Between their 1975 debut as a predominantly instrumental progressive rock group and their first platinum LP in 1978, Journey underwent format changes that led to their emergence as one of the top American hard-pop bands. Gregg Rolie had cofounded Santana with Carlos Santana and had sung lead on several Santana tunes, including "Evil Ways" and "Black Magic Woman." Neal Schon joined Santana after its second LP, Abraxas, when he was 17. The two left Santana in 1972. Rolie and his father opened a restaurant in Seattle, while Schon jammed with other Bay Area musicians.
Former Santana road manager Walter Herbert brought Schon and Rolie together again with ex–Steve Miller bassist Ross Valory, who, along with George Tickner, had played in Frumious Bandersnatch, a Bay Area group Herbert managed. In an impromptu contest on San Francisco station KSAN-FM, listeners were asked to name the band; the winning name was Journey. The group played its first shows with Prairie Prince, who was then drummer with the Tubes. When he decided to stay with the Tubes, British journeyman Aynsley Dunbar, whose earlier associations included John Mayall, Jeff Beck, the Bonzo Dog Band, Mothers of Invention, Lou Reed, and David Bowie, joined. Within a year of its 1974 New Year's Eve debut at San Francisco's Winterland, the group was signed to Columbia. Following Journey's debut LP, on which Rolie did most of the singing, Tickner, tired of touring, left the band. The group's next two albums sold moderately. Herbert, convinced that the group needed a lead singer, hired Robert Fleischman. Meanwhile, Steve Perry, a drummer/singer, had contacted the group several times asking to join. Due to a series of fortuitous events — Perry was recommended to Herbert by a Columbia executive around the time Herbert had decided to fire Fleischman — Perry was in. With Infinity (Number 21, 1978), their fourth LP and the first with Perry, Journey became a top group, as moderately successful singles ("Wheel in the Sky," "Lights") and constant touring made Infinity the group's first platinum LP; it eventually sold 3 million copies.
In September 1978, soon after Infinity's success, Dunbar was dismissed from the group for what Herbert termed "incompatibility of the first order." In April 1980 Journey's Nightmare Productions charged that Dunbar had been overpaid more than $60,000 in advances. In May 1980, Nightmare Productions (in which the band members and Herbert owned stock) was sued for $3.25 million by Dunbar, who claimed that he had been "squeezed out" of the group just when the earnings were increasing, and he sued for breach of contract, nonpayment of royalties, and other charges.
Meanwhile, Dunbar (who joined Jefferson Starship) was replaced by Steve Smith, formerly Journey's drum roadie, who had studied at the Berklee School of Music and played with Focus, Jean-Luc Ponty, and Montrose. "Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin'" from Evolution (Number 20, 1979) was Journey's first Top 30 hit; earlier that year "Just the Same Way" had been a moderate success.
In 1980 "Anyway You Want It" from Departure (Number 8, 1980) hit Number 23. Departure became Journey's third consecutive multiplatinum album. Columbia repackaged material from the first three (pre-Perry) LPs as In the Beginning. After Departure, Rolie tired of touring and left. He was replaced by ex-Babys keyboardist Jonathan Cain, who cowrote Journey's 1981 Number Four ballad hit, "Who's Crying Now." In 1981 Schon recorded an LP entitled Untold Passion with keyboardist Jan Hammer. Escape became the group's first Number One LP. It sold 7 million copies and spawned two other Top 10 hits: "Open Arms" and "Don't Stop Believin'." All of the Perry LPs have been certified platinum, and in late 1982 the group became the first rock band to inspire a video game, Journey —Escape.
Like many other mainstream hard-rock outfits, Journey made the transition to video, and their post-1983 albums continued to sell in the millions. Bolstered by a string of Top 20 hits that included "Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)" (Number Eight, 1983), "Faithfully" (Number 12, 1983), "Only the Young" (Number Nine, 1985)," "Be Good to Yourself" (Number Nine, 1986), "Suzanne" (Number 17, 1986), "Girl Can't Help It" (Number 17, 1986), and "I'll Be Alright Without You" (Number 14, 1987), Frontiers (Number Two, 1983), Raised on Radio (Number Four, 1986), and Greatest Hits (Number 10, 1988) sold over 10 million copies combined. Steve Perry also launched a successful side solo career and had a Number Three hit with 1984's "Oh Sherrie" from his double-platinum Street Talk (Number 12).
The group disbanded after Schon and Cain left in 1989 to join Cain's ex-Babys band mate John Waite in Bad English; in 1991 Valory and Rolie joined the Storm. Time3 peaked only at Number 90. In late 1993 the band, minus Perry, reunited at a Bay Area concert honoring Herbert. In 1994 Perry had a hit album with For the Love of Strange Medicine (Number 15, 1994) and a top single, "You Better Wait" (Number Six, 1994). However, he and Journey resumed activity in 1996, resulting in Trial by Fire (Number 47 pop). The single "When You Love a Woman" hit Number One on the Adult Contemporary chart. Perry departed again and was replaced by sound-alike Steve Augeri for "Remember Me," Journey's contribution to the 1998 Armageddon soundtrack. The group, which also sported a new drummer, released Arrival in early 2001.
This biography originally appeared in The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll (Simon & Schuster, 2001).