15 Bands That Carried On With New Singers - Rolling Stone
Home Music Music Lists

15 Bands That Carried On With New Singers

Watch Motley Crue, Van Halen, Journey and others soldier on without their frontmen

Sammy Hagar; Van Halen; David Lee Roth; New Singer; 1985; 1986

Ebet Roberts/Getty, Brian Rasic/Getty

Stone Temple Pilots are hitting the road next month with Chester Bennington at the helm. Their new song "Out of Time" is doing OK on rock radio, but the odds are definitely against this working in the long run. For reasons that are very easy to understand, fans want to see bands play with their original lead singers. Bands including Genesis, AC/DC and Black Sabbath seamlessly brought in new singers, but many bands struggle through the process. Journey took decades to find Arnel Pineda, and they still aren't nearly as popular as they were during the Steve Perry days. Here's a look at 15 groups that bravely soldiered on without their frontman. Note: we aren't counting groups like the Doors, Alice In Chains and Blind Melon who hired a new singer after the original died.

Play video

Van Halen with Gary Cherone (1997-1999)

It's easy to understand why the Van Halen brothers thought they could easily replace Sammy Hagar after he left the band in 1995. The Red Rocker himself was a replacement for David Lee Roth, and the band proved all the skeptics wrong when they sold millions of records with Hagar at the helm. They weren't so lucky with Cherone. The band's 1998 album, III, was a relative stiff, and the tour didn't do the sort of business the band was used to seeing. (Eddie's growing drinking problem didn't help matters, either.) Cherone was a powerful singer and he poured his heart into the shows, but the fans just weren't willing to accept him. Hagar came back in 2004, and then Roth returned three years later.

Play video

Journey with Arnel Pineda (2007-present)

Journey started in 1973 as a collective of former Santana bandmates, with Gregg Rolle on keyboards and lead vocals. They hired Steve Perry to sing four years later and immediately saw a huge surge of popularity. Rolie is a great singer (that's him on "Black Magic Woman"), but Perry has a tremendous gift with pop songs. Much to the chagrin of his bandmates, he lost interest in the band in 1986, and a 1995 reunion fizzled out very quickly due to Perry's health problems. The band grew sick of waiting around, so they brought in Steve Augeri in 1998. Fans said he looked like Steve Perry with a perm. Even his name was similar. They parted ways in 2006 after Augeri had some voice problems (fans even alleged there was some lip-syncing). Jeff Soto was briefly brought in, though he never quite fit.

The band grew desperate and came close to hiring a Steve Perry impersonator from a Journey cover band, until they stumbled across clips of Filipino singer Arnel Pineda on YouTube. He had Perry's voice down cold, and fans were overjoyed when he came into the band. Ticket sales skyrocketed. The dream remains alive that Perry might return one day, but until then Pineda is at the helm. 

Play video

Audioslave (2001-2007)

What is a relatively young band like Rage Against the Machine to do when their singer quits? Imagine the frustration. You spend a decade building this band into this massive entity, and then one guy bails and you're screwed. Rage weren't ready to throw in the towel, so they picked up one of the biggest free agents in rock and carried on. Wisely, they changed the name. Unwisely, they picked the uber-generic Audioslave. Early tours featured nothing but Audioslave songs, but they eventually folded and brought in Rage and Soundgarden material.  

Chris Cornell is an amazing singer, but watching him sing "Killing in the Name" was a pretty gnarly sight. It wasn't totally his fault. Zack De La Rocha is the only man on the planet who can pull that tune off, and in 2007 he returned to Rage and the whole world forgot that Audioslave existed. Unfortunately for all parties, YouTube exists, and footage of Chris Cornell signing "Testify" will never go away.

Play video

Velvet Revolver (2002-2008)

Right around the time that Audioslave teamed up with Chris Cornell, Slash, Duff McKagan and Matt Sorum signed on with Scott Weiland and formed Velvet Revolver. They sprinkled Guns N' Roses classics into their set list from the very beginning, though they avoided the giant hits like "Welcome to the Jungle" and "Sweet Child o' Mine." Instead, they brought out "It's So Easy" and "Mr. Brownstone." (These were also easier for Weiland to sing.) The group lasted for a few years before falling apart in a spectacular (and all too predictable) fashion. 

Play video

Motley Crue with John Corabi (1993-1996)

Mötley Crüe imploded at a very bad time. The group's 1989 disc Dr. Feelgood was their biggest yet and they had a slim chance of being one of the few hair metal bands to survive the grunge era, but in 1992 old tensions boiled over and Vince Neil left the band. (To this day they can't agree on whether or not he was fired or quit.) John Corabi was brought in and they cut a new album, five long years after Dr. Feelgood came out. They tried to make a Nine Inch Nails-inspired disc, but by that point nobody cared.

