Steve Lukather remembers getting a reality check from his father when he first said he wanted to be a musician. Then he decided to create his own reality.
“I remember my dad saying ‘Hey kid, you’ve got a billion to one odds of making it in this business,’” Lukather recalled. “I’m like OK, it’s going to be me. I never even gave it another thought. I was like nine years old when I announced it. He (Lukather’s father) patted me on the head and said ‘Well, you go for it, kid.’ It was like in high school, there was never a time when any of us ever thought it wasn’t going to happen. We just knew this is our calling.”
The “any of us” included a pair of sibling classmates, Jeff and Steve Porcaro, and a good friend, David Paich, who along with Lukather, made up the core of their band, Toto, which they formed in 1977 – two years after Lukather graduated from Grant High School in Van Nuys.
By that time, the musicians were already showing signs of defying the odds and making it in music. Drummer Jeff Porcaro had been playing in Steely Dan for nearly three years, while guitarist Lukather and keyboardist Paich were writing, touring and recording with Boz Scaggs.
Things only got better from there for Lukather. Not only did he enjoy major success in Toto with the Porcaro brothers, Paich, bassist David Hungate (replaced in 1982 by a third Porcaro brother, Mike) and singer Bobby Kimball during the late 1970s and early ‘80s, he also became a top session player. Lukather has appeared on more than 1,500 of albums by a who’s who of music royalty, including being a major contributor to one of the biggest albums of all time, Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.”
These days, Lukather not only has Toto, he is a member of former Beatle Ringo Starr’s All Starr Band – a big deal for the guitarist, who considers the Beatles his favorite band. Toto performs Friday with Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo at Thunder Valley.
Lukather is covering all of that and more in an autobiography he expects will be out in early 2018.
“A lot of it is just really about the music,” he said of the autobiography. “I’m not writing some sex, drugs tell-all. It’s a tired story anyway. I mean, I do pepper it with a couple of really super funny stories, which involved a lot of people that are famous, that I’ve known since I was a kid, some crazy hijinks, because I don’t want a lot of people to laugh when they’re reading this. But it’s also very informative about all the records I’ve done and who did what, who came up with the stuff, interesting stuff.”
By the time “Thriller” was released in 1982, Toto was well established. The group’s 1978 self-titled debut album spawned the hit single, “Hold The Line,” and went on to top 2 million copies sold in the United States alone.
The string of successful albums extended into the 1980s (with Toto hitting a peak when the 1982 album, “Toto IV,” became a triple platinum smash behind the hits “Rosanna,” “Africa” and “I Won’t Hold You Back”).
Toto stayed with varying lineups until 2008, and then reconvened in 2010 for a European tour to raise money for Mike Porcaro, who was battling ALS disease, which took his life in 2015.
That 2010 tour, featuring Lukather, Paich, Joseph Williams (the group’s singer from 1986-89) and keyboardist Steve Porcaro was supposed to be a one-time reunion.
“We were just going to do one tour and that was going to be it,” Lukather said. “But we had so much fun and the reaction was so positive, we said ‘Well, do you want to do it again next year?’ So we sort of gently jumped back on the horse again, if you will, and it started to take on a whole new life and we were really enjoying playing together, so there was no reason not to do that.”
Toto (which also includes drummer Shannon Forrest) has been on an upswing ever since. In 2014, Toto released a concert DVD/CD set, “Live In Poland,” to considerable popularity worldwide, followed in 2015 by a well-received new studio album, “Toto XIV.” Last year, a vintage show, “Live at Montreux 1991,” was released on DVD.
Next year, Toto will reach the 40th anniversary of its debut album, and big plans are in the works for that occasion. For now, the band will remain busy, doing an August-September run withBenatar.
Lukather knows it might seem like a surprising double bill, but he likes that the evening will offer musical contrasts.
“It’s one plus one equals three,” he said. “That means people from both sides of the fence are going ‘Umm, interesting.’ But it’s all been very positive.’’
Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo and Toto
When: Friday, August 25
Where: Thunder Valley Casino Resort, Lincoln
Time: 7 p.m.
Tickets: Starting at $39.95, www.thundervalleyresort.com