The Hippo


Jun 17, 2019









When: Sunday, June 25, 7 p.m.
Where: New Tupelo Music Hall, 10 A Street, Derry
Tickets: $100 & $125 and up at

Hit machine
Toto tour taps Tupelo

By Michael Witthaus

 Despite decades of success, Toto is the Rodney Dangerfield of rock. The late comedian famously complained, “I don’t get no respect at all,” and Toto guitarist Steve Lukather knows what he meant. 

“There has been, from day one, people trying to stop us,” Lukather said by phone from his home in Southern California. “We’ve been running up a vertical mountain for 40 years, while we quietly sold 40 million records — and it would have been twice that, believe me. Even our own record company didn’t like us. It was very strange.”
Lukather speaks with clear humor, absent of bitterness. Sober for eight years, he’s having more fun than ever playing with the band he began in high school that went on to score mega-hits with “Hold the Line,” “Rosanna,” “Africa,” “99” and others. 
“It’s lightening up now,” he said of the lack of respect. “I mean, there will always be the guys from Rolling Stone, the 70-year-old men stuffed into a Ramones T-shirt who just hate us. I’m never going to change that … so I’m really enjoying the ride.”
He’s not above making a few of his own jabs. Take the band’s name, a Latin term used by Jeff Porcaro and David Paich to note the group members’ deep resumes. It translates to “all-encompassing,” but Lukather learned from fellow musician Tom Scott that it had another meaning.
“I wanted to keep the high school name, Still Life,” Lukather said, “but they started writing ‘Toto’ on all the boxes of demos that we were doing — it just stuck, man! Then we come to find out it’s the biggest toilet company in the world. I said, ‘See guys? You wouldn’t listen to me.’”
In 2007, Lukather walked away from the group with a message posted on his website. 
“There is no more Toto,” he wrote at the time. “At 50 years old I wanted to start over and give it one last try on my own.”
When bassist Mike Porcaro fell ill with ALS a few years later, Lukather had a change of heart. Paitch asked  him to take part in a benefit and he agreed — provided vocalist Joseph Williams and Steve Porcaro rejoined. The 2010 one-off turned into a tour. 
“We went out and had such a great time,” Lukather said. “Joe was bringing it, everything was really fun, so we decided to do it the next year. As we started to get into year No. 3, things got interesting.”
In 2014, they recorded a live album, followed the next year by Toto XIV, the band’s first studio album in nine years. It’s also one of their best, featuring the  radio-friendly “Running Out of Time” and “21st Century Blues” a Lukather/Williams co-write that’s a clear homage to one of his favorite bands.
“The running joke was that I always wanted to be in Steely Dan,” Lukather said. “We were basically a Steely Dan tribute band in high school, and Jeff Porcaro was their drummer. ... They and The Beatles were probably our biggest influences, with Jimi Hendrix thrown in for good measure.”
Lukather played on countless sessions in the 1970s and 1980s, with credits on scores of albums. His days as a hired gun ended 25 years ago, though. 
“I was taught [that] the life of a studio guitar player is probably about 10 to 12 years,” he said. “You work up from starting out to ‘Ever hear this guy?’ to an A-lister. Then you step aside and make room for the next guy.” 
The internet disrupted things even more. 
“Now the scene is over,” Lukather said. “Guys do sessions from their house, by Skype or FaceTime. They have studios all set up, and people send them files! I used to walk into sessions not knowing who I was going to work with or what kind of music I was going to play. I had to be ready for anything.” 
The passage of time has mellowed Lukather — even his band’s name doesn’t bug him anymore. 
“Forty years later, it’s not as stupid as it used to be,” he said. “There are a lot of really stupid names out there, but Toto has been very good to me and I embrace it. I’m very thankful and grateful every day. I’m more relaxed. There is something to be said about getting older. I’m not running the races anymore, just doing what I do best, and there are a few people that dig it. I can feed my nine dependants in the 50 percent tax bracket.”

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