They hit the road with Corabi in 1994, but this was the era of Green Day and Weezer. The Crüe seemed like fossils, and without Neil they struggled to sell any tickets. Corabi is a great singer, but fans want to hear Vince Neil sing the hits, and that's all there is to it.

Play video

Black Sabbath with Ian Gillan (1983-’84)

Against all odds, Black Sabbath briefly grew stronger after Ozzy Osbourne was pushed out in 1979. The last few Ozzy albums were highly disappointing, and new singer Ronnie James Dio infused the band with incredible new energy. But he only lasted two albums, and by 1983 they were once again in search of a new singer. Deep Purple had folded by this point, so their vocalist, Ian Gillan, needed a gig. It seemed like a good idea on paper. There's a lot of overlap in the Black Sabbath and Deep Purple fan communities, but their lone album together, Born Again, just didn't quite click. (It also has the ugliest album cover in rock history.) The supporting tour was such a fiasco it inspired Spinal Tap the following year. They built a Stonehenge stage set that was too big for almost every venue they played, and Gillan walked when the tour was over and reformed Deep Purple. He remains there to this day. 

Black Sabbath limped along with unknown singer Tony Martin, ultimately reforming with both Dio and Ozzy at various points in the future. The world has largely forgotten Ian Gillian's brief tenure in the band, but it was a good cautionary tale for Velvet Revolver and Scott Weiland. You can't just smash together two great bands and expect it to work. People want Ian Gillan singing Deep Purple songs, and they want Ozzy Osbourne fronting Black Sabbath. 

Play video

Genesis with Ray Wilson (1997-1998)

Genesis faced a tough decision when Phil Collins quit the band in 1996: carry on with a third lead singer or simply call it quits. It wasn't an easy call. They tested fate back in 1976 when they replaced Peter Gabriel with Phil Collins. It worked in a huge way, but there were no other great vocalists left in the band. They'd have to reach outside the group. Keyboardist Tony Banks was tempted to call it a day, but guitarist Mike Rutherford pushed for the group to continue. Their last tour packed stadiums all over the world. They felt they had enough momentum and fan loyalty to carry on with a reasonable amount of success. 

Banks and Rutherford brought in Scottish singer Ray Wilson, best known for his tenure in Stilltskin. The group were unknowns in America, but their 1994 single "Inside" was a minor hit in England. Genesis cut a new album entitled Calling All Stations. To say it was a commercial disappointment would be a gross understatement. Nobody bought it. Nobody cared. They had to cancel an American theater tour due to complete lack of interest. After a brief European tour they called it quits. Ray Wilson now plays Genesis, Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins solo songs at clubs all over Europe. It's sad when the clear highlight of your career is the absolute low point for everyone else involved in the project. 

Play video

Yes with Benoit David (2008-2011)

Yes planned on launching a massive anniversary tour in 2004, but were forced to call it off when frontman Jon Anderson became ill. They waited around a few years, but by 2008 they just couldn't wait any longer and they recruited Benoit David, lead singer of the Canadian Yes tribute band Close to the Edge. It meant playing slightly smaller venues than normal, but they made it up by playing a ridiculous amount of shows a year. With Anderson out of the equation they were free to become workhorses again. The pace proved too much for David, who eventually bowed out after experiencing voice troubles. That wasn't going to stop Yes. They recruited a new guy named Jon Davison and carried on like nothing happened. Nothing stops the Yes train. Nothing. 

Play video

Foreigner with Kelly Hansen (2005-present)

Foreigner had a lot more hits than people realize. In a relatively short period the band landed on the charts with "Feels Like the First Time," "Cold as Ice," "Double Vision, "Juke Box Hero," "Waiting For a Girl Like You," "Urgent" and "I Want to Know What Love Is." They aren't the best looking guys and they didn't fare well in the MTV world, but they still had enough famous songs to tour until the end of time. The only problem was that guitarist Mick Jones and singer Lou Gramm didn't get along very well. Gramm left in the late Eighties, but the group's new singer, Johnny Edwards, didn't connect with fans. Gramm came back in 1992, but five years later he had a brain tumor removed. Believe it or not, one of his symptoms was double vision.

Gramm was never the same after he recovered from the surgery. He gained a lot of weight and his voice just wasn't there anymore. He left in 2003, and Mick Jones brought in Kelly Hansen. He doesn't sound much like Gramm, but he has a very strong voice and a nice stage presence. Mick Jones is the only original member still in the band, but thankfully for him most rock fans don't recognize the name Lou Gramm. They were always a faceless band, and the crowds are more than happy to hear Hansen sing the old hits. 

