Are They Still a Band If There’s Only One Original Member Left?

First of all, I know that it’s impossible for original band lineups to stay together forever. Band members fight with each other, some leave, while others are fired; simple as that. However, there are certain occasions where it’s hard to accept a new lineup with only one original member left, especially when members are constantly coming and going. Black Sabbath, for example, only had one original member throughout its entire run, which was guitarist Tony Iommi. I’m still shocked that he never called it quits a long time ago, considering how many people were in and out of the band. 

Nonetheless, it is possible for bands to survive with only one original member left. Heck, it’s even possible for bands to survive with no original members left.

Take a look at Judas Priest; none of the original members are left. Well, it’s a bit complicated. According to Ultimate Classic Rock, the first version of Judas Priest was formed in 1969 by vocalist Al Atkins, bassist Bruno Stapenhill, guitarist John Perry, and drummer John Partridge. Perry died shortly afterwards and was replaced by Ernie Chataway; the group eventually disbanded, the article continues. Following the band’s breakup, which was around 1970, Atkins joined a band named Freight, which consisted of guitarist K.K. Downing, bassist Ian Hill, and drummer John Ellis, the article continues. Rob Halford replaced Atkins on lead vocals in 1973 and long story short, Ian Hill is the longest-serving member of Judas Priest.

The band became well-known for Halford’s screeching vocals, and the dynamic guitar duo of Downing and Glenn Tipton. From Rocka Rolla (1974) to Painkiller (1990), fans had something to hold onto, in terms of consistency. It wasn’t until Halford left the group and Tim “Ripper” Owens replaced him in 1996, resulting in Jugulator (1997), when fans lost interest for a while. Losing a band’s lead singer is a big red flag, for me, because they’re the voice of the band. Thankfully, Halford rejoined Judas Priest in 2003. Despite Downing being out of the band since 2011 and Tipton not touring with the band full-time nowadays, fans can still look forward to Halford’s powerful vocals, a huge part in the band’s sound.

What about AC/DC? Malcolm and Angus Young founded the group in 1973 with absolutely no one from the current lineup. According to Loudwire, the original lineup included the Young brothers, vocalist Dave Evans, bassist Larry Van Kriedt, and drummer Colin Burgess. After a few hiccups, the lineup was established in 1975 with lead vocalist Bon Scott, the Young brothers, drummer Phil Rudd, and bassist Mark Evans, the article continues. Eventually, Evans was replaced by Cliff Williams in 1977; that lineup lasted from Powerage (1978) till Highway to Hell (1979).

After Scott’s untimely death, Brian Johnson was brought in to replace him on lead vocals, thus establishing the classic Back in Black (1980) lineup. The casual listeners are probably more familiar with that lineup because it’s their biggest album to date. Despite drummers coming in and out of the group since Flick of the Switch (1983), the band had consistent members in the lineup. They were the Young brothers, Johnson, and Williams. Even after the chaos that went down following the Rock or Bust (2014) album, fans turned up to see them because they still had Williams, Angus Young, and Johnson (the latter for part of the tour, at least). Again, I emphasize the importance of some consistency within a band. 

Now, let’s go over a band whose only original member left is the lead guitarist. There are probably plenty of bands that fit the bill, but I want to talk about Journey because I love to poke fun at them. Despite their tame and AOR-oriented music, there’s a lot of drama behind that band. According to Ultimate Classic Rock, the original lineup from 1973 consisted of keyboardist and vocalist Gregg Rolie, lead guitarist Neal Schon, rhythm guitarist George Tickner, bassist Ross Valory, and drummer Prairie Prince. Schon is the only original member left. Throughout Journey’s career, so far, they’ve had six lead singers: Rolie, Robert Fleischman, Steve Perry, Steve Augeri, Jeff Scott Soto, and currently Arnel Pineda. 

There were money problems, legal disputes, and ego clashes, you name it! Unfortunately, that never seems to stop in the Journey camp. 

In November 2022, Schon sued keyboardist Jonathan Cain for being denied access to the band’s financial records, for setting up the band’s credit card, and for not telling him about the “millions of Journey funds” flowing through it, according to Loudwire. In January 2023, Cain sued Schon for spending over a billion dollars on the band’s credit card, the article continues. In the middle of all that nonsense, Schon was pushing for Rolie back in the band and his wife Michaele made a Facebook post saying two band members (Cain and Pineda) were against Rolie’s return, says another article. After receiving negative comments from fans regarding the Gregg Rolie issue and growing frustrated with his treatment in the band, Pineda tweeted, “I’m with the band to sing the legacy…if some of them are tired of me being with them, with all means, they can fire me anytime…,” the article continues. That was on February 4.

Rumors even surfaced that Pineda and Cain would leave Journey at the end of their current tour. On April 11, a fan asked Schon what would happen to the band if they leave, to which another fan tweeted that Pineda and Cain can take their toxicity with them, and called them “nobodies,” according to Esquire Philippines. Not long afterwards, Schon agreed with that person, and called both Pineda and Cain “narcissist and pathological liars,” the article continues. Pineda tweeted the next day, April 12, “He may be right…like I said, if they’re tired of this #nobody, I’m just a phone call away…,” the article continues. Schon quickly responded to Pineda’s tweet and apologized for hurting his feelings, saying that he meant no harm and that it was a bunch of jerks trying to stir drama on the internet. 

