Toto Was The Studio Band For Steely Dan, Boz Scaggs and Michael Jackson

If you love the golden age of '70s music as we do here at Gooseneck HQ, then you undoubtedly -- and perhaps unknowingly -- love Toto.

That's because the core members of Toto -- David Paich, Jeff Porcaro, Steve Lukather and David Hungate -- were all highly accomplished and in-demand Los Angeles studio musicians during that period when many great records were being recorded in L.A.

These guys played on literally hundreds of records before and even after they formed Toto. In fact, they formed Toto after running into each other so many times at sessions and deciding they should start their own band. Plus, several of the guys all grew up together and went to the same high school in Van Nuys.

Of all the records they played on outside of Toto, we love their work with Steely Dan, Boz Scaggs and Michael Jackson. 

Boz Scaggs, Silk Degrees


Boz's breakthrough and best-selling album, Silk Degrees, was also a breakthrough for David Paich. Boz asked Paich to collaborate on the record and he ended up co-writing with Boz five of the ten songs on this album, including the perennial hits "Lowdown" and "Lido Shuffle."

Listen to "Lido" today and you can tell that it's basically a Toto record with Boz singing on top of it. In fact, the whole rhythm section on Silk Degrees -- Paich on keyboards, Jeff Porcaro on drums and David Hungate on bass -- is Toto.

It's also cool to note Jeff Porcaro's father, Joe -- himself a veteran studio musician -- played percussion on this album. And in another example of "like father/like son" David Paich's father, Marty, was also an accomplished studio pianist and arranger.

Steely Dan, Pretzel Logic


Donald Fagen and Walter Becker are known as studio perfectionists who called on a rotating cast of ace session musicians to bring their songs to life. David Paich and Jeff Porcaro were both on speed-dial for Donald and Walter during that period in the mid-'70s when the Dan were recording Pretzel Logic and Katy Lied in L.A.

We're not sure which of the exact tracks the Toto guys played on, as the Dan were sometimes cryptic in their liner notes. But listen to songs like "Any Major Dude" and you can start to hear similarities to the playing on Toto records.

Michael Jackson, Thriller


Eddie Van Halen gets the credit for the guitar solo on "Beat It," but it's Steve Lukather's rhythm guitar and Jeff Porcaro's drums that define this track. Another Toto contribution to Thriller is on the Michael Jackson/Paul McCartney duet "The Girl Is Mine."

There's also a Toto songwriting credit on Thriller. Toto keyboardist Steve Porcaro caught Quincy Jones's ear with a demo recording of his song "Human Nature" when it was still being written. Quincy loved it, got John Bettis to help complete the lyrics, and then recorded it with Michael.

So what do Michael Jackson, Steely Dan and Boz Scaggs have in common? Toto! Even if you don't love Toto, you probably love some of the other records the members of the band played on during the '70s and '80s. 

Leave A Comment

Now it's your turn. What's your favorite record that Toto played on for another artist? What's your favorite Toto record? Leave a comment and let us know!

If you like this post, you might also like:

Steely Dan's Long-Lost Song "Second Arrangement"
Steely Dan's Aja Is Pure Genius
Who's The Deacon In Steely Dan's Deacon Blues?

17 comments

  • Mike F

    Mike F Boston

    I've been a Tot fan since the seventies, have followed their careers over the years. I'm headed to Ct to see Toto and Boz on 8/25 , This will be the fourth time to see Toto in the last couple of years......

    I've been a Tot fan since the seventies, have followed their careers over the years.
    I'm headed to Ct to see Toto and Boz on 8/25 ,
    This will be the fourth time to see Toto in the last couple of years......

  • Me

    Me Nashville

    Looking forward to seeing and hearing them at The Ryman tomorrow night!

    Looking forward to seeing and hearing them at The Ryman tomorrow night!

