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J. D. Ryznar and Hunter D. Stair devised the series after noticing the incestuous recording careers of such bands as Steely Dan, Toto, and The Doobie Brothers and the singer-songwriters Kenny Loggins and Michael McDonald. For example, McDonald co-wrote Loggins' "This Is It" and The Doobie Brothers' "What a Fool Believes" and also performed backing vocals for several other 'yacht rock' artists, including Steely Dan and Christopher Cross. Yacht Rock's episodes were "hosted" by "Hollywood" Steve Huey, a legitimate music critic for Allmusic.

Ryznar admits to having a fascination with the music of the period. Ryznar explains, "Getting into Steely Dan really started this for me. As did the ability to buy dollar records at Amoeba and put them on tapes for my car. Kenny Loggins has made his way into all the pilots I've been involved with except [one]."[1] As Ryznar told Reuters contributor Andy Sullivan, "I'm making fun of the songwriting process, but the music is generally treated pretty lovingly."[2]

The series depicted some realistic aspects of the music, but builds exaggerated storylines around them. For example, the series' presentation of Hall & Oates, in which John Oates, a clear junior partner given his paucity of lead vocals or songwriting credits, rules over partner Daryl Hall in quasi-abusive fashion, is unrealistic. Michael Jackson is depicted as a hard-rock enthusiast who believes his partnership with guitarist Eddie Van Halen will lead to an endless parade of female sexual conquests. Jeff "Skunk" Baxter, the Doobie Brothers' lead guitarist, is often seen pressuring central figure Michael McDonald to write the Doobies another hit. The real Baxter did bring McDonald into the band but he quit himself after achieving their greatest commercial success because of his displeasure with their new commercial attitude. The Eagles and Steely Dan really did insert lyrical references to each other in their music, as depicted in the show, but these were actually friendly in nature, not part of a longtime grudge involving baseball bats and lunch-money shakedowns.[3]

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