When Naglee Met Doobie
By Gary Singh
SAN JOSE'S Naglee Park Neighborhood has always exuded a quaint historic charm and character. Among its environs one finds many a mansion and distinguished home, classic in style, the fertile ground on which generations can reminisce about the grand communities of times past. Many of the homes in Naglee Park have historical significance, so it makes sense that the current locals would assemble an "historic inventory" of those houses where famous people once dwelled. But one place they haven't bothered to officially document yet is the domicile at 285 S. 12th St., which once was occupied by the only rock band in San Jose history to play a cameo gig on an episode of the legendary '70s black-culture sitcom, What's Happening. I'm talking about, of course, the Doobie Brothers, and this house is where they began. It should be in the Naglee Park Historic Inventory for that TV appearance alone.
Those of us who worshipped What's Happening will always cherish that episode where Rerun got busted for bootlegging the Doobie Brothers show and the message it taught all of us. Rerun was the lovable bulb-shaped dufus character and he couldn't get into the show, so a few thugs set him up with free tickets in trade for illegally taping the show. And the tape recorder fell out of his overcoat during the song, "Taking It to the Streets." That's right—back in the '70s you could actually go to jail for recording somebody's show. That entire episode is now, ironically, available on YouTube.
The 12th Street house sits right behind what's now the Naglee Park Garage, a small restaurant in the corner of the plaza at 11th and San Carlos, which includes a legendary downtown 7-Eleven and which functions as the western gateway to Naglee Park. Back in the early '70s, the Doobies lived, partied, rehearsed and did who knows what else in this house. Singer and guitarist Tom Johnston used to park his motorcycle on the porch of the place. Bikes were constantly out front. Skip Spence from Jefferson Airplane and Moby Grape also held court. According to the Doobies' Pat Simmons, Stevie Nicks, later of Fleetwood Mac, lived next door.
The house was an institution in downtown San Jose during those years and it should be in all the books. And speaking of that, Johnston himself actually appears in the San Jose City Directories at this address for the years 1971–1973, so the info is right there in the public domain for everyone to see.
Steven Seaweed of 107.7 The Bone says he lived in the house immediately before the Doobies did. On the Bone's website he says, "We lived in a house on 12th street by San Jose State, right behind the 7-Eleven. Matter of fact, we even put a gate in the back fence leading directly into the parking lot of Slurpee Heaven (not that we ever got cravings or anything)."
In short, the stories about this historical landmark of San Jose's Naglee Park will continue to inhabit the annals of history, even if it currently sits on a pretty nondescript block—just the type of street where the sun might come up on a sleepy little town down around San Antone. (Insert wince or rimshot here.)