Tom Johnston was born August 15, 1948, in Visalia, CA. Johnston fell in love with R&B music at a young age and learned to play the songs of Little Richard, Bo Diddley, and James Brown when he received his first guitar at the age of 12. He played in soul, blues, and even a Mexican wedding band in his teens and continued playing in a blues group while attending college in San Jose. It was there he met the legendary lead singer of Moby Grape, Skip Spence, who was drumming for the Jefferson Airplane at the time. Spence introduced Johnston to John Hartman and the two would play together in numerous bands, finally finding success when they formed the Doobie Brothers. Johnston wrote/sang lead vocals "Listen to the Music" "Rockin' Down the Highway" and "China Grove" among other hits for the band.