- - Tuesday, May 19, 2015

As drummer (make that singing drummer) for 1980s rockers Night Ranger, Kelly Keagy has played sold-out stadiums around the world and sold millions of records. He even wrote the band’s biggest song, the megaballad “Sister Christian.”

Mr. Keagy discussed the longevity of his band, creating that massive hit and his new role as an ambassador for the Musicians Hall of Fame in Nashville, Tennessee.

Question: You have the distinction of being a “singing drummer.” Is it hard?

Answer: The hardest thing for me is managing my air. With Night Ranger, we are high-energy, and you have to play hard for an hour and a half. When I was first learning as a kid, I learned both at the same time.

Q: “Sister Christian,” the song you sang and wrote, has gone on to have this incredible life in movies. Did you ever imagine it would be around decades later?

A: Absolutely not. You never do when you write songs. When I wrote that, I was living with a friend, sleeping on his couch. It just came out. I had the chorus before I had the verse: “Motoring, what’s your price for flight?”

The verses were just melody and stuff. I started writing it about my sister. I didn’t really have the words. I was singing “Sister Christy,” and the other guys in the band asked, “What are you saying?” I said, “I don’t know. Just writing about my sister.” They said, “We thought you were saying Christian.”

Everyone kind of looked at each other, and I said, “That sounds better. Let’s use that.” We built the song around that. It’s a song about my kid sister growing up. She was 16 and in high school at the time.

Q: Has the song been used in any place that surprised you?

A: Yeah, in the film “Friday the 13th, Part 95” or whatever it was a couple of years ago. [laughs] It was hysterical. I couldn’t stop laughing. I loved it.

Q: Night Ranger keeps rocking. What is the secret to your longevity?

A: I think the vibe between the three of us, Jack [Blades] Brad [Gillis] and myself is good. We were in a band before Night Ranger. We’ve been playing together about 35 years now. It’s just about communication, being honest, no ego. Just check ‘em at the door. You have to be brutally honest, especially when you are writing together.

Q: What is the writing process like?

A: The last two records we’ve done, the three of us have gotten in a room together and started writing everything together, from riffs to melody ideas. It works out really great. Then we bring the other guys in to pull it all together. We kind of found each other again as musicians. We have a new lease on life. It wasn’t like that back in the day.

Q: Are things less guarded now?

A: The pressure is less than having to [make] a good record after having success. There were all those executives saying, “OK, we have to have another one of these, another ‘Sister Christian.’” We tried doing that on an album called “Man in Motion” in 1988. When we finished the record, we said, “OK, here it is. We’re not putting a ballad on it.” The record company said, “OK, well, then the record is not coming out.” So we went back in and wrote “Restless Tide.”

Q: How are you involved with the Musicians Hall of Fame Museum in Nashville?

A: My manager, Tucker, got me involved with Joe Chambers in Nashville. He asked me to come over and look at the museum, and I got so involved in it. It showcases many great artists from the ‘60s and ‘70s whose music I knew so well. The museum celebrates their legacies. That got me all excited.

We needed to spread the word about this place. Then I became the ambassador for the museum. People can check it out online or visit when in Nashville.

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