Journey Fire Bassist Ross Valory and Drummer Steve Smith

Founder Neal Schon and Jonathan Cain claim the pair attempted a "corporate coup d'état" to take control of the band's brand

Journey fire sue Drummer Steve Smith and Bassist Ross Valory
Former Journey members Ross Valory and Steve Smith (photos via artists’ respective Facebook pages)

Heads up to anyone wanting to see Journey on their upcoming tour with The Pretenders: You’ll only be seeing one of the band’s original members. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame outfit has fired founding bassist Ross Valory and drummer Steve Smith amid a feud that’s culminated in a legal battle.

In a lawsuit filed on behalf of Journey founder Neal Schon and longtime member Jonathan Cain (via Ultimate Classic Rock), Valory and Smith are accused of attempting a “corporate coup d’état” in hopes of gaining control over the band’s brand. Court documents from Schon and Cain’s lawyers claim the ousted members have been attempting to take over Nightmare Productions, the events entity created by former Journey manager Walter Herbert, since December 2019. Apparently, they believed the Journey name and mark rested under the Nightmare banner. However, former singer Steve Perry had entered into an agreement with Schon and Cain in 1998 that gave them “the sole, exclusive, irrevocable right to control the Journey Mark, including the Journey name.”

Schon and Cain’s lawyers assert that Valory and Smith wanted to “hold the Journey name hostage and set themselves up with a guaranteed income stream after they stop performing.” The result, says the suit, has “destroyed the chemistry, cohesion and rapport necessary for the band to play together… The actions taken by Smith and Valory shattered that trust… Schon and Cain have lost confidence in both of them and are not willing to perform with them again.”

Suing for breach of fiduciary duty on top of two counts of declaratory judgment, Journey are seeking damages “in excess of $10 million.”

Journey have gone through numerous lineup changes over the years, but next to Schon, Valory has been the longest tenured member. He played on all but one of the band’s albums (1986’s Raised on Radio). Smith, meanwhile, joined ahead of the group’s 1979 album Evolution. Both he and Valory were fired over creative differences in 1985, with the latter replaced by Randy “Yo Dawg” Jackson, now of American Idol fame. Journey split up two years later, but both Valory and Smith were welcomed back when they reunited in 1995. Smith again left in 1998, returning for the final time in 2016.

As for that summer tour with The Pretenders, Journey promise to fill out their ranks “with top musicians” to support “essential members” Schon, Cain, and current lead singer Arnel Pineda. To see who those additional band members may be, get tickets to all of Journey’s upcoming concerts here.

Since it seems an equitable reconciliation is unlikely, perhaps Valory and Smith can see about joining up with Anthrax singer Joey Belladonna’s new Journey tribute band.