1979 in San Francisco, as Stereo and then Ranger
Core '80s Band Members:
- Jack Blades - Bass guitar, lead vocals, key songwriter
- Kelly Keagy - Drums, lead vocals, songwriter
- Brad Gillis - Guitar
- Jeff Watson - Guitar
- Alan Fitzgerald - Keyboards
Melodic hard rock outfit Night Ranger grew from the demise of pop group Rubicon in 1979, in which Blades, Gillis and Keagy had played together. That trio formed the harder-rocking Stereo, later adding Fitzgerald and a second guitarist, Watson. Nomenclature confusion continued for the band, however, until a threat of a lawsuit from a similarly named country music band forced the newly christened Ranger to modify its moniker to the familiar two-word, mildly intriguing name music fans have come to love. Well, some of them anyway. The band recorded its full-length debut, the puzzlingly titled Dawn Patrol, in 1982.
Slow Rise Up the Ranks:
After moderate success for the band's first single, "Don't Tell Me You Love Me," Night Ranger truly began to break on the strength of its follow-up, the more aptly named Midnight Madness. Night Ranger then issued its permanent calling card with the No. 5 pop single and unforgettable power ballad "Sister Christian." Written and sung by Keagy about his sister, the song certainly hurt the band in hard rock circles, convincing detractors that Night Ranger was merely Air Supply in Judas Priest clothing. Still, the first two albums featured considerable shots of solid hard rock, especially the album tracks.
Night Ranger Embraces the Mainstream:
The taste of pop success from Midnight Madness must have been intoxicating for the quintet, as 1985's 7 Wishes continued to deepen the group's move away from hard rock. Tuneful, melodic tracks like "Goodbye" and "Sentimental Street" may have alienated rock audiences at the band's mid-'80s peak, but Night Ranger sensed the value of rising numbers of female fans, especially generated by Blades' generally wholesome good looks and the sweet ballads. The death knell for the band would sound soon enough, however. "The Secret of My Success," from the 1987 Michael J. Fox film of the same name, led the way downward.
Sunrise Comes Too Soon:
With its last two '80s releases, Big Life in 1987 and Man in Motion in 1988, Night Ranger began to indulge ever more in the era's more cynical impulses of overproduction. Even worse, the group's songwriting began to diminish significantly, affecting not only commercial possibilities but also leading to inevitable personnel changes and the departure of Blades for supergroup Damn Yankees. Predictably, the original group reunited for '90s nostalgia purposes and continues to record and tour periodically. Minus Fitzgerald and Watson, the group persevered in 2007 on tour, followed by a new record, Hole in the Sun.