Journey formed in San Francisco in 1973. Former Santana manager Herbie Herbert brought the band together around Santana alumni, guitarist Neal Schon and keyboardist Greg Rolie. Bassist Ross Valory and guitarist George Tickner rounded out the group along with The Tubes drummer Prairie Prince. Originally they were more of a jazz fusion band and they picked up the name 'Journey' from one of their roadies. Prince rejoined The Tubes before the next year and drummer Aybsley Dunbar took his place. Rolie handled lead vocals but the band struggled to find success through their first two albums. The record company pushed them to change their style. They tried to emulate the success of Foreigner and Boston which were doing well in the mid-70s. They hired Robert Fleishman to take over the vocals and recorded their only hit to that date, 'Wheel in the Sky'. Fleischman didn't last and was soon replaced by singer Steve Perry.
Obviously, the jazz-centric style of Santana was a strong part of Schon's and Rolie's musical backgrounds and tended to permeate Journey's early efforts. When Perry came aboard, the band immediatly transformed into a more power-pop band on the strength of his voice.
Main Creative Force
The strength of Journey was largely Perry's voice and some great pop hooks. A lot of the credit for the overall arrangements and sound go to keyboardist Johnathon Cain who replaced Rolie in 1980 and Cain tended to replace the organ-driven rock sound of Rolie (which he built playing for Santana) with more synthesizer hooks. Schon's guitar is likely the most constant element of all that Journey has been over the years, though those three certainly are all major contributors.
Most Likely To Be A Mainstream Rocker
It is easy to point to Aynsley Dunbar who was in a number of mainstream rock bands before and after his time with Journey. Schon is equally impressive for his work with other artists, however.
First Hint of Prog Brilliance
They were never THAT prog. The 1979 album 'Evolution' produced their biggest hits to that date including 'Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin'' and made it into the Billboard top 20. The album's cover and some of the lyrics hinted at prog qualities though the band was far more a power pop band than a prog band both then and later. But Cain's arrival brought a more keyboard-heavy emphasis with synthesizers which would later tilt them more into prog territory.
The 1981 album 'Escape' was the band's popular peak and the cover typifies the futuristic, fantastical imagery associated with their albums. It included the massive hit 'Don't Stop Believin' and the power ballad 'Open Arms' which would be two of Journey's most recognized songs of all time.
Influenced By Them
Like many arena rock giants, it is hard to call them influential. They were a huge commercial success and if anyone had influence, it was Steve Perry with his vocal style which was very pop-rock archetypical. That voice spawned a number of imitators among rock and roll wannabes which had implications for Journey's future.
Perry had issues with Journey's management for a long time. He left the band and later returned on the condition that they change managers. When he injured a hip in 1997 and could not move around on stage, Schon and Cain - the de facto leaders of Journey - decided to replace him. They began to explore the possibility of replacing Perry with singers from Journey tribute bands which were a somewhat common phenomena. It was pretty easy to shop for them on YouTube, after all. They ended up hiring Arnel Pineda in 2007 who is the lead singer for the band at present. His singing is uncannily similar to Perry and the band still includes original members Schon, Cain, and Valory.
My Personal Take
I never really thought of Journey as prog and I freely admit they are a stretch to even appear here. The cover art on the albums combined with the fact that they were arena rock staples alongside Styx and Kansas which were definitely more progressive makes them a barely acceptable inclusion. And if you think I'm flat-out wrong to have them here, that's fine. Somedays, I think the same thing.