Bassist David Hungate is best known for his six years with the slick pop/rock/arena rock supergroup Toto, but he was a busy West Coast session player before he joined Toto and continued to be very much in demand long after leaving that outfit. Although Hungate (who should not be confused with the poet/author David Hungate) was born in Texas, he spent much of his adult life in Los Angeles -- which is where he made a name for himself in the early '70s. By the time Toto was formed, Hungate had a long résumé as a session player -- the artists he had backed ranged from Boz Scaggs to Seals & Crofts to gospel favorite Andraé Crouch to country-pop star Dolly Parton. And the fact that he played with such a range of people in his pre-Toto days illustrates his flexibility; over the years, Hungate has played everything from soft rock, pop/rock, arena rock, and adult contemporary to soul and urban contemporary to country. The fact that Hungate (who plays acoustic and electric guitar as secondary instruments) was an L.A.-based session player made him perfect for Toto; that band was dominated by busy studio players.
Toto was formed in 1978, when Hungate got together with David Paich (keyboards, vocals), Steve Lukather (lead guitar, vocals), Bobby Kimball (lead vocals), Steve Porcaro (keyboards), and Steve's late brother Jeff Porcaro (drums). Released by Columbia that year, the band's self-titled debut album was a double-platinum smash in the United States (where over two million copies were sold) and boasted the major hits "Hold the Line" and "Georgy Porgy"." Rock critics, as a rule, hated Toto, which received more than its share of negative reviews -- if Elvis Costello and the Clash were the epitome of artists who critics adored in the late '70s, Toto epitomized the sort of corporate rock that critics loved to hate. But none of those bad reviews made Toto's fans any less devoted. In 1979, Hungate played on Toto's sophomore album, Hydra (which went gold), and he was also present on Toto's third album, Turn Back (which Columbia released in 1981). Then, in 1982, Hungate played on Toto's multi-platinum fourth album, Toto IV. Thanks to hits like "Rosanna" (which was written for actress Rosanna Arquette) and "Africa," Toto IV not only became the band's biggest release since its 1978 debut -- it becameToto's biggest album of all. During his six years with Toto, Hungate continued to do a great deal of session work and backed major artists like Bryan Adams, Gladys Knight, the Manhattan Transfer, Judy Collins, Neil Sedaka, Barbra Streisand, and Olivia Newton-John.
In 1984, Hungate left Toto and was replaced by Mike Porcaro, a brother of Steve and Jeff Porcaro. That gave Hungate even more time to do session work, and the rest of the '80s found him playing on albums by everyone from Linda Ronstadt to Kenny Rogers to Rickie Lee Jones. Though Hungate has devoted a lot of his time to pop and rock sessions in L.A., the bassist has made his share of trips to Nashville and played on quite a few country albums. The major country artists he has backed over the years include George Jones, Glen Campbell, Lacy J. Dalton, Lorrie Morgan, Conway Twitty, Barbara Mandrell, George Strait, Tanya Tuckerm and Reba McEntire. Hungate has played some hardcore honky tonk on occasion, although his pop/rock credentials have often made him a logical choice for crossover pop-country sessions.
The '90s found Hungate continuing to do a lot of session work in addition to recording his first solo album, Souvenir, which turned out to be an interesting departure for the bassist. Released on the Clubhouse label in 1994, the mostly instrumental Souvenir found Hungate playing jazz-fusion and pop-jazz and being influenced by improvisers like Pat Metheny, the Yellowjackets, and Weather Report. Souvenir was something that Hungate recorded and promoted on the side -- session work was still his main focus, and when the 21st century arrived, he was still keeping busy in the studios of L.A. and Nashville.