Toto Lineup Changes: A Complete Guide
From the moment the strains of their first single, ‘Hold the Line,’ hit the airwaves in 1978, Toto were an immediate success story — one whose chapters are still being written in 2013, as the band’s debut record celebrates its 35th anniversary. But even as they celebrated a string of multi-platinum albums and Top 40 hits, the members of Toto had to deal with constant change behind the scenes. Of course, a lot of bands face personnel changes, but Toto have been through more than many and faced a number of gut-wrenching personal tragedies along the way. This edition of UCR’s Lineup Changes looks at all the major comings and goings they’ve seen over the years — including the most recent, which honors the group’s musical history while potentially giving it another new beginning.
1977-82: David Paich / Jeff Porcaro / David Hungate / Steve Lukather / Steve Porcaro / Bobby Kimball
Most high school bands don’t go anywhere, but Rural Still Life, which gigged around Grant High in L.A.’s San Fernando Valley in the early ’70s, is a notable exception: Drummer Jeff Porcaro, keyboard players David Paich and Steve Porcaro, and guitarist Steve Lukather all went on to help form the nucleus of Toto’s original lineup, along with session vet David Hungate (who played with Paich and Jeff Porcaro on Boz Scaggs‘ ‘Silk Degrees’ album) on bass and vocalist Bobby Kimball. The group found immediate success with their self-titled debut album, but things really exploded — in more ways than one — after the multi-platinum, Grammy-winning ‘Toto IV’ in 1982.
1983-84: David Paich / Jeff Porcaro / Steve Lukather / Steve Porcaro / Bobby Kimball / Mike Porcaro
As soon as the basic tracks for ‘Toto IV’ were completed, Hungate abruptly quit and moved to Nashville — and although he was quickly replaced by Mike Porcaro, who joined the band in time for the album’s videos and tour, they’d soon have to replace an even more distinctive component of what had become a very successful sound.
1984-85: David Paich / Jeff Porcaro / Steve Lukather / Steve Porcaro / Mike Porcaro / Fergie Frederiksen
Coming off the biggest record of their career, Toto faced the difficult prospect of putting together a follow-up — a question that became even tougher to answer when Bobby Kimball’s struggles with some bad habits caught up with him in the months leading up to the sessions for 1984’s ‘Isolation.’ Stuck for a new singer, the band brought in former Le Roux vocalist Fergie Frederiksen. Unfortunately, Toto’s new sound failed to catch on, either on the charts or behind the scenes, and it was soon time to make yet another change.
1986-88: David Paich / Jeff Porcaro / Steve Lukather / Steve Porcaro / Mike Porcaro / Joseph Williams
On the hunt for another new singer after Frederiksen’s exit following the ‘Isolation’ tour, the band turned to another childhood friend, Joseph Williams. Williams’ elastic tenor, songwriting skill and stage presence complemented Toto perfectly, and although his two records as the group’s frontman (1986’s ‘Fahrenheit’ and 1988’s ‘The Seventh One’) didn’t match the success of ‘Toto IV,’ things were finally stable again … for a while, anyway. Steve Porcaro exited as a full-time member following ‘Fahrenheit,’ although he remained in the wings as a guest on subsequent albums. Even though his absence had an effect on the group’s music, they were thrown for another loop when Williams’ own bad habits caught up with him on the ‘Seventh One’ tour, preventing him from being able to perform consistently and resulting in yet another change at the lead singer position.
1990: David Paich / Jeff Porcaro / Steve Lukather / Mike Porcaro / Jean-Michel Byron
Unsure of what to do next, Toto decided to regroup with a greatest-hits record, and when it came time to record a few new songs for the compilation, they yielded to the record company’s advice and added South African singer Jean-Michel Byron to the lineup. Although the resulting release, ‘Past to Present 1977-1990,’ sold well, Byron’s more flamboyant style didn’t mesh with the rest of the group, and by the end of the tour to support the record, he’d been relegated to more of a background role — then let go completely.
1991-92: David Paich / Jeff Porcaro / Steve Lukather / Mike Porcaro
Unwilling to add yet another lead singer to the mix, Toto decided to carry on as a four-piece for 1992’s ‘Kingdom of Desire’ record, taking things back to basics for a set of harder-edged songs that they all wrote together. Sadly, before they could go on the road to promote the album, Jeff Porcaro passed away, the victim of a heart attack.
1992-97: David Paich / Steve Lukather / Mike Porcaro / Simon Phillips
Faced with touring obligations and a crew to support, the surviving members of Toto made the difficult decision to carry on in the wake of Jeff Porcaro’s death, bringing in session vet Simon Phillips to hold down the bottom end for their ‘Kingdom of Desire’ dates in 1992 and ’93. The combination worked so well that they decided to go on, keeping Lukather behind the mic full-time for 1995’s ‘Tambu’ LP.
1998-2003: David Paich / Steve Lukather / Mike Porcaro / Simon Phillips / Bobby Kimball
While assembling some odds and ends for 1998’s ‘Toto XX’ collection, the band decided to reach out to Kimball and Williams and bring them back into the fold for some promotional dates — a combination that worked well enough to prompt Kimball’s full-time return for 1999’s ‘Mindfields’ record. With the classic Toto sound largely intact for the first time in 15 years, it looked like the band had come full circle.
2003-08: David Paich / Steve Lukather / Mike Porcaro / Simon Phillips / Bobby Kimball / Greg Phillinganes
For a time, Kimball’s reunion with Toto seemed to stick; the band released a pair of albums (2003’s covers set ‘Through the Looking Glass’ and 2006’s ‘Falling in Between’), ventured out on a series of tours and projected an air of unity. But behind the scenes, trouble was brewing again — Paich’s reluctance to tour and Mike Porcaro’s tragic diagnosis with Lou Gehrig’s disease meant that the band’s live lineup slowly became more of a rotating cast than a real band, and Lukather’s growing feeling that Toto were no longer Toto led him to pull the plug in 2008.
2010- : David Paich / Steve Lukather / Simon Phillips / Joseph Williams / Steve Porcaro / Nathan East
After the band’s dissolution in 2008, it looked like Toto might be done for good — but then Paich called Lukather in 2010, reaching out to broach the subject of a short tour to help raise money for Mike Porcaro and his family. With Steve Porcaro back in the lineup and Joseph Williams returning to his old spot behind the mic, Toto hit the road once more, and they’ve gone back since; in fact, as of this writing, they’re discussing the possibility of a new studio album. “We’ve taken so many punches — from the critics, from ourselves,” Lukather mused during an interview with Ultimate Classic Rock. “Death, illness, losing band members, anything that can go wrong, but something brings us back to this, and I’ve gotta think there’s some kind of destiny involved in it.”