Classic hits from ’70s, ’80s still rocking fans without original band members

The Rolling Stones? Yes. Foreigner? Not so much.
The Rolling Stones has three key members still touring with the band: Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Ron Wood. Foreigner's touring band has no original members. Its lead singer Kelly Hansen joined in 2005, replacing Lou Gramm. AP

Credit: Associated Pres

Credit: Associated Pres

The Rolling Stones has three key members still touring with the band: Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Ron Wood. Foreigner's touring band has no original members. Its lead singer Kelly Hansen joined in 2005, replacing Lou Gramm. AP

Baby Boomer-era bands have been around for at least 40 years, some 50 and 60 years, bringing joy to multiple generations.

A handful are still touring in sizable venues like Ameris Bank Amphitheatre (capacity: 17,000), Gas South Arena (13,000) and even Truist Park (41,000).

A band is different from a solo act. When Elton John, Kenny Loggins or Paul Simon retire, they retire. There is no substitute beyond the myriad cover bands out there.

With bands, the lineups can morph, but the classic songs endure. As the cruel sands of time pass, many key members leave, die or retire. Yet many bands keep on touring. Some try combos to fill bigger venues. There’s Foreigner and Styx at Ameris; Earth, Wind & Fire and Chicago, both at Ameris; and Def Leppard and Journey at Truist with Steve Miller. Two acts (Santana, REO Speedwagon) are pairing up with more recent bands (Counting Crows and Train, respectively).

“At the end of the day, most concertgoers go for the songs,” said Greg Lee, bassist for Atlanta-based Yacht Rock Revue, which has thrived in recent years playing spot-on covers of songs by the likes of Toto, the Doobie Brothers and Hall & Oates. “If they play the songs well and have a reputation of being good, it’s not necessarily a deal breaker.”

Here’s a look at 11 of those bands, which formed between 1966 and 1979, who have hit the road this summer. This is ranked partly subjectively on how intact the current touring group is compared to the band during its peak hit-making times. Lead singers, in general, are given more weight than drummers or bassists. Tickets for most shows are available via ticketmaster.com.

CORE BAND LARGELY INTACT

After two years of COVID-19 cancellations, Def Leppard, Motley Crue, Poison and Joan Jett and the Blackhearts rocked sold out Truist Park on Thursday, June 16, 2022.
Robb Cohen for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Robb Cohen for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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Credit: Robb Cohen for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Def Leppard

July 13, Truist Park

Core period when band was generating hits: 1983-1999 (e.g. “Photograph,” “Pour Some Sugar On Me,” “Love Bites”)

Key members from that period still touring: Lead vocalist Joe Elliott, guitarist Phil Collen, drummer Rick Allen and bassist keyboardist Rick Savage

Why they can still sell tickets: The band lost guitarist Steve Clark in 1991 to drugs and alcohol but the four other core members from the band’s 1980s hit-making years remain intact. With help from a vocal coach, Elliott remains in top vocal form after losing his voice in 2015. Drummer Allen is a drumming miracle 40 years after losing his arm in a car accident. And their big, brawny songs have lost none of their headbanging, arena-filling appeal.

The Doobie Brothers

July 13, Ameris Bank Amphitheatre

Core period when band was generating hits: 1972-1989 (e.g. “Listen to the Music,” “Black Water,” “What a Fool Believes”)

Key members from that period still touring: lead singer Michael McDonald, lead guitarist Tom Johnston, guitarist Patrick Simmons, guitarist John McFee

Why they can still sell tickets: The rise of yacht rock has given the band a second lease on life. And the return of lead singer Michael McDonald in 2019 after 23 years away from the group was a major boost. Dave Myer, a 64-year-old Roswell digital sales manager, has seen the band with and without McDonald and prefers McDonald’s presence. “He still busts it up,” he said. “The guy has the voice of an angel.”

The Rolling Stones perform at a celebration for the release of their new album, "Hackney Diamonds," Oct. 19, 2023, in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)

Credit: Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

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Credit: Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

The Rolling Stones

June 7, Mercedes-Benz Stadium

Core period when band was generating hits: 1964-1991 (e.g. “Satisfaction,” “Ruby Tuesday,” “Start Me Up”)

Key members from that period still touring: lead singer Mick Jagger, lead guitarist Keith Richards, guitarist Ron Wood

Why they still sell tickets: The Rolling Stones have been deeply defined by powerhouse lead singer Jagger and his partner in crime Richards, two larger-than-life characters who have graced tabloids and Hollywood parties for decades. The Stones are often considered one of the best rock bands in history. And despite their advanced ages, the core members are still capable of performing with panache and grit. Read our review and see photos from the show at ajc.com.