Those reasons alone should tell you why I don’t like Journey and will never take them seriously. With all the hate and negativity going on, it’s no wonder why they haven’t had a consistent lineup in years. I could say the same about bands like Deep Purple and Boston, since those bands also have one original member left and had crazy lineup changes over the years, but for some reason, Journey just rubs me the wrong way. 

Similarly, The Black Crowes also have a lot of members coming and going. In fact, the only two original members left in the group are vocalist Chris Robinson and guitarist Rich Robinson. As said in my last post, I recently got into the band thanks to drummer Steve Gorman’s Hard to Handle: The Life and Death of The Black Crowes book. While doing research on the band, I couldn’t help but notice how inconsistent their lineup became overtime. Yes, the Robinson brothers, Gorman, and the new guys sounded great, but I felt uncomfortable seeing new guitarists, new bass players, and new keyboardists in and out of the band. Their performance at the Gathering of the Vibes Music Festival in 2013 was extremely weird to watch, personally. 

Besides the Robinson brothers, Gorman was the only constant member left in the band at the time. But in that 2013 performance, the consistency wasn’t there, despite having three constant members present. I mean, the band already got slammed for getting rid of guitarist Marc Ford in 1997, but how many people actually cared when keyboardist Adam MacDougall replaced Rob Clores in 2007 or when guitarist Jackie Greene replaced Luther Dickinson in 2013? I doubt many people cared, come on.

Plus with the current lineup, I get people are upset about only the Robinson brothers and bassist Sven Pipien being present, but seriously, how is that lineup any different from their past lineups? Throughout their entire career, so far, The Black Crowes only had two long-lasting stable lineups. The first included the Robinson brothers, Ford, bassist Johnny Colt, Gorman, and keyboardist Eddie Harsch; which was from The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion (1992) to Three Snakes and One Charm (1996). The second included the Robinson brothers, Dickinson, Pipien, Gorman, and MacDougall; which was from Warpaint (2008) to Croweology (2010).

I’ll admit, the current lineup of The Black Crowes does feel weird without Gorman, but at least Pipien is there. There’s some consistency going on and I respect the Robinson brothers for at least bringing one of their old members back. If it was just the Robinson brothers and a bunch of other guys, I wouldn’t exactly call them The Black Crowes. I’d still go to see them, if it’s just the Robinson brothers, but I wouldn’t use that band name. 

Remember when I said that the singer is the voice of the band? Well, The Black Crowes are an exception because that band was founded by both Chris and Rich. They haven’t had a stable lineup in years, therefore, if Rich decided to quit the group, then it would just be Chris Robinson’s solo band. All in all, we should be thankful that the Robinson brothers were kind enough to bring back one of their old band members because it’s better than nothing. As long as the Robinson brothers and one past band member are still there, I’m fine with the current lineup!

Throughout this post, we’ve learned that Judas Priest is doing fine without any original members left, AC/DC is doing good with one original member left, Journey is going through problems with one original member left, and The Black Crowes have two original members left and they’re making it work (sort of). So, are they still a band if there’s only one original member left? I’d say, as long as there’s some consistency in the group, then yes, they are still a band. When I say consistency, I mean having some band members remaining in the lineup for a long time or having the same singer throughout the entire run. 

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27 thoughts on “Are They Still a Band If There’s Only One Original Member Left?

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  1. My take is, if you are watching the people who wrote the songs, then you are watching the real deal. Everything else is a cover band. Cliff Williams is not AC/DC. Angus Young is. I saw Black Sabbath in ’95 with Toni Iommi and three random dudes, but I still saw Black Sabbath, IMHO.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I agree with Kevin’s take on it. If the people that wrote the songs are still around, and it they are still putting out decent music, then I’m more likely to be on board. Black Sabbath a good example, King Crimson, Rainbow. There might just be one guy left but it’s the main guy! Otherwise it is just like a tribute act really. Doesn’t even matter if it’s original guys… like Maiden, the guys that wrote the music you want to hear are still there.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I think a lot of people had their doubts about Sabbath! But I loved a lot of the 80s Sabbath even though it was pretty much a revolving door lineup wise.

        It’s a fun topic. I think sometimes it depends on the band history too? Death pretty much had a different lineup on each album and no one cared because it was Chuck Schuldiner’s band and that’s how he did things. Megadeth too? But if Rudolf Schenker just suddenly fired everyone in the Scorpions I don’t think it would be a popular move, whether he’s a songwriter or not!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I agree with everyone else’s points about the song writers being the band. On the other hand, I have always thought that Schon should have called it quits with Journey back in 1984, when he hooked up with Sammy Hagar to do a project called HSAS and they carried on.

    Liked by 1 person

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