  • Hold the line

    Hold the line Midlothian, va

    This is big news to me. I love Toto

    This is big news to me. I love Toto

  • Bobby T

    Bobby T SF BayArea

    Always, enjoyed Toto, didn't know that they did backup for Michael Jackson.

    Always, enjoyed Toto, didn't know that they did backup for Michael Jackson.

  • Mickeyd

    Mickeyd San Antonio,Tx

    That explains a lot actually. I loved Toto's sound immediately upon hearing their debut album, as well as Steely Dan and Boz. I knew Eddie Van Halen played the lead guitar solo on MJ' song ' Beat It' and liked that particular song and often wondered why some of his other tunes caught my ear. Now I know.....! Great stuff, Thanks

    That explains a lot actually. I loved Toto's sound immediately upon hearing their debut album, as well as Steely Dan and Boz. I knew Eddie Van Halen played the lead guitar solo on MJ' song ' Beat It' and liked that particular song and often wondered why some of his other tunes caught my ear. Now I know.....!
    Great stuff, Thanks

  • George Rudolph

    George Rudolph WUSB FM 09.1 Stony Brook, NY

    I never was a big Toto fan, although they are quite good. To me the studio work you highlight is more significant and of greater quality than their own records. All that said Steely Dan and Box Scaggs are perennials on my show, occasionally highlighted by a track from Gooseneck. BTW - My new show is called Smooth Jazz Radio and airs on alternating Fridays from 1-3-pm (next show Oct. 14th) on the web WUSB.FM. My other show The Loft airs on Alternating Thursdays from 3-6am Eastern Time (next show Oct 13th.)

    I never was a big Toto fan, although they are quite good. To me the studio work you highlight is more significant and of greater quality than their own records. All that said Steely Dan and Box Scaggs are perennials on my show, occasionally highlighted by a track from Gooseneck. BTW - My new show is called Smooth Jazz Radio and airs on alternating Fridays from 1-3-pm (next show Oct. 14th) on the web WUSB.FM. My other show The Loft airs on Alternating Thursdays from 3-6am Eastern Time (next show Oct 13th.)

  • Tracy c Wellman

    Tracy c Wellman Dallas tx

    There all great , it's funny I play all thier music all the time . The best era of music ever 💯👍🏿

    There all great , it's funny I play all thier music all the time . The best era of music ever 💯👍🏿

  • Chaz

    Chaz Rockford, IL

    I had no idea Toto played on those records. I am a big fan of Steely Dan and of Boz Scaggs Silk Degrees album.

    I had no idea Toto played on those records. I am a big fan of Steely Dan and of Boz Scaggs Silk Degrees album.

  • Jon

    Jon Tucson

    I was a big Dan fan when I moved to LA in '77 so I went to see one of their sidemen Larry Carlton at Donte's in NoHo. Sitting near the bar I overheard Jeff Porcaro tell the bartender before the show that he and David were putting together a band.

    I was a big Dan fan when I moved to LA in '77 so I went to see one of their sidemen Larry Carlton at Donte's in NoHo. Sitting near the bar I overheard Jeff Porcaro tell the bartender before the show that he and David were putting together a band.

  • Gary Alexander

    Gary Alexander Nashville, Tn.

    Being a guitar player, I'm a huge fan of Steve Lukather. A Toto show wouldn't be Toto without him. He's pretty much the star of the show. As far as a favorite record that Toto played on for another artist, that would be "She's A Beauty" by The Tubes. Not sure how many, if any of the other Toto guys played on it, but I'm quite sure that's Steve's guitar work. It sounds to me like the whole Toto band. Steve is credited for being a writer as well. Growing up and gigging during the 70's/80's era, I've known all along that those guys played on more records than you can count. I knew about the Boz records, but somehow the Steely Dan stuff got by me. Nice little nugget, thanks guys!

