« Classic Hits

Joel Hoekstra Leaves Night Ranger. Joins.. Whitesnake?

by Mark Cartwright

Joel Hoekstra is leaving Night Ranger.

"Who is Joel Hoekstra?" You may be asking yourself. If you haven't seen Night Ranger in the past five or six years, you probably don't know who Joel is, or what he look like, so let me fill you in on what I've seen.

He's damn good.

Joel will be remembered by a lot of people as "The Guy Who Took Jeff Watson's Place." This is no easy task. Watson is one heck of a guitar player, so it's easy to be skeptical of his replacement, and I was.

I first saw Joel when Night Ranger was touring with Journey. They opened the show, and it was the best I had ever heard them sound, and I heard them on their Dawn Patrol tour many years ago. They were musically tight, the harmonies were perfect, and the stage show was balanced and always equally covered. My wife immediately pointed out - as a lot of people do - that he looked a lot like Sebastian Bach of Skid Row. I agreed, then watched to see if he could pull off Watson's stuff. The answer was swift and evident.

No problem.

So I guess it surprises me in a way, that Joel would leave to join Whitesnake. What could drive his decision? More pay? More involvement in the songwriting?

My first guess is that, since Whitesnake has had SO many great guitar players over the years, it gives him a chance to play more challenging stuff. I could be wrong, but if you had the chops, would you be content playing Jeff Watson every night, or would you rather cover the licks of Steve Vai, Adrian Vandenberg, Vivian Campbell, John Sykes, Doug Alcrich and Micky Moody?