Night Ranger Drummer Takes on Lead Vocals
Jack Blades is the lead singer of the San Francisco based rock band Night Ranger, but he deferred to drummer Kelly Keagy to sing lead vocals on several of their hits, including “Sing Me Away” that peaked at #39 on the Billboard (U.S.) Rock chart, and “Sentimental Street” that went all the way to #8 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Jack also turned the microphone over to Kelly to perform the lead vocals on Night Ranger’s biggest hit “Sister Christian,” a power ballad that was one of the biggest hits of 1984, rising to #5 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and ascending to #1 on the Top Singles chart in Canada.
Motoring Through Midnight Madness
“Sister Christian” was the second single released from Night Ranger’s Midnight Madness album, and became their signature track. It is a coming of age tune that Kelly wrote for his younger sister, Christy, in an effort to protect her from men who are on the prowl for sexual conquest. “I wrote the song to warn her to watch out,” said Kelly, “because guys are out there, and I know what they’re after.” Kelly used the term “motoring” for the chorus of the song with the lyric “motoring, what’s your price for flight, in finding mister right, and driving through the night.” Motoring was a term used in the pop vernacular in Kelly’s hometown of Eugene, Oregon. It is an expression used when driving around with friends to pick up girls, similar to the term “cruising” or “dragging,” commonly used in the 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s.
While “motoring” may be the most memorable lyric in the song, “Sister Christian” is also known for a benevolent piano intro and ending, the latter proving arduous for Kelly to sing over and over again in the recording studio. “I was really getting tired of singing the ending of the song, because I just wasn’t getting it right and finally, after maybe, the 10th take, I finished singing and just threw my drum sticks across the room and stormed out of the studio,” Kelly recalled. Producer Pat Glasser called Kelly back into the studio to give him the good news that he had nailed the ending, and his outburst of exhausted frustration accentuated what was indeed the final take.
“Sister Christian” Inspired by Kelly Keagy’s Sister Christy
The original title for the song was “Sister Christy,” since Christy is Kelly’s sister’s name, but Blades thought Kelly was singing “Sister Christian,” when Kelly was presenting it to his bandmates. Jack believed that “Sister Christian” should be the title. “I liked the look and sound of that title…how poetic it was,” Jack explained.
“Sister Christian” has been used throughout pop culture in video games, TV, and motion pictures for over 35 years. One of the most memorable placements of the song is in a nerve-racking scene in the 1997 film Boogie Nights, starring Mark Wahlberg, John C. Reilly, and the late Burt Reynolds. There is also a cover of the song featured in a medley at the beginning of the movie Rock of Ages. Jack Blades starred in a lead role, as a nightclub owner in the Las Vegas production of Rock of Ages.
Blades and Keagy still perform with Night Ranger and are known for their high-energy performances. And Keagy no longer tires of singing the end of their most famous 80s power ballad, or any of the rest of their repertoire.