The nucleus of the group consisted of school friends David Paich (keyboards, vocals) Steve Porcaro (keyboards, vocals), Jeff Porcaro (drums, percussion) and Steve Lukather (guitars, vocals), all experienced session musicians and aspiring songwriters who had played on hundreds of records between them. They were soon joined by the dynamic lead vocalist Bobby Kimball and bass guitarist David Hungate, who would leave after their fourth album and be replaced by the third Porcaro brother, Mike. They're officially named after the dog from The Wizard of Oz, but stories went around for a long time that Bobby Kimball was actually a Cajun whose real name was Robert Toteaux and the band was named after him.
While the group's music incorporates Hard Rock, Progressive Rock, Soul and Jazz, they are most commonly associated with the Soft Rock and AOR categories. Indeed, they are often noted as the Trope Codifier for the latter genre; their keyboard-driven music combined with Kimball's soaring vocal and Lukather's slashing guitar arguably bridged the gap between Fleetwood Mac and Foreigner.
Their greatest success was 1982's Toto IV, which included the number one hit "Africa" and the number two hit "Rosanna" and won six Grammy awards for the band. Kimball left shortly after and the band's fortunes declined somewhat, but they found a semi-permanent replacement in the form of another school friend named Joseph Williams, son of the prolific film composer John Williams. In spite of Jeff Porcaro's death as a result of heart failure brought on by cocaine use in 1992, his replacement Simon Phillips bowing out in 2014, and Mike Porcaro's death at the hands of ALS in 2015, the remaining four members from the Fahrenheit album lineup still performed as Toto, backed by a cadre of session musicians.
That is, until 2019; when inner band turmoil over a lawsuit by Jeff's widow Susan Goings - along with David Paich no longer physically being able to tour anymore - tore the band apart and pushed them towards a hiatus note . The lawsuit itself was acrimonious enough that a rift between Lukather and Steve Porcaro developed, thus ending the band's run with the Fahrenheit era lineup.
The hiatus was short lived, however, as after a conversation between Lukather, Paich, and Williams, Lukather and Williams felt they wanted to continue performing and touring as Toto. Thus, with Paich's blessing, the band reformed once again with just Lukather and Williams along with a brand new group of session & live musicians, some of which were a part of the last lineup before their 2019 hiatus.
Members (Founding members in bold, current members in italic)
Current Core Members
- Steve Lukather - guitars, lead and backing vocals (1976-2008, 2010-present)
- Joseph Williams - lead and backing vocals (1986-88, 1998, 2010-present)
Former Official Members
- Jeff Porcaro - drums, percussion (1978-92, died 1992)
- Simon Philips - drums, percussion (1992-2008, 2010-14)
- Keith Carlock - drums, percussion (2014-15)
- David Hungate - bass (1976-82, 2014-15)
- Mike Porcaro - bass (1982-2007, died 2015)
- Bobby Kimball - lead and backing vocals (1976-84, 1989, 1998-2008)
- Fergie Frederiksen - lead and backing vocals (1984-86, died 2014)
- Jean-Michael Byron - lead and backing vocals (1989-90)
- David Paich - keyboards, synthesizers, lead and backing vocals (1976-2008, 2010-2019)
- Steve Porcaro note - keyboards, synthesizers, lead and backing vocals (1976-87, 1998, 2010-2019)
- Greg Phillinganes note - keyboards, lead and backing vocals (2003, 2005-08)
Current Touring Members
- Robert "Sput" Searight - drums, percussion (2020-present)
- Warren Ham - saxophone, backing vocals (1986-88, 2017-2019, 2020-present)
- John Pierce - bass (2020-present)
- Dominique "Xavier" Taplin note - keyboards, lead and backing vocals (2018-2019, 2020-present)
- Steve Maggiora - keyboards, backing vocals
- Toto (1978)
- Hydra (1979)
- Turn Back (1981)
- Toto IV (1982)
- Isolation (1984)
- Dune (soundtrack) (1984)
- Fahrenheit (1986)
- The Seventh One (1988)
- Kingdom of Desire (1992)
- Tambu (1995)
- Mindfields (1999)
- Through The Looking Glass (2002)
- Falling in Between (2006)
- Toto XIV (2014)
- Old is New (2018)
"I bless the tropes down in Aaaaaaaaafricaaaaaa..."
- Artistic License Geography: "Africa" mentions the Serengeti being at the base of Kilimanjaro. While both of those things are in Tanzania's borders, they're actually over a hundred miles away from each other.
