In which the era of 80s hair metal bands named after their lead singer is fondly recalled

The discerning student of 1980s Hair Metal will have noticed a proclivity for bands of the era to use the last name of their frontman as their band name. Winger, for example. Fronted by Kip Winger. Or as they said back in the day, featuring Kip Winger.

Let’s take a moment to examine this phenomenon. Because it’s quite funny.

Consider the ego required. Imagine you’re Kip Winger. Your buddies call you Winger, like Maverick in Top Gun. You dig chicks, partying, and rock music, probably in that order. You realize that if you had a band, you could enjoy all these at once. In essence, to attract chicks, you decide to throw a party where you are the entertainment. You then make a conscious choice to put on leather pants, hang some scarves around your neck, poof up your hair, and add some make up. You now no longer look like most other guys. You now look like a chick.

We could stop there, and already it’s funny.

You get on stage, throw up the devil horns, and hit the highest note you possibly can. You hold it for as long as your lungs will allow. You do this many times at the beginning or end of your songs. While you do this, three more guys dressed just like you stand behind you. They too made this choice. If you are lucky, at least one of them, probably the guitar player, is into this to the degree you are. The others are clearly just along for the ride (especially the bass player). Watching them, it’s obvious they’re fill-ins. Logic holds that there’s no way so many other guys could think dressing this way with you while you squeal was a good idea. But they are doing it. And here’s the kicker….

They are calling themselves you.

Your promotional materials, your tour bills, your radio spots, each of these markets your band as you. What’s more, they take it one step further by saying your band of yous features you. “Friday night at the Palladium…Winger! Featuring Kip Winger.

Winger! Featuring Kip Winger! (Which two are most into this? Which one is filler?)
Which two are way into this? Which one is the bass player just along for the ride?

It’s like the New England Patriots calling themselves “Brady.” If every player cut their hair and dressed like Brady.

This actually happened in the 1980s, in case you missed it.

What’s more impressive is that it worked. Those chicks actually did dig it. They showed up for the party. And they bought millions of records.

Talk about scoring.

In fact, it worked so well that other guys did the same thing.

Slaughter! Featuring Mark Slaughter!
Slaughter! Featuring Mark Slaughter
Dokken! Featuring Don Dokken
Keel! Featuring Ron Keel

And of course, the biggest of them all:

Bon Jovi, featuring you know who. Not sure? Follow the thumb.

Isn’t it slightly incredible? At least The Heartbreakers had an identity separate from Tom Petty. Plus, they got to wear jeans. “The Dave Matthews Band” implies, at least, that individuals do exist outside of the leader. But grown ass men dressing as other grown ass men, who dress like a woman, and everyone banding together under the grown ass man’s last name?

Hey there. Kip Winger. I like rockin’

Of course, to every rule there is an exception. The clan of warriors know as Dio did not ‘feature’ Ronnie James so much as go to war behind him, their most intimidating Hero. He would have swiftly run through with his sword any of these other so-called men.

Hey there. Ronnie James Dio. I am come to slay thee

15 thoughts on “In which the era of 80s hair metal bands named after their lead singer is fondly recalled

  1. Yeah, where does it diverge with Dio? Because he had the hair and make-up too. There’s an important fork in the road that appeared in like 81 didn’t it? Motley Crue? Slade? T-Rex? Bowie? Roxy Music? The makeup and music and men is confusing but there’s only like 3 variables here.


  2. Guided by Voices never had problems like that. Nor did Sonic Youth. Just sayin’. Maybe it would have helped some.


  3. Not being a massive hair metal fan, I’m not familiar with most of this lot and I confess to finding the look pretty laughable. There was a transition at some point where metal bands with long hair could NOT be mistaken for women (Motorhead, Iron Maiden etc) then someone discovered hair conditioner and perming solution and they trotted off down a very different route. No lamenting here, I’m afraid.
    BTW, have you watched the Motley Crue film The Dirt? Steering clear myself!


    • Massive hair metal fan here, although the look is definitely laughable. A lot of the music is laughable, too, which is part of what makes it such fun. Yes, I watched The Dirt the day it came out. As movies go, it’s not very good, but I will watch any and all biopics on any and all hair metal bands, line ‘em up! That’s why I dug out this old piece and reposted it. On a kick!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Did you read the book it was based on? My other half told me a story about them, about a bet Tommy Lee and one of the others had that is too vile to repeat. I was never a fan, but they went down in my estimation after that! I think I prefer metal bands who don’t wear so much Lycra 🙂


        • Started it today (my wife picked one up for me last night). Also watched Tommy Lee goes to College, the reality show that came out in 2005 (hadn’t seen it) and have been watching episodes of Sixx Sense on YouTube. Nikki comes across as quite an amiable fellow, there. Motley Crue was never all that high on my list, to be honest — there were lots of other bands I liked a lot more — but this is what happens to me when I get on a kick.

          Liked by 2 people

    • Ah yes, but The J. Giles Band is a whole other category of bands and band names, along with the likes of The Dave Matthews Band, The Steve Miller Band, etc. Hair metal bands did not go in for such names, and any hair metal band naming itself that way would probably have gotten their ass kicked.

      Liked by 1 person

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