Winger is an American hard rock band formed in New York City that gained popularity during the late 1980s and early 1990s. The band's two platinum albums, Winger and In the Heart of the Young, along with charting singles "Seventeen", "Headed for a Heartbreak" and "Miles Away", put the band on the top of the charts by the early 1990s. In 1990, the band was nominated for an American Music Award for "Best New Heavy Metal Band". As the music scene changed in the early to mid-1990s due to the popularity of grunge, the band faded after their third release Pull.
The band broke up in 1994, but reunited in 2001 for several successful tours. In 2006, the band's 1993 touring line-up (minus Paul Taylor but including John Roth) reunited to record the band's first studio album in over 13 years, IV, and toured in support of the album into 2008. In 2009, the band released their fifth album, Karma. As of 2013, Winger still performs on mini-tours and private events.
Main career and break-up (1988–1994)
The debut album, Winger, was released on August 10, 1988 on Atlantic Records. The record was a success, achieving platinum status in the United States, and gold status in Japan and Canada. On February 11, 1989, the album peaked at number 21 on the Billboard 200, and since then, was in various places on the chart for 63 weeks. Radio and MTV hits from the album included "Madalaine", "Seventeen", "Headed for a Heartbreak" and "Hungry". In 1990, the band was nominated for an American Music Award for "Best New Heavy Metal Band".
Shortly after that tour, Winger released its second album In the Heart of the Young, which went 1-and-1/2 platinum in the U.S. and Gold in Japan. Hit radio tracks and MTV videos included "Can't Get Enuff", "Miles Away" and "Easy Come Easy Go".
Winger followed the release of its second album with a 13-month world tour, playing over 230 dates with Kiss, Scorpions, ZZ Top, Extreme and Slaughter. Paul Taylor left the band after the tour, citing exhaustion after years of touring. Their third studio album, Pull, was recorded in 1992/1993 as a three-piece band. It was originally going to be called Blind Revolution Mad, after the opening song. Reportedly Kip Winger, anticipating that critics would dismiss the album out of hand, renamed it Pull as a tongue-in-cheek reference to the CD being used by critics as a skeet shooting target. The album was produced by Mike Shipley, but was not as successful as the previous album. On the following tour, John Roth was called in to replace Paul Taylor on rhythm guitar. Unfortunately, the album coincided with the rise of grunge, and Winger epitomized a brand of melodic pop-metal, which happened to be the pop music genre that was swept aside to make room for grunge.
After disbanding in 1994, bassist/lead vocalist Kip Winger went on to a solo career, guitarist Reb Beach went on to touring projects with artists such as Dokken and Alice Cooper, and the band's other members pursued or resumed careers as session musicians.
In 2001, it was announced that all original members of the band (including both Taylor and Roth) would return to the studio to record the song "On the Inside" for The Very Best of Winger. In 2002, all five members embarked on a reunion tour of the US and Canada on a bill with Poison. According to Kip Winger, in a 2008 interview with rock and roll comic C.C. Banana, it was important to include all five members because "it was the big, long-awaited reunion so I wanted to include everybody who had ever been in the band." In 2003, it was confirmed that activity had been halted again due to Reb Beach's touring commitment with Whitesnake as well as his solo album "Masquerade" and involvement with "supergroup" project The Mob with King's X frontman Doug Pinnick and Night Ranger drummer Kelly Keagy.
On July 16, 2005, it was announced that Kip Winger would perform as the lead singer for the Alan Parsons Live Project at the Common Ground Music Festival in Lansing, Michigan. In May 2006, it was confirmed that Winger had reformed without one of its original members Paul Taylor, to record another album and tour Europe. The album, IV, was released in Europe in October and the nine-country "Winger IV Tour" ran in the last two weeks of the same month.
On February 25, 2008, the band performed in Providence, Rhode Island, as part of a benefit for survivors of the Station nightclub fire. The concert, along with other artists was debuted on VH1 Classic on March 23, 2008. In late 2009, it was confirmed that Winger would record a fifth album Karma, with a tour to support it. Most recently, John Roth became the guitarist for Giant and will appear on their latest album Promise Land set for release in February/March 2010.
