Look who's stuck in the 80s
Just 24 hours after Night Ranger rocked Clearwater, Fla., our 80s heroes were down in Cuba, supporting the troops -- and pimping "Stuck in the 80s!"
Drummer Kelly Keagy and singer Jack Blades (wearing one of our hats!) visited our favorite Navy commander yesterday before their concert today for the troops. Jeff Johnston -- aka "Jeff in Cuba" -- is stationed in at the US Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, where he also serves as a radio host for the base's FM station. A longtime fan of the podcast and a fully decorated 80s junkie, Jeff has had a chance to hang with some really cool bands from our decade. This weekend, it was Night Ranger.
Here is Jeff's retelling of the experience:
First of all, thanks for telling them about me. As soon as I introduced myself, Jack Blades smiled and said "Oh, you're the Commander. We've heard about you!"
Jack and Kelly came out to the radio station yesterday afternoon (Brad and the rest of the band were on a later flight) and gave me a great interview. I asked them about the Clearwater show, and particularly why "Rock In America" didn't make it into the set. Jack was visibly dismayed when I brought it up, and told me "It was just a mistake, man." He said that some venues have mandatory times when a concert must end, so the opening act has to be careful not to stay out too long and take some of the headliner's time. They forgot to check into that situation at Ruth Eckerd before they took the stage, so just to be safe, they cut their set short.
I asked Kelly if his sister ever forgave him for making her an 80's icon, but he assured me she (and his whole family) has embraced the reference, and she often jokes that she's going to change her name from Christine to Christian.
I asked both of them how Night Ranger survived Damn Yankees and then Shaw/Blades. Kelly was quick to point out that Damn Yankees did a lot to keep Night Ranger "alive" in the popular music world. Jack told me that Ted Nugent insisted on playing Night Ranger tunes at Damn Yankees concerts, so that when they got back together in the Nineties, their music was still "out there".
I told Jack that I thought Night Ranger was done when Shaw/Blades was born because the general rule of thumb is that once someone leaves a group for something with their name in the title, that's all she wrote for the group. He told me that Shaw/Blades is something he and Tommy do when they both have holes in their schedules, so it doesn't interfere with Night Ranger.
He went to say that he is a working musician, and will be until the day he dies. And as a musician, he takes every opportunity to play music.
I let them plug the new record, which they said would be available in April. They said they were going to debut the first single from "Hole In The Sun" at tonight's show, so that GTMO would be the first to hear it. That's pretty cool.
Later that night the Commanding Officer has a reception at his house for the band, and I got the chance to talk to them a little more. I talked to Kelly about his son, Jeff, and what it was like to tour together. He said it was the second time they've been out on the road, and that it was a lot of fun. Jeff's taking a break from the University of Minnesota to travel around with his father's band, and he seems to be having a great time. Jack's son James is also here. He's the band's manager, and he was the real driving force behind getting the band down here. He's also the one who got Ted Nugent (another client) down here late last year. And if that wasn't enough father/son stuff, I also met their lighting tech, Matt DeYoung, Dennis' son.
The CO presented the band with an American flag flown over the base in their honor, and they were genuinely moved by the gesture. I also found out that I'm going to introduce the band at tonight's concert (an action I refer to as "getting my Spears on"). So I've got 12 hours to figure out something awesome to say.
Killer story, Jeff! My best advice for what to say: Write down something on a piece of paper, in case your mind goes totally blank. But plan to just wing it! And have a bottle of water with you right before and after because -- I can't speak for everyone -- my mouth goes totally numb and dry from the experience of talking to 1,000-plus people.
Thanks for wearing the Stuck in the 80s gear, Commander! We owe you big-time.