When the name Night Ranger comes up, there's a song that immediately starts playing in your head:
"Sister Christian, oh the time has come And you know that you're the only one To say OK ..."
It was a stand-out hit and video in 1984 and Kelly Keagy, who wrote and sang the song, says the band doesn't take having an iconic song for granted.
"I think at one point in the '90s when Wyclef Jean had an all-star band and they did a version of 'Sister Christian' with some rap lyrics in it and stuff, we were just, 'This is amazing that people think of this song.' Then 'Boogie Nights' came out (and used the song in a pivotal scene) shortly after that and we thought, 'Hey, this song might be around for a while. Let's really like it! Let's like it every night!'"
Night Ranger did have other hits during the 1980s, including "When You Close Your Eyes" and "Sentimental Street," but nothing came close to connecting with the public like "Sister Christian."
Night Ranger came together in San Francisco when drummer Keagy, bassist Jack Blades and guitarist Brad Gillis, all former members of the band Rubicon, formed the band Ranger. That was amended to Night Ranger, when they found out another group owned the simpler name.
"We've been together for almost 35 years in three different bands," says Keagy. "It's like a family and the three of us have been together. Any changes that might happen, we seem to be able to hold it together and always enjoy playing together. That's what it's about, that nucleus of the rhythm section and songwriters and singers — the identity, the sound."
It was 1982 when the group officially became Night Ranger and began releasing albums. The first, "Dawn Patrol," established the group as a harder rocking outfit, but the band earned a reputation for delivering both harder rock and ballads.
"Sister Christian" was included on the group's second album, "Midnight Madness." Keagy wrote it about his younger sister Christy.
"During the writing process somebody said, 'What are you singing?' 'I said, 'I've been singing Sister Christy.' And they said, 'We thought you were singing 'Sister Christian.' And we looked at each other and said, 'That's better!'"
Keagy says his sister loved the song and got a lot of attention for it.
"I think my sister wanted to change her name legally to Christian! She's still a rocker at heart and she's a big fan of music, still. It's been amazing. She comes to as many of the shows as she can. She's awesome, man."
Keagy says that, although Blades left the band for a short time to play in the band Damn Yankees, Night Ranger is only complete if the three members are together. He and Gillis put out one Night Ranger album without Blades in 1995.
"We realized quickly, maybe we ought to just wait until the time is right when Jack comes back. The three of us started it and it just didn't quite seem there even though the two of us enjoyed playing together."
Blades returned the following year.
The group released "Somewhere In California" in 2011 and keeps a busy tour schedule.
"We're playing a lot of festivals and fairs, big outdoor shows with different bands. We've been jumping around with Boston and Cheap Trick. We've got some Journey dates in November, REO dates. We're kind of hitting our old buddies. ... And we're doing a bunch of our own dates and it's exciting.
"We're just one of those kinds of bands that just enjoys playing. It wasn't so much about selling records and it isn't anymore. It's just about having a good time playing together. We still make records, but it's more about coming out there for friends who are still coming to see us — coming out and doing it well. We still care about it."
When: 8 p.m. today
Where: Homer Hamilton Theater, Tennessee Valley Fair, Chilhowee Park
Admission: free (with Fair admission); reserved seats available for $10, visit www.tnvalleyfair.org
Also: Remaining headline acts at the fair are: Con Hunley (8 p.m. Saturday) and Sawyer Brown (8 p.m. Sunday)
© 2012, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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