Play video

Styx with Lawrence Gowan (1999 – present)

Singer Dennis DeYoung and guitarist Tommy Shaw had very different visions for Styx. DeYoung liked gentle songs like "Lady" and "Babe," while Shaw liked harder-edged material like "Renegade" and "Too Much Time on My Hands." They also had personal issues that became very hard to tolerate while on the road supporting DeYoung's robot rock opera Kilroy Was Here in 1983. They split when the tour was done, though they inevitably reformed in 1996 for a big comeback tour. Tickets sold quite well, but when DeYoung' illness delayed a tour in 1999 they decided to carry on without him. Lawrence Gowan was brought into the band, and they still tour at a relentless pace. DeYoung wants back in the band, but Shaw has been very clear that's never going to happen. 

Play video

Creedence Clearwater Revisited with John Tristao

Creedence Clearwater Revival released some of the greatest rock songs in history during their extremely short run, 1968 to 1972. Things got very ugly towards the end. John Fogerty's brother Tom left the band, and their final LP, Mardi Gras, featured drummer Doug Clifford and bassist Stu Clifford taking the reins of the band. They were sick of being John Fogerty's backing band, but with all due respect, they just didn't have the songwriting or singing chops to carry an album. They split up soon afterwards, and when John Fogerty refused to play with them at the 1993 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductions Doug and Stu decided to hit the road as Creedence Clearwater Revisited. They were 2/3rds of the surviving band (Tom Fogerty died in 1990), so they felt they were entitled to 2/3rds of the name. John Fogerty didn't agree and the matter went to court. Doug and Stu ultimately won, and they tour to this day with John Tristao on lead vocals. (Strangely enough, Cars guitarist Elliot Easton spent many years in the group.)

Play video

The New Cars

Imagine the frustration of being a member of the Cars. You have this huge catalog of beloved songs, but frontman Ric Ocasek has absolutely no interest in reforming the band for a tour. In 2006, the group grew tired of waiting and brought in Todd Rundgren for a summer co-headlining tour with Blondie. It didn't go well. It ended prematurely when gutiarist Elliot Easton broke his collarbone, but by that point it was clear the public didn't want the New Cars. They wanted the old Cars. Their wish came true in 2011 when Ocasek changed his mind and returned for a new album and tour. The only problem was that Ocasek only agreed to play 10 theater dates and Lollapalooza. The whole thing was over in the blink of an eye, and now there seems to be no Cars – new or old. 

Play video

Iron Maiden with Blaze Bayley (1994-1998)

Bruce Dickinson wasn't the first lead singer of Iron Maiden. That honor goes to the long-forgotten Paul Day, who split the band in 1976, long before they cut their first album. He was replaced by Paul Di'Anno, who logged three years in the band and split after the release of their 1981 album Killers. Then came the beloved Bruce Dickinson. His soaring voice won the band a huge following and he carried them through their initial stadium era, but he left for a solo career in 1993. So the band brought in former Wolfsbane singer Blaze Bayley. They cut two albums with the guy, but he didn't sound much like Dickinson and fans never really warmed up to him. Dickinson came back in 1999 and he's been there ever since. Blaze now tours on his own, sometimes with Paul Di'Anno. They do an Iron Maiden-heavy set and sell a fair amount of tickets in Europe. 

Play video

Fleetwood Mac with Bekka Bramlett (1993-1995)

Fleetwood Mac hit a low point in 1993. Earlier that year the Rumours lineup reformed to play Bill Clinton's inaugural bash, but old tensions remained and they didn't bring the show on the road. Instead, Mick Fleetwood and John McVie brought in 25-year-old Bekka Bramlett, daughter of Delaney and Bonnie. Her job was to essentially play Stevie Nicks, and guitarist Billy Burnette played the Lindsey Buckingham role. It looked like a tribute band featuring two original members, and they found themselves in the pretty humiliating position of opening up for REO Speedwagon. By this point, the Eagles were making a large fortune on the reunion circuit, so in 1996 the entire classic lineup came back, meaning it was curtains for Bekka and Billy. 

Play video

Judas Priest with Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens (1996 – 2003)

The 2001 Mark Wahlberg/Jennifer Aniston movie Rock Star makes it all seem so easy. In the movie, Eighties hair metal band Steel Dragon fires their lead singer and brings in Mark Wahlberg, who was the frontman of a Steel Dragon cover band. His entry into the band is seamless. The group is still playing arenas, and few fans seem to care someone else is behind the mic. The story is very, very loosely based on the real story of Tim "Ripper" Owens. He was the lead singer of an Ohio-based Judas Priest tribute band who became part of the real thing when Rob Halford quit in 1991. The new Priest cut two albums and worked their asses off on the road, but without Halford they were a club band. The whole thing was a long and difficult slog, and extremely unglamorous. Halford came back in 2003 and Ripper was tossed to the side like a bag of moldy tangerines. 

Arrow Created with Sketch. Calendar Created with Sketch. Path Created with Sketch. Shape Created with Sketch. Plus Created with Sketch. minus Created with Sketch.