#813: Ringers


There’s a sports phrase in the parlance of the profession:  a “ringer”.  It means boosting your team with a player who who’s above your league, usually with accusations of dishonesty or bad sportsmanship.  If you had a beer league hockey team, and your friend’s son happens to be Connor McDavid, and he substitutes for your usual center Big Jim McBob, then you have a ringer.

I was watching some live music on YouTube and wondered if there is a rock band equivalent.

Though it’s not considered cheating, did Queensryche pull a ringer when they got Todd La Torre to sing?  Todd is a fine vocalist who enables Queensryche to perform the old material properly; stuff with notes so high that only a young singer can really pull it off.  Journey did something similar with Arnel Pineda.  They wanted to play the original songs in the original keys, not tune them down for an older singer.

Original Queensryche singer Geoff Tate’s voice has changed over the decades.  That’s nature.  He can be hit or miss when singing the high stuff, so he tends not to anymore.  He’s able to steer around difficult notes and still play the song.  La Lorre has no issues with them however, adding some of his own grit to the screams.  Todd La Torre is 45 years old.  Geoff Tate is closer to his old bandmates at age 61.  If Queensryche were to look for another singer in his 60s, they wouldn’t be able to find one able to scream the opening to “Queen of the Reich”.

Go back in time further, to the early 1990s.  One band that absolutely hired a ringer was Poison when they acquired Richie Kotzen to replace C.C. Deville.

Without being too unkind, C.C. and Richie are not playing the same sport when it comes to guitar.  C.C. is a WWF wrestler, hammering you over the head with loud sloppy moves and tricks.  Richie is like a light boxer with heart, a fast contender with a feel for it.

When Poison picked up Kotzen, they plucked someone from the upper echelons to replace somebody who was basically still in the garage.  While it failed to win fans in the “get serious 90s”, it did give them an album that they never would have been able to create otherwise.  Eventually they were forced to bring C.C. back, but they can never perform material from the Kotzen album.  They’d sound ridiculous.

It could be argued that Kiss hired ringers with almost every replacement member in their band, from Eric Carr to Vinnie Vincent to Eric Singer and Bruce Kulick.  All of these guys are, on a technical level at least, lightyears better players than the original members.  But on the other hand, none of those replacements could capture the sheer vibe of the original band either.

Think about it.  When a veteran band loses an original member, do they ever replace them with a peer?  Very rarely.  Deep Purple replaced Jon Lord (age 61 at retirement) with Don Airey (54 at hiring).  But Black Sabbath replaced Bill Ward (age 71 today) with Tommy Clufetos (40 today).  No matter what Bill claims, Clufetos is simply in better physical condition.  He’s a ringer.

What is your take on this subject?  Are these guys ringers, or just regular hired guns?  Is there really a difference?


  1. Kotzen…damn…absolute ringer!! Poison could’ve been so much more if he only wouldn’t have screwed Rikki’s wife!! And with Kiss, Eric, Eric and Bruce…yes…Vinnie, with songwriting yes, but never seemed to fit image wise. Mark St. John…no and Tommy…I think so. Def Leppard got a ringer with Phil and then Vinnie (but Vinnie has been underutilized. Crue got one with Corabi!!! So many to choose from.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah I was thinking about Crue and Corabi too. Corabi could do things that Vince couldn’t. BUT at the same time, Exposed was such a damn awesome album. So it seemed to me that on the whole, at the time they were on equal footing. Like DLR vs Sammy, hard to pick a clear winner.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. At first, I was going to say no. Replacing a band member might allow you to do things you otherwise couldn’t, but then you risk fan backlash. Like when Motorhead replaced Fast Eddie with Robbo. Robbo is technically a better guitar player but he wore ballerina slippers on stage and the fans revolted. So, there isn’t a guaranteed advantage.

    But, I suppose these bands are in competition with each other and will do anything to gain a little advantage. I guess you could go back to The Beatles replacing Pete Best with Ringo either because of his drumming skills or looks. Regardless, this is a fun idea and I’m willing to go along with it.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Kotzen is definitely a ringer, probably why he didn’t stay around Poison for too long. KISS is a bit of both. Vinnie Vincent was a ringer but I’m not sure about Kulick as he did stay with the band for a good number of years. But you have put forward a very interesting concept.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Definitely ringers.

    Red Hot Chili Peppers and Dave Navarro. As far as I’m aware they’ve never tackled anything from that album live (though I think they played Aeroplane when that Josh guy was part of the band).


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