Revolving Vocalists- How does changing a front man affect a band?

In the world of Rock N’ Roll sometimes band members come and go. It’s in the nature of the business. Drugs, money, egos, and sometimes death can alter a band. We all know bands that have changed members so let’s look at a few and see the results.



BON SCOTT 1974-1980


AC/DC was on the rise of US success with the August 3rd, 1979 release of HIGHWAY TO HELL when tragedy struck. Bon Scott and AC/DC were in the process of developing the album which would become BACK IN BLACK when the unthinkable happened. On 19 February 1980, Scott, 33 at the time, passed out after a night of heavy drinking in a London club called the Music Machine (currently known as the KOKO). He was left to sleep in a Renault 5 owned by an acquaintance named Alistair Kinnear, at 67 Overhill Road in East Dulwich, South London. The following afternoon, Kinnear found Scott lifeless, and alerted the authorities. Scott was rushed to King’s College Hospital in Camberwell, where he was pronounced dead on arrival. Pulmonary aspiration of vomit was the cause of Scott’s death, and the official cause was listed as “acute alcohol poisoning” and “death by misadventure”. The band thought about hanging it up for a while but, after a visit with the parents of Bon Scott, decided to carry in his honor. Angus Young later recalled, “I remember the first time I had ever heard Brian’s (Johnson) name was from Bon. Bon had mentioned that he had been in England once touring with a band and he had mentioned that Brian had been in a band called Geordie and Bon had said ‘Brian Johnson, he was a great rock and roll singer in the style of Little Richard.’ And that was Bon’s big idol, Little Richard. I think when he saw Brian at that time, to Bon it was ‘Well he’s a guy that knows what rock and roll is all about.’ He mentioned that to us in Australia. I suppose when we decided to continue, Brian was the first name that Malcolm and myself came up with, so we said we should see if we can find him.” The rest, as the world knows, is history as AC/DC has carried on to become icons on the world of Rock. In my own opinion they are two different bands (I take this opinion of several other bands as well). I like them both but I feel they were a harder, darker, and more dangerous band with Bon. With Brian they are more of a friends band at a keg party type of band, just my opinion. AC/DC continues to this day.  Let’s compare Bon and Brian:

“Highway to Hell” – Bon Scott:

“Highway to Hell” – Brian Johnson:



DAVID LEE ROTH  1972-1985

Van Halen came on the scene like gangbusters and were moving up and up riding the wave of success and then Dave was gone. Egos, drug use, and too much too fast were the apparent reasons for David and Van Halen splitting up. David went on to record several successful solo records and Van Halen moved on.

SAMMY HAGAR 1985-1996

Eddie invited Patty Smyth of Scandal to replace Roth but she refused. Eddie was then introduced by way of a mutual auto mechanic to Sammy Hagar, formerly of 1970s band Montrose. This was the shot in the arm Van Halen was looking for. Van Halen went on  to stellar success with Sammy writing some fantastic music along the way. But all was not perfect with this line up either. Fired or quit, Sammy was out of the band in 1996.

GARY CHERONE 1996-1999

Gary Cherone known for being the singer of the band Extreme was tapped to be the next VH vocalist. Van Halen III was recorded and sad to say didn’t take off. Let’s give a listen to the three vocalist of Van Halen:

“Unchained” – David Lee Roth:

“Unchained” – Sammy Hagar:

“Unchained: – Gary Cherone:

Van Halen continues on today welcoming back David Lee Roth back to the fold. Sadly original bassist Michael Anthony has been replaced. New record, new bassist (Wolfgang Van Halen) new world tour, let’s see where it takes them. My opinion is with each vocalist we got a new band, same name, but new band.



I know there were other members of Sabbath but we are just going to look at the Ozzy/Dio versions.


Ozzy and company rose to stardom with their dark and doom laden music. Like so many others before them success also got to them. The reckless lifestyle Ozzy  was living led to his dismissal in 1979.


Ironically Sharon Arden (later Sharon Osbourne), daughter of Black Sabbath manager Don Arden, suggested former Rainbow vocalist Ronnie James Dio to replace Ozzy Osbourne in 1979. Dio officially joined in June, and the band began writing their next album. With a notably different vocal style from Osbourne’s, Dio’s addition to the band marked a change in Black Sabbath’s sound.

Let’s look at some differences:

“War Pigs” – Ozzy:

“War Pigs” – Dio:

I am going to stop at three bands. I know there are several more to discuss, maybe a part 2 blog. I also plan to discuss replacing musicians within a band as well. Some of the singers discussed here have left us may they Rest In Peace:

Ronald Belford “Bon” Scott (9 July 1946 – 19 February 1980)

Ronald James “DIO” Padavona (July 10, 1942 – May 16, 2010)

While others, OZZY, David Lee Roth, have rejoined to band mates. What is your take on replacing singers? I feel like they become a “different” band. Let me know!

Thanks to my best friend, my love, and my partner in crime, my wife Dani for this idea!

the Hellion

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