MIXED BAG

REO Speedwagon singer Kevin Cronin (center) is one of two remaining members from the band's hit-making years. CONTRIBUTED BY RANDEE ST. NICHOLAS

Credit: Randee St. Nicholas

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Credit: Randee St. Nicholas

REO Speedwagon

Aug. 17, Ameris (with Train)

Period when band was generating hits: 1978-1990 (e.g. ”Roll With the Changes,” “Take It on the Run,” “Can’t Fight This Feeling”)

Key members from that period still touring: lead singer Kevin Cronin, bassist Bruce Hall

Why the band can still sell tickets: Cronin is a delightfully punchy presence on stage and can still sing with crackle and pop. While the band lacks the critical weightiness to even get nominated to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, it has enough recognizable classic rock and pop songs to keep a crowd happy. “The times I have seen them live, they sound like their CDs, on point,” said “Southside” Steve Rickman, a morning host on My Fox-FM.

Members of the band Earth, Wind & Fire (left-right) Ralph Johnson, Philip Bailey and Verdine White performed at the Apollo Monday night.

Credit: AP

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Credit: AP

Earth Wind & Fire

Aug. 9, Ameris

Period when band was generating hits: 1971-1993 (e.g. ”September,” “Boogie Wonderland,” “Shining Star”)

Key members from that period still touring: Lead vocalist Philip Bailey, bassist Verdine White and drummer Ralph Johnson

Why they still sell tickets: With three original members, including a key vocalist, the band can still jam like it’s 1978. And their unique mix of soul, disco, jazz and funk seems to have only grown more popular over time with “September” finding a new gear in recent years, becoming a staple at any old-school dance party or wedding.

Carlos Santana of Santana performs at the BottleRock Napa Valley Music Festival at Napa Valley Expo on Sunday, May 26, 2019, in Napa, California. (Photo by Amy Harris/Invision/AP)

Credit: Amy Harris/Invision/AP

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Credit: Amy Harris/Invision/AP

Santana

June 18, Gas South Arena (with Counting Crows)

Period when band was generating hits: 1969-2003 (e.g. “Oye Como Va,” “Evil Ways,” “Smooth”)

Key member from that period still touring: Carlos Santana

Why the band can still sell tickets: Over five-plus decades, more than 70 different musicians have toured with Santana, but it’s the man whose last name gives the band its name who truly matters. Carlos Santana, the supremely skilled 76-year-old guitarist, has always been front and center, the recognizable star, more so than any vocalist in the band. As long as he can still mesmerize an audience with his guitar work, the band will fill seats.

Robert Lamm, of Chicago, performs on Saturday, Aug 19, 2023, at The Greek Theatre in Los Angeles. (Photo by Willy Sanjuan /Invision/AP)

Credit: Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP

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Credit: Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP

Chicago

Aug. 9, Ameris Bank Amphitheatre

Period when band was generating hits: 1970-1989 (”Colour My World,” “Saturday in the Park,” “Hard to Say I’m Sorry”)

Key members from that period still touring: Vocalist and keyboardist Robert Lamm, trumpeter Lee Loughnane, trombonist James Pankow

Why the band can still sell tickets: Chicago was one of the first successful acts to integrate rock and a brass section, which anchored many of its early 1970s classics, then transitioned to schmaltzier fare, including a raft of successful David Foster ballads during the 1980s MTV era. The band survived the departure of Peter Cetera in 1985 and today still has two key brass section natives as well as original lead vocalist Lamm. Set lists nowadays are packed with crowd pleasing big hits that will make even the most casual fans smile.

