Originally Published in the Dayton Daily News

I LOVE THE ‘80s: Cover band Stranger and special guests at Dayton Masonic Center

Dayton-based cover band Stranger, performing at Dayton Masonic Center on Saturday, Feb. 12, has recently recorded cover songs with John Waite, Rick Springfield and other original artists.

In its more than 25 years of playing the hits of the 1980s, Dayton-based cover band Stranger has crossed paths with plenty of popular performers from the period. Some of these associations have paid major dividends such as the iHeart Sweetheart Concert, “We Will Yacht You,” at Dayton Masonic Center on Saturday, Feb. 12.

Mix 107.7 and the American Heart Association presents Stranger & Friends in Schiewetz Auditorium with special guests Bill Champlin, formerly of Chicago, and Franke Previte from Franke and the Knockouts.

“We’re going to be doing a Yacht Rock-leaning set but it’s really a tribute to the ‘80s,” singer Jeff Stevens said. “I’ve been studying the Yacht Rock channels for several months. We’re doing Player’s ‘Baby Come Back,’ the Eagles’ ‘I Can’t Tell You Why’ and so many other staples. If you’re getting super strict on Yacht Rock, we’re going a little bit more pop-’80s. We’re doing ‘You Make My Dreams (Come True)’ by Hall & Oates, Billy Joel’s ‘You May Be Right’ and more upbeat stuff from that era.”

Hitmaking guests

Champlin will perform songs from his time in Chicago from 1981 to 2009 but will also cover other parts of his career. He’ll perform Grammy Award-winning co-writes like George Benson’s “Turn Your Love Around” and Earth, Wind & Fire’s “After the Love Has Gone.”

“After our set, Bill will come out and do some Chicago songs with us,” Stevens said. “He’s going to do some pretty cool stuff. His wife is coming in too and, apparently, she’s a fantastic singer. She sings a lot of the Peter Cetera stuff, and they do a couple of duets, too. Bill also does sort of singer-songwriter versions of his two Grammy songs on piano.”

Like Champlin, Previte has major credits beyond his 1981 single, “Sweetheart,” the lone Top 10 hit for Franke & the Knockouts. The singer co-wrote “Hungry Eyes” and “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life,” two songs from the 1987 film “Dirty Dancing.” The latter won the Academy Award for Best Original Song and Grammy Award for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group.

“After Bill, we’re going to play a few more songs and then we’re going to bring out Franke,” Stevens said. “We’ll finish the night with ‘Sweetheart’ and the two ‘Dirty Dancing’ songs. ‘(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life’ will be a great way to close the whole show.”

Dayton-based cover band Stranger, performing at Dayton Masonic Center on Saturday, Feb. 12, has recently recorded cover songs with John Waite, Rick Springfield and other original artists.


Beyond the stage

This Stranger & Friends show was proposed by an East Coast concert promoter who was impressed after hearing the local act’s 2021 cover of “Missing You.” The new duet version featured vocals from original artist John Waite, who took the Grammy-nominated song to the top of the charts in the United States and Canada in 1984. It was also a Top 10 hit for Waite in Australia, Ireland and the United Kingdom.

“Last fall, the promoter somehow got wind of ‘Missing You’ by Stranger featuring John Waite,” Stevens said. “He contacted me and said, ‘I pulled your band up on YouTube and I’ve listened to some of your stuff. Would you guys want to do like Stranger and Friends? You can do a set and then we’ll have a couple of special guests like Franke come in and do some songs.’ I said, ‘Absolutely.’ We’ve been working on this Yacht Rock thing since October. We prepared our list and we’ve been learning the Chicago songs and the ‘Dirty Dancing’ songs. We’ve been doing a ton of rehearsing.”

Stranger singles

“Missing You” was Stranger’s second song with a notable figure. In 2019, the band recorded a version of the Rick Springfield B-side “Kristina” featuring a vocal contribution from the original artist.

“We’ve opened for Rick five or six times and kind of become friends with him,” Stevens said. “I was backstage at one of his shows in Arizona and I said, ‘Hey, we’ve got a wild idea. We’re talking about going into the studio to do some recording. If we did one of your songs, would you contribute your vocal?’ And he’s like, ‘Sure.’ So, we recorded ‘Kristina’ at Legend Underground in Cincinnati. We were blown away how great it came together.”

Stranger recently returned to Legend Underground to record its third single, a version of Franke & the Knockouts’ “Sweetheart” with a vocal contribution from Previte. This isn’t the only planned collaboration between the two camps.

“It’s kind of cool because we kind of hit up a friendship with Franke,” Stevens said. “We not only recorded ‘Sweetheart’ with him but we’re also going to redo ‘Hungry Eyes.’ In August, it’s the 35th anniversary of ‘Dirty Dancing.’ Like John Waite, that’s a number one international smash hit and because of the press the 35th anniversary is going to get, there’s a chance that single could have some legs.”

Contact this contributing writer at 937-287-6139 or e-mail at donthrasher100@gmail.com.


What: Mix 107.7 and the American Heart Association presents Stranger & Friends’ “We Will Yacht You,” with special guests Bill Champlin and Franke Previte

Where: Schiewetz Auditorium at Dayton Masonic Center, 525 W. Riverview Ave., Dayton

When: 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 12. Doors open at 7 p.m.

Cost: $25 to $60

More info: daytonmasonic.live

Artist info: stranger80s.com