    Being a guitar player, I'm a huge fan of Steve Lukather. A Toto show wouldn't be Toto without him. He's pretty much the star of the show. As far as a favorite record that Toto played on for another artist, that would be "She's A Beauty" by The Tubes. Not sure how many, if any of the other Toto guys played on it, but I'm quite sure that's Steve's guitar work. It sounds to me like the whole Toto band. Steve is credited for being a writer as well. Growing up and gigging during the 70's/80's era, I've known all along that those guys played on more records than you can count. I knew about the Boz records, but somehow the Steely Dan stuff got by me. Nice little nugget, thanks guys!

  • Sean

    Sean Nambour qld Australia

    The first ever hit for toto is , Question? .? Answer, 99

    The first ever hit for toto is , Question? .? Answer, 99

  • Noel.D

    Noel.D LA

    Loved the recap history I used to follow! Love allof them.

    Loved the recap history I used to follow! Love allof them.

  • Paul

    Paul Roseville CA

    Been a fan for years. Going to see them 8/23. Looking forward to it.

    Been a fan for years. Going to see them 8/23. Looking forward to it.

  • JeffIsTheBest

    JeffIsTheBest LIC NY

    I never knew what a genius Jeff Porcaro was. Did not realize he has been gone so many years. Did not know he was on so many artist's songs, no wonder I liked them. Jeff drove it all. I cannot believe he is gone. I am very confused. I grew up with all of this and now years later it hits me in the face. An era of intense talent is no longer. We can play the videos on You tube and obsess on the web and google for hours but there is no solution for the loss.

    I never knew what a genius Jeff Porcaro was. Did not realize he has been gone so many years. Did not know he was on so many artist's songs, no wonder I liked them. Jeff drove it all. I cannot believe he is gone. I am very confused. I grew up with all of this and now years later it hits me in the face. An era of intense talent is no longer. We can play the videos on You tube and obsess on the web and google for hours but there is no solution for the loss.

  • CP

    CP San Diego, CA

    Bill Champlin/ Single

    Bill Champlin/ Single

  • Noel.D

    Noel.D L.A.

    Toto has a lot of music styles and they’re so great to listen to. You mentioned MJ and their song called Animal from their first compelation album came to mind. Pamela is a killer song and the way of its done composition- how they come up with it is brilliant, I would drown in my own tears if I don’t stop listening to it much like the song, I’ll be Over You. If you know how they came up with Pamela, please share. But taking it back from the beginning, whenever I listen to Girl Goodbye, it always reminds me of of how much rock they can put together in a song and throw it at me till I’m more than satisfied. Georgia I think is a one of a kind song by the Boz and the band behind him- Toto, gotta love it. I know it’s obvious, I miss the old band with Jeff. I just know I’ll be listening to Toto,.. forever... “Till the End” (pun intended)

    Toto has a lot of music styles and they’re so great to listen to. You mentioned MJ and their song called Animal from their first compelation album came to mind.
    Pamela is a killer song and the way of its done composition- how they come up with it is brilliant, I would drown in my own tears if I don’t stop listening to it much like the song, I’ll be Over You. If you know how they came up with Pamela, please share.
    But taking it back from the beginning, whenever I listen to Girl Goodbye, it always reminds me of of how much rock they can put together in a song and throw it at me till I’m more than satisfied.
    Georgia I think is a one of a kind song by the Boz and the band behind him- Toto, gotta love it.
    I know it’s obvious, I miss the old band with Jeff. I just know I’ll be listening to Toto,.. forever... “Till the End” (pun intended)

  • Gianluca Masala

    Gianluca Masala Italy

    I heard Lukather and Jeff in some Randy Crawford album, and Toto complete band (Jeff, Steve, Mike and David) in an Aretha Franklin's LP. I heard David Paich in a Cherill Lynn song (Got to be real), which he wrote. Toto are (fortunately) everywhere!

    I heard Lukather and Jeff in some Randy Crawford album, and Toto complete band (Jeff, Steve, Mike and David) in an Aretha Franklin's LP. I heard David Paich in a Cherill Lynn song (Got to be real), which he wrote. Toto are (fortunately) everywhere!

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