Styx still includes founding members Chuck Panozzo (third from left) and and James "JY" Young (center), along with longtime guitarist and vocalist Tommy Shaw (third from right), an Alabama native who joined in 1975. The other members are Todd Sucherman, Lawrence Gowan (from left, to the left of Panozzo) and Terry Gowan and Will Evankovich (from left, to the right of Shaw). Photo by Jason Powell

Credit: Jason Powell

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Credit: Jason Powell

Styx

July 17, Ameris Bank Amphitheatre

Period when band was generating hits: 1973-1991 (e.g. “Come Sail Away,” “Renegade,” “Too Much Time on My Hands”)

Key members from that period still touring: Vocalist and guitarist Tommy Shaw, guitarist James “J.Y.” Young, bassist Chuck Panozzo (in a limited capacity)

Why the band can still sell tickets: Styx is another band that has not gotten close to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, a weird mix of hard rock and Broadway bombast that landed several songs in every classic rock playlist. Shaw and Young have kept the lights on decades after the theatrical Dennis DeYoung left the scene. It helps that Canadian Lawrence Gowan “kills the Dennis DeYoung stuff,” said Yacht Rock Revue’s Lee. “And the original members are still awesome.” Original bassist Panozzo, who has been living with HIV since 1991 and is a cancer survivor, is semi-retired but still plays with the band sometimes.

Dewey Bunnell (right) of America appear at Atlanta Symphony Hall August 10, 2024 but his long-time colleague Gerry Beckley has stopped touring as of this year. PUBLICITY PHOTO

Credit: PUBLICITY PHOTO

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Credit: PUBLICITY PHOTO

America

Aug. 10, Atlanta Symphony Hall

Core period when band was generating hits: 1972-1983 (e.g. “Tin Man,” “A Horse With No Name,” “Ventura Highway”)

Key member from that period still touring: Vocalist Dewey Bunnell, one of three founding members

Why they can still sell tickets: Their folk-rock sound melded well with 1970s-era acts like Seals & Croft, Jim Croce and Gordon Lightfoot and provide old-time hippies a nostalgic kick. “They have that free and easy spirit,” said Myer, who has seen them five times over the decades including ASO in 2022. “And they still sound fantastic.” But Bunnell’s long-time colleague Gerry Beckley, while remaining with the band, stopped touring as of last month. He is being replaced on tour by Andy Barr.

Singer Arnel Pineda (left) and guitarist Neal Schon of Journey perform during the first night of the band's second nine-show residency at The Joint inside the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on May 3, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Credit: Ethan Miller

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Credit: Ethan Miller

Journey

July 13, Truist Park

Period when band was generating hits; 1978-1996 (”Don’t Stop Believin’,” “Any Way You Want It,” “Separate Ways”)

Key members from that period still touring: lead guitarist Neal Schon, keyboardist and rhythm guitarist Jonathan Cain

Why the band can still sell tickets: Schon and Cain remain the heart and soul of the group and have toured aggressively for years. The canonization of “Don’t Stop Believin’” by “The Sopranos” season finale fueled the group’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2017. Their current lead singer, Arnel Pineda, found on YouTube in 2007 by the band, sounds so much like lead singer Steve Perry from its hit-making days that “you could close your eyes and not know the difference,” noted Steve Craig, former program director for classic rock station 97.1/The River who now runs alternative rock station 99X.

BASICALLY A COVER BAND

Kelly Hansen, left, and Mick Jones of Foreigner perform during the '40th Anniversary Tour' at Coral Sky Amphitheatre on Tuesday, August 1, 2017 in West Palm Beach, Fla. (Photo by Michele Eve Sandberg/Invision/AP)

Credit: Michele Eve Sandberg/Invision/AP

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Credit: Michele Eve Sandberg/Invision/AP

Foreigner

July 17, Ameris Bank Amphitheatre

Period when band was generating hits: 1977-1988 (”Urgent,” “Juke Box Hero,” “I Want To Know What Love Is”)

Key members from that period still touring: none. The most senior of the touring band is Jeff Pilson, who joined in 2004. Founding member Mick Jones, who has Parkinson’s disease, is technically still part of the band but doesn’t tour with them anymore.

Why they can still sell tickets: They came to be during an era where their sound mattered more than their lead singer or any particular band member, none of whom had anything close to Jagger-like swagger. So songs like “Cold as Ice,” “Feels Like the First Time” and “Double Vision” have become iconic in the classic rock canon. “This is a tribute band but we just jammed along anyway,” said Myer, who attended last year’s concert at Ameris. “Is the joke on us or them?”