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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.
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, the band continues to perform today (with Jeff's drumming role taken over by Simon Philips), sometimes with Kimball and sometimes with Williams.
- A Good Name for a Rock Band: 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.
- The Band Minus the Face: Depending on the perspective of the individual fan, any line-up that lacks Bobby Kimball supplying lead vocals.
- Darker and Edgier: Kingdom Of Desire.
- Executive Meddling: They were hit with it pretty hard after Joseph Williams quit. Based on the assumption that neither Williams nor Kimball had provided a suitable "Face" for the group (see below), the record company decided to force a new singer, Jean-Michel Byron (Lukather frustratedly complained, "the guy had never even heard Led Zeppelin IV"), into the band.
- 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".
- Hey, It's That Guy!: The band members' names frequently show up in the credits for other successful albums of the era. Most notably, Thriller featured instrumental and arranging contributions by Lukather, Paich and Jeff and Steve Porcaro (the latter also co-wrote "Human Nature"). In addition, long before they found success on their own, they appeared on several albums recorded by Boz Scaggs.
- 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).
- 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 percussionist.
- 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 Bobby Kimball, were Scaggs' backing band at the time.
- 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.
- Pretty Boy: David Hungate, Joseph Williams, and possibly Mike Porcaro. Steve Lukather during Toto's earlier years may count as well.
- 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 Adult-Oriented Rock (AOR). Only Boston and Infinity beat them to being the Trope Maker.