The band Train has released a song entitled "If It's Love", which includes a reference to Winger.
According to Kip Winger on his official website, and as well to the band's official Facebook page, Winger is currently working on a new studio album, scheduled to be released on Spring 2014.
Winger was the subject of constant ridicule in MTV's animated series Beavis and Butt-head during the mid-1990s. The neighbor boy Stewart, who was always trying to be accepted by Beavis and Butt-head, was usually depicted wearing a Winger T-shirt, as opposed to the Metallica and AC/DC shirts worn by the title characters. Beavis and Butt-head thought of them as "wussies", belittling their videos — especially the "Seventeen" video. According to the documentary Taint of Greatness: Part 2 on the Mike Judge Collection Volume 2 DVD, this was due to Kip Winger telling MTV he would not let the show make fun of him. In a 2005 interview, Reb Beach said that this treatment on a popular cartoon caused a decline in popularity for Winger:
- So we released the record and went out on the road and that's when the floor fell out from under us practically overnight. Some guy came to the bus with a copy of Beavis and Butt-head and in it they hung a nerd up by his underwear while he wore his Winger T-shirt. They went to his house, and his loser family (including the dog) were all wearing Winger T-shirts. That week people stopped coming to our shows and record sales came to a screeching halt. "Down Incognito" was taking off at radio when DJs just dropped it from their playlists because they were too embarrassed to have their station associated with it. A month later I called Atlantic Records and they had never heard of Winger.
Mike Judge continued to mock Winger in his next animated series King of the Hill, as the character of John Redcorn was a former roadie for the band until embarking on a Native American vision quest, where he discovered that "wrangling groupies for Winger was not my proper life path".
In a 2010 interview with Eddie Trunk on That Metal Show, Kip himself denounced the rumor that he told MTV to not make fun of him. In August 2011, Mike Judge stated in an interview with Billboard: "I thought [Kip Winger] had a problem with the show, but it turns out he was OK with it", Judge told Billboard.biz. "We tried other bands [logos] but nothing worked as well [as the originals]".
About this same time, Lars Ulrich of the band Metallica could be seen throwing a dart on a poster of Kip Winger in the video for "Nothing Else Matters". When asked about this, Kip Winger once stated: "Our band was known to musicians, and a lot of musicians showed up to see me play — watching, trying to figure out how I'm playing —, we were like the 'hair band' [version of] Dream Theater [...] That is why it's the great irony that we ended up on that geeky guy's shirt on Beavis & Butt-head, because Metallica couldn't play what we play, they couldn't do it, they literally — technically — couldn't do it. And I'll fucking challenge those chumps to that any day of the week, but we could play their music with our hands tied behind our back. And so, I was a little teed off about that, but in the end, none of that shit matters..."
- Kip Winger – Lead vocals, Bass guitar, Acoustic Guitars, Keyboards, 1987-1994, 2001-2003, 2006-present
- Reb Beach – Lead & rhythm guitars, Backing vocals, 1987-1994, 2001-2003, 2006-present
- John Roth – Rhythm & lead guitars, Bass guitar, Keyboards, Backing vocals, 1993-1994 [Touring-Only], 2006-present
- Rod Morgenstein – Drums, Percussion, Backing vocals, 1987-1994, 2001-2003, 2006-present
- Paul Taylor – Rhythm guitar, Keyboards, Piano, Backing vocals 1987-1992 2001-2003
- Cenk Eroglu – Keyboards, Rhythm guitar, Effects, Backing vocals, 2006-2009
- Winger (1988)
- In the Heart of the Young (1990)
- Pull (1993)
- IV (2006)
- Karma (2009)
- Kip Winger
- Reb Beach
- Rod Morgenstein
- Paul Taylor
- Official website
- Winger (band) on Myspace
- Winger at the Internet Movie Database
- Winger at Allmusic
- Winger at Discogs
- Interview with Kip Winger
- Kip Winger Interview October 2008
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Image from Discogs