How can Rock Hall of Famers go on after losing a key bandmate? Lessons for the Rolling Stones

Jon Bream, Star Tribune on

Published in Entertainment News

Can they still call themselves the Rolling Stones without Watts, long considered the band's soul?

Most bands stick with the brand name that will sell the most tickets. Van Halen didn't miss a beat replacing singer David Lee Roth with Sammy Hagar. The Who forged ahead after the deaths of drummer Keith Moon in 1978 and bassist John Entwistle in 2002, Fleetwood Mac has had a revolving door of guitarists and lead singers and still enjoyed blockbuster business. The Eagles have had four different lead guitarists and two bassists and continue to sell out concerts.

The Grateful Dead may be the most high-profile act to change its moniker after the death of a defining member. When singer-guitarist Jerry Garcia passed in '95, the survivors began calling themselves the Other Ones. Then they became simply the Dead, and now, with the addition of John Mayer, Dead & Company even though each incarnation has pretty much played a similar repertoire.

Soul Asylum considered billing itself as "Dave Pirner," for its frontman, after the retirement of founding guitarist Dan Murphy, said drummer Michael Bland.

"Management said: Don't bother," recalled Bland, the former Prince sideman who is Soul Asylum's fifth drummer. "No matter what you call it, it's going to be the same music. Dave wrote it. As long as the band performs it well, I don't see why anybody should have a problem."

Longtime Twin Cities rocker James Walsh knows about a name change. After his Minneapolis-launched, L.A.-based prog-rock group Gypsy disbanded in the mid-'70s, he returned to Minnesota and restarted the band as James Walsh Gypsy Band, playing both old and new material.


"The loyalty here for Gypsy is crazy," said Walsh. "People have accepted me as the leader and lead singer. It's the songs. These people sing along, they know the lyrics, the licks, they know everything about Gypsy."

Even though Don Henley declared the Eagles were history after the death of co-leader Glenn Frey in 2016, he revived the band a year later with two new faces, country superstar Vince Gill and Frey's son Deacon. The group seems not so much resurrected as refreshed. It packed Xcel Energy Center for two nights this month.

Fans there and at a recent concert by ZZ Top in Wayzata didn't seem to mind the revamped lineups.

"It's different but it's OK," Susie Brady of Bloomington said about seeing ZZ Top, a trio that had been together for 52 years without a personnel change. (Hill has been replaced by the band's longtime guitar tech Elwood Francis, reportedly with Hill's blessing.)


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