Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Toto bassist Mike Porcaro diagnosed with ALS

As many of you know, one of my favorite bands is Toto. I recently learned that their long-time bass player, Mike Porcaro, has been diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease).

Mike was not Toto's original bass player. In 1980 then bass player, David Hungate, decided to retire from touring. So Mike was asked to join his brothers Steve (on keyboards) and Jeff (on drums) in Toto... at least on the road. Following the success of Toto IV, David Hungate decided to retire from the band altogether and became one of the most in demand session bass players in Nashville. Mike officially became a full member of the band at that point.

I saw Toto live but once in their 30+ year career. It was a chilly November night at the House of Blues in Chicago on their Falling In Between tour. Mike was there, sitting on a stool playing bass like a trouper. He did not look comfortable but he played like a true champ. I later found out that he was having medical issues even then (2006).

A few years ago I had the pleasure of interviewing one of Mike's former bandmates, vocalist Joseph Williams, on the telephone. He regaled me with the following tale of Mike Porcaro:

...when we walked out on stage during that same tour in Hanover, Germany and Mike Porcaro slipped and shattered his elbow before we had even played the first note and he put the bass over his shoulders and manged to get through about four tunes and then he just couldn't do it any longer and Jeff had to get up and go stand out in front of the audience and tell them that Mike had broken his arm and that we were gonna have to stop and that was actually the last show on the Fahrenheit tour. And Mike was taken to a doctor and [he] put a cast on his arm and we all came home and that was the end of that tour.

In light of Mike's illness, some former members of Toto including guitarist Steve Lukather, keyboardists David Paich and Steve Porcaro, vocalist Joseph Williams, drummer Simon Phillips, and special guest Nathan East on bass are getting together for a small European tour to raise money to help pay for some of Mike's medical bills (the disease has already started to adversely affect his ability to play bass-- his livelihood. He sat out the band's final tour in 2008 on doctor's orders).

This tour will be the first time that Steve Porcaro has toured with Toto since their 1997 mini reunion tour and only the 2nd time touring with Toto since he left the band in the eighties. It's also the first time David Paich will have toured with Toto since 2002 or 2003. He retired from touring for undisclosed family reasons at that time and was replaced on the road by grammy winning keyboardist, Greg Phillenganes.

It's interesting to note that this band is more "Toto" than the band that was on the 2008 farewell tour which only had 2 original members (one of which, Bobby Kimball, had been fired in 1984 and re-hired in 1998). This tour will feature 3 original members (Paich, Lukather, and Steve Porcaro) not to mention fan favorite vocalist Joseph Williams (Toto's lead vocalist from 1986-1989). I wish they were playing some dates in the US... Hopefully they'll release a live album from this tour with some of the proceeds going to either help out Mike and his family or possibly to some ALS medical research foundation.


Barbara said...

Very sad news, I wish my best to Mike!

Chris said...

I was really saddened by the news of Mike's illness. I've been playing bass for almost 30 years, and Mike was one of my bigger inspirations. I always appreciated the tastefulness with which he played. ALS is such a devastating disease, insidious, really. And for him to be forced to stop playing because his body won't cooperate is a crime. He's been in my thoughts ever since I read the news about his illness, and I do hope that Toto record the performances in Europe and sell them. I'd buy as many versions as they release.

Patrick Collaris said...

It was really sad to hear about the news. Mike was such a talented bass player. I wish him all the luck he needs.

I will be there @ the show in the Netherlands july 13th. It is great to see Toto again. Specially with Joseph Williams and Steve Porcaro.

STEVE said...

TOTO Forever!!!!!!! The best there is!

Adina said...

Mike, we love and appreciate you.
Toto, we are looking forward to concerts in July. We will be on July 17 Benediktbeurn.

Alton said...

I am truly saddened at this.....He was and still is and will always be my #1 bass player...I recorded for Sun records back in the late 50s, played on the road for along time.......TOTO is my favorite band of all times...Mike had away of making it happen.....love and peace be with you MIKE....Alton Lott

Anonymous said...

I was googling for a photo of Mike to make myself a custom T-shirt to honor Mike when I attend an upcoming Lukether show in Sept 2011 at the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano, Ca. I stumbled upon your blog and just want to share my sadness that Mike has been stricken with this ilness, but at the same time express how grateful I am to have seen him live and met him several times in person. Besides being a great musician, he is an extremely kind and friendly guy that we all love and care deeply about. Peace. Darren from La Verne

jeff said...

I was on a sales call in Los Angeles about 7 years ago.
I was meeting with a woman in the garment industry and as most good sales people do, we talked about other things...life! She began to tell me how she was going to be gone for a few months and going to Europe. I thought "how nice". I asked "business or pleasure?" she said "both". My husband is in music industry and so we are going there". "The music industry ...is he in a band...or produce or..?" "he's in a band". "oh, great, they must be fairly successful if they are touring overseas.." "yes, they have had their moments". " Anyone I've heard of?" " she said "have you heard of Toto?". "Gulp.....huh??? Ah...yeah....!!!"

You can imagine how excited I was...her husband was Mike!

That was a good call...!