- The Band Minus the Face: Depending on the perspective of the individual fan, any line-up that lacks Bobby Kimball supplying lead vocals.
- Band of Relatives: The three Porcaro Brothers.
- Break-Up Song: "I'll Be Over You," "Stop Loving You," "Hold The Line," "Pamela," "Without Your Love," and "Straight For The Heart" just to name a few.
- Cover Version: A cover of "Hash Pipe", done in response to Weezer's cover of "Africa".
- Darker and Edgier: Kingdom Of Desire.
- Early-Bird Cameo: The title track of Kingdom of Desire and "Jake to the Bone" both appear in the Montreux 1991 DVD, a year before they were officially released.
- Genre Roulette: Most in evidence on Toto IV, which featured songs distinctly placed in the hard rock, rhythm and blues, pop rock and even world music categories.
- Heavy Mithril: "St. George and the Dragon".
- I Am the Band: Averted with Steve Lukather. When he realized that he was the only active founding member left, he disbanded the group (they later reunited, but that was only because Lukather eventually got more of the old members to return).
- Instrumental: "Child's Anthem," "Jake to the Bone," and "Dave's Gone Skiing" are some examples.
- The Man Behind the Man: As prolific session musicians and songwriters, the band members were involved in some way or another with about half of all the records that came out of California during the late 1970s and early 1980s, and in their own way they defined what American pop music would be like at this time. Jeff Porcaro in particular is lauded for his influence as a drummer, and is considered to be the most recorded drummer in music history.
- New Sound Album: All of their albums were characterised by an AOR sheen, but Hydra saw the band attempting Progressive Rock and Turn Back was strongly influenced by English Hard Rock groups like Queen and Led Zeppelin.
- Nobody Loves the Bassist: David Hungate. Despite playing on their most successful albums he's less well-known than Mike Porcaro, who was in fact originally intended to be a founding member, according to Steve Lukather, but was kept out by executives with the band's record label, Columbia Records, who wanted to retain the successful chemistry of the line-up from Boz Scaggs' critically acclaimed Silk Degrees album, as Hungate, Lukather and other members of Toto except for Kimball were Scaggs' backing band at the time.
- This was averted, naturally, with Mike Porcaro, who was very well-liked within and outside of the band.
- Again averted when Hungate came back for one more album and tour after Mike's passing.
- One Steve Limit: Averted with Steve Lukather and Steve Porcaro, as well as with David Hungate and David Paich.
- One-Woman Song: "Rosanna" is their most famous; Steve Porcaro had briefly dated actress Rosanna Arquette and he dedicated the song to her, although Paich insists that it's not really about anyone in particular and Arquette's forename just happened to fit the chorus. Curiously enough, they've got a song with a woman's name ending in 'a' for the title on most of their albums ("Angela", "Rosanna", "Holyanna", "Lea", "Pamela", "Anna"), with one exception being "Melanie" from their Mindfields album.
- Power Ballad: "Africa" & "I Won't Hold You Back".
- Revolving Door Band: The band had shifted between six-piece, five-piece and at one time, a four-piece line-up through their career, with members drifting in and out of the band (along with Jeff Porcaro's tragic death and Mike Porcaro's death to ALS), with only Steve Lukather having stayed with Toto through all of its incarnations. Now, the band current stand at two members: Lukather, and vocalist Joseph Williams. This of course doesn't count the sheer number of musicians that have performed live with them (38 in total, at current count) or the even larger number of guests they've had on their albums.
- Shaped Like Itself: The infamous line in "Africa" about how "Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus", essentially comparing one mountain to another.
- Step Up to the Microphone: Frustrated by their inability to find a consistent lead singer, Steve Lukather took over sole lead vocal duties between 1992 and 1998. During their peak popularity, he, Steve Porcaro and David Paich usually had at least one song on each album that featured them singing lead.
- Self-Titled Album: Their first album (Toto) and their fourth album (Toto IV). Aside from these, all of their other albums had individual titles.
- Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Fergie Frederiksen for Bobby Kimball; both were from Louisiana and before joining Toto, Frederiksen had been lead singer in a band (Le Roux) that grew out of the band that Kimball left (The Levee Band) so he could join Toto.
- Trope Codifier: For Album-Oriented Rock (AOR). Only the aforementioned Boston and Journey beat them to being the Trope Maker.
- Uncommon Time: "Jake to the Bone" and "Dave's Gone Skiing" rotate between different time signatures at various parts of the song.