31 musicians who quit bands right before they became famous

Timing – in music as in life – is everything. Sometimes you’re dead on beat. Other times, you go too soon. That’s what happened to these 31 artists who all found themselves thinking: ‘Should I stay or should I go?’ shortly before either jumping ship or being booted out of bands – right before they hit the big time…

Tony Chapman (The Rolling Stones)

Tony Chapman got close, real close, drumming with the Stones in 1962 shortly before they broke through. He even got Bill Wyman into the band, but the sticksman didn’t feel comfortable with the Stones’ raucous approach to the blues, and stepped aside for the more rock’n’roll Charlie Watts.


Andy Nicholson (Arctic Monkeys)

The Arctics’ original bassist was replaced by Nick O’Malley in 2006 after missing an American tour through “fatigue”. He went on to enjoy a brief stint in Reverend & The Makers, and recently started his own record label.

Miles Woodward (Manic Street Preachers)

“Everybody thought we were crap,” remembers Miles Woodward of his time as the Manics’ original bassist. But as his three bandmates started to lean more towards pop, original punk rocker Woodward didn’t like what he was hearing either and jumped ship. Richey Edwards took his place.

Bob Welch (Fleetwood Mac)


Guitarist Bob Welch joined the ‘Mac in 1971 at the same time as Christine McVie, but became embroiled in the standard intra-band scrapping and cashed his chips in 1974. Within seconds, Mick Fleetwood co-opted Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks into the line-up.

Stephen Duffy (Duran Duran)

He’s now the bucolic pop troubadour with The Lilac Time, but Stephen Duffy was once the unlikely lead singer of Duran Duran. He got out before the yachts and pastel suits, changed his name to Tin Tin and had a big hit with ‘Kiss Me’.

LaTavia Roberson/LeToya Luckett (Destiny’s Child)

Half of the original Destiny’s Child line-up found their noses a bit out of joint when they claimed that manager Mathew Knowles was looking out for his daughter Beyoncé and Kelly Rowland a little bit more. They were eventually squeezed out – replaced by Michelle Williams – and got all litigious several times. Not bitter though.

Michael Dempsey (The Cure)

Bassist Michael Dempsey was there at the beginning when The Cure formed in the southern wastelands of Crawley. He appeared on ‘Three Imaginary Boys’ and ‘Boys Don’t Cry’, but was reputedly eased out when he turned his nose up at Robert Smith’s new songs. He went on to play with several other bands, including Roxy Music.

Dell Neal (The Killers)

“Obviously, things could be easier financially…” original Killers bassist Dell Neal admitted to the Las Vegas Sun in 2010, with galactic understatement. He bailed out for his health in 2002, citing stress, just a year before the band exploded. “I don’t regret making the call.”

Chris Karloff (Kasabian)

With shady grace, former Kasabian guitarist Chris Karloff says he hasn’t heard much of his old band since he was given the heave-ho in 2006, during the recording of ‘Empire’. “They don’t really have the same presence in America [where he lives now, working with new band Black Onassis].” Ooh.

Dik Evans (U2)

The Edge’s big bro was one of three guitarists in U2 prototype The Hype. One had a lot of potential, one was Bono and the third graciously took the bullet and let our kid do the job. Dik went on to form The Virgin Prunes with Gavin Friday.

David Marks (The Beach Boys)

David Marks spent several years with the Wilsons and co – and has recently been back for the revivals too – but didn’t play on classic hits like ‘California Girls’ and ‘Pet Sounds’. He left at the end of 1963 after a personality clash with the famously irascible Murry Wilson (Brian, Carl and Dennis’s dad).

Doug Sandom (The Who)

In a blatant act of disregard for the rock’n’roll myth, early Who drummer Doug Sandom was in his thirties when he joined in 1962, having utterly failed to die before he got old. No-one was ever comfortable with this, and Sandom was essentially forced to resign in 1964. He never liked Pete Townshend anyway, so all’s well that ends well.

Kim Hill (Black Eyed Peas)

Kim Hill sang on the first couple of Black Eyed Peas albums in the 1990s. She could’ve been the new Fergie. Bullet dodged there. Anyway, she fell out with will.i.am, said she could sense the direction the crew were headed in and fled in 2000 before things got really terrible (and lucrative, but let’s not spoil the party here).

Jason Everman (Nirvana AND Soundgarden)

It’s some achievement, being bundled out of two of the biggest bands in grunge (and of the early ’90s altogether), but Jason Everman has no ill-feeling. “I was psyched to do the most uncool thing you could possibly do,” he’s said, which turned out to be joining the US Army’s Special Forces and serving with distinction. Possibly quite cool after all.

Siobhan Donaghy (Sugababes)

Sugababes were already doing OK when Siobhan Donaghy decided to escape the band (according to myth) through a toilet window, but she was pretty happy about escaping Keisha Buchanan and Mutya Buena to – although she did miss out on being involved with Number One singles like ‘Freak Like Me’ and ‘Push The Button’. Still, the trio are back together now. We think. It’s hard to tell.

Pete Garner (The Stone Roses)

Unofficial roadie turned bassist, Pete Garner was a member of The Stone Roses from the very start in 1983 until he left in 1987, with the band seemingly destined for the dumper. Obviously, within a few months, Mani turned up, the new line-up clicked and the ‘Roses monkey-walked into history.

Pete Best (The Beatles)

Rock’s archetypal ‘nearly man’, original Beatles drummer Pete Best even made it as far as 1962, mere months before the band’s first hit ‘Love Me Do’. George Martin wasn’t impressed and wanted a session drummer; the rest of the band shrugged, Brian Epstein delivered the P45 and in came Ringo.

Jack Irons (Red Hot Chili Peppers)

Founder members of the Chili Peppers, drummer Jack Irons and Hillel Slovak actually considered their other outfit What Is This? the better bet so didn’t put heart and soul into RHCP. As it was, Slovak died of a heroin overdose in 1988 and Irons couldn’t stomach being in the band at all after that. He’d later pop up in Pearl Jam.

Gavin Skinner (Primal Scream)

Drummer on Primal Scream’s 1987 debut ‘Sonic Flower Groove’, Gavin Skinner came tantalisingly close to the big time but the album’s poor reception led to bickering and the departures of both Skinner and guitarist Jim Beattie. Skinner’s now a TV and film composer.

John Berry (Beastie Boys)

Guitarist John Berry was a motivating force for the Beasties, putting on their first gig in his apartment and encouraging Adam Yauch (MCA) to stick with his bass. Berry appears on 1982 debut EP ‘Polly