell millions of copies worldwide, TOTO reaped the benefits of their hard work and commercial success at the Grammy Awards, winning six different categories, including the coveted Album of the Year for TOTO IV and Record of the Year for “Rosanna.” The record also won awards for Producer of the Year and Best Engineered Recording, while “Rosanna” also earned Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocals and Best Vocal Arrangement. In addition, Steve Lukather won for Best Rhythm & Blues Song – “Turn Your Love Around” – which he co-wrote with Jay Graydon and Bill Champlin.
Just prior to the TOTO IV world tour, Mike Porcaro, replaced David Hungate, who had just become a father and felt his responsibilities to his family prevented him from participating in the immense world tour that followed IV’s release. Like his brothers, Mike was an accomplished session musician, and, having played with the band members in high school, Mike was a perfect replacement for Hungate. Thus the band’s first-class playing and fun-loving dynamic continued despite the personnel change.
Despite the world-wide commercial success of TOTO IV, the members of the band continued their session work, collaborating with Quincy Jones and Michael Jackson on the international hit Thriller and other artists such as Don Henley, Van Halen, Steely Dan, Boz Scaggs, Paul McCartney, Chicago, and Eric Clapton. During the time immediately following the TOTO IV Tour, David Paich brought in the entire band to work together on a movie score for David Lynch’s Dune, based on the best-selling science fiction novel that has since become a cult phenomenon.
During pre-production of Toto’s fifth record, Bobby Kimball left the band and was replaced by Le Roux’s Fergie Frederiksen. In the summer of ’84, TOTO recorded the boxing theme for the 1984 Olympic Games, entitled “Moodido – The Match.” Then in late 1984, TOTO released Isolation, cleverly titled to explain the band’s 2 and a half year absence since the release of TOTO IV. Isolation featured two hit singles, “Stranger In Town” and “Holyanna,” and the record’s harder rock edge, immediately appealing to the fans, became a fast favorite.
Following the Isolation Tour, Fergie Frederiksen was replaced by Joseph Williams, son of famous film composer John Williams. In 1985, the band played on the charity record USA for Africa, and Steve Porcaro and David Paich are featured on the song “We Are the World.”
In 1986, the band released their sixth record, Fahrenheit, along with the hit single “I’ll Be Over You.” Prior to the Fahrenheit World Tour, Steve Lukather traveled to Japan, where he played with legendary guitarists Jeff Beck and Carlos Santana. While in Japan, Lukather met Simon Phillips, a seasoned drummer from the UK who had played with such artists as The Who, Mike Oldfield, and Mick Jagger.
Upon Lukather’s return the United States, TOTO left for the Fahrenheit World Tour, which lasted until the Spring of 1987. At that time, Steve Porcaro left the band to pursue a career in film scoring, but he continued to work with the band in the studio. TOTO’s next studio effort, appropriately titled The Seventh One, received international acclaim and scored two hit singles in Europe: “Pamela” and “Stop Loving You.” With the new record’s release in 1988, TOTO embarked on yet another world tour. At the close of The Seventh One Tour, Joseph Williams left the band to pursue a solo career.
1989 saw a brief break from the TOTO scene for the band members to pursue other projects, but in 1990, TOTO came together in the studio once again to plan a greatest hits compilation entitled Past to Present. For a brief period, former lead vocalist Bobby Kimball returned to the band to record some new tracks to accompany the hits, but the record company forced the band to use the unknown Jean-Michel Byron as lead singer, and Kimball’s recordings with the band were shelved. Four new songs featuring Byron were included on the Past to Present record, and the first single, “Out of Love” became a hit in Europe, while the album went Platinum in most countries. Following the Past to Present Tour, Jean-Michel Byron left the band.
After the departure of Byron in 1991 and suffering through the frustration of again being without a lead singer, Steve Lukather stepped up to the microphone and took over the role of TOTO’s lead vocalist. The four remaining members returned to the studio at the end of 1991 and recorded Kingdom of Desire, the band’s nineth studio effort. As the summer of ’92 rolled around, the band was planning its Kingdom of Desire Tour.
On August 5, 1992, only a short time before Kingdom of Desire’s release and the start of the tour, tragedy struck. Jeff Porcaro, while spraying a pesticide in his garden at home, suffered a severe allergic reaction to the chemicals and died from a heart attack. The band, Jeff’s family, friends, fans, and the worldwide music community mourned the passing of a man, who was not only one of the greatest drummers of his generation, but was, as Lukather has consistently said, “a true soul brother” and an incredibly giving and selfless individual. To this very day, the band continues to honor Jeff’s legacy and dedicates their performances to his memory.
When Jeff passed away, TOTO found themselves confronted with whether or not the band should go on. With the Kingdom of Desire Tour just around the corner and their resolve shaken, TOTO decided to go ahead with the tour because they felt that Jeff would have wanted them to. In selecting a drummer to replace Jeff, the band decided that they wanted someone who would put their own signature to the TOTO sound rather than try to copy Jeff. Steve Lukather suggested Simon Phillips, whom he had remembered from the Beck / Santana Tour. Phillips bravely accepted the task of filling in for Jeff on the Kingdom of Desire Tour.
Despite the fact that the tour would go on, TOTO were still unsure what the future of the band would be. The Kingdom of Desire Tour became a very special tour for the band and the fans, as many people felt that it might be TOTO’s last tour together. TOTO performed more than three hours each night, playing songs from each and every album and adding a tribute of “With A Little Help From My Friends” dedicated to Jeff. The magic of the band’s performances during that tour captured the hearts of the fans, and at the end of the tour, the band decided to stay together and move forward, asking Simon Phillips to join them permanently.
In December of 1992 after the tour, TOTO returned to Los Angeles for a Tribute to Jeff show. Joined by legendary musicians Donald Fagan, Michael McDonald, James Newton Howard, Don Henley, Eddie Van Halen, David Crosby, Denny Dias, and George Harrison, the band performed all night, adding to the extensive Kingdom of Desire Tour set list from their own discography as well as hits from the other guest artists, many on which Jeff himself had played during his session work. Steve Porcaro and percussionist Lenny Castro joined the band on stage as well, and to this day, the Tribute to Jeff remains a milestone on TOTO’s long list of special performances.
At the beginning of 1993, TOTO started work on their first live record entitled Absolutely Live, which featured highlights from the Kingdom of Desire Tour. After its release, the band members went on hiatus to pursue other projects.
1994 found the band briefly reunited to take part in the Night of the Proms tour in Europe, a massive production featuring a full choir and orchestra that fuses classical music and pop / rock. The band played before audiences of over a hundred thousand in Belgium, Holland, and Germany. At the close of the Proms, the band once again continued work on outside projects.
But in 1995, they came together once again and started working on their first studio record with Simon Phillips on drums. After finishing their studio work, TOTO played a string of summer festivals in Europe where they showcased three of the new songs, which were very much acclaimed by the fans. That fall, TOTO released their eleventh record, Tambu, and their first single, “I Will Remember,” went gold in several European countries and in Japan. TOTO spent the entire spring and summer of that year on the Tambu World Tour, visiting Europe, Japan, and South America. Furthermore, England saw TOTO opening for Tina Turner in addition to playing their own shows. At the close of the Tambu World Tour, the band took another break to continue their session work and other solo projects.
In 1997 the band celebrated its 20th Anniversary. In the spirit of the anniversary, David Paich and Steve Lukather started searching through old tapes and recordings for the release of a very special new record, TOTO XX. In late 1997, the band toured South Africa for the first time, eventually joining a South African choir and drum team to perform “Africa” in Johannesburg.
In 1998, Lukather and Paich put the finishing touches on TOTO XX, including the fabled “Africa” track from Johannesburg, and it was released in May, after which it rapidly climbed the European and Japanese charts. While a full tour was never planned, TOTO teamed up with former members Bobby Kimball, Joseph Williams, and Steve Porcaro for several special release parties in Europe, performing all of their old hits as a single team. At the close of the TOTO XX release parties, Bobby Kimball rejoined the band as lead vocalist, and TOTO began recording their first new studio record in almost five years.
In March of 1999, TOTO released their Mindfields record and earned a Grammy Nomination for Best Engineered Album, Non Classical. They embarked on an immense world tour in February of that year. After several highly successful months in Europe, the band went on a sold-out Japanese tour in April. In May, TOTO toured the United States for the first time in six years.
In the summer of 1999, TOTO started mixing a new live album, Livefields, showcasing the Mindfields Tour and Kimball’s return to the microphone. The live record was released just prior to TOTO’s second leg of the Mindfields Tour.
The arrival of the Millennium opened with TOTO finishing their tour and several of the band’s members working on solo projects. Steve Lukather won a Grammy with guitar-legend Larry Carlton, and the band found themselves sharing the stage with Eric Clapton in Mexico in October 2001.
2002 marked the 25th Anniversary of the band’s illustrious career, and TOTO went back into the studio to record Through the Looking Glass, paying tribute to their roots and musical heroes by recording “TOTO-ized” versions of classic songs that got the band started. The record was released in October, and the band left for their 25th Anniversary Tour later that month, visiting all of Europe and closing the run in the Far East at the end of December.
In January 2003, TOTO continued the anniversary tour and recorded a live DVD in Amsterdam. Mixed by Simon Phillips in April of that year, the Live in Amsterdam DVD was an immediate hit among the fans. Accompanied by a CD of the show, the DVD sold very well, hitting the Hot 100 on Amazon.com. After the release of their DVD, TOTO returned to the Night of the Proms in Europe from October until December and played in front of over 600,000 fans.
TOTO continued touring in 2004, visiting South East Asia, South America, and Mexico before returning to the United States in May. They played two full shows with the Honolulu Symphony in Hawaii and later the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra in Georgia. The tour continued through September of that year, where TOTO was invited to the prestigious Tokyo Jazz Festival, during which they played with Herbie Hancock.
2005 marked another monumental change in the TOTO lineup. David Paich, semi-retired from touring to stay home with a sick family member, was replaced by Greg Phillinganes on tour. Later that year, Greg permanently joined the band, thereby returning the band roster to six members with two keyboardists. A world-class player whose credits included Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Quincy Jones, and Eric Clapton, Greg has brought a new energy to the band on stage as well as in the studio, where the band has just finished recording their seventeenth release, Falling In Between. Featuring both Joseph Williams and Steve Porcaro, Falling In Between is yet another amazing example of TOTO's commitment to professionalism and perfectionism. Since its recent release, the band have embarked upon yet another extensive World Tour, bringing music to all of its long-devoted fans as well as to a younger, new generation of music lovers.
Nearing 30 years together with hundreds of credits and accolades to their names, TOTO remains one of the top selling tour-acts in the world. Collectively and individually, the band has played on nearly every major hit record of the past quarter century, placing their distinctive stamp of excellence all over CD shelves around the world. With nearly 30 million records sold, TOTO is the benchmark by which many artists base their sound and production, and they continue to transcend the standards set by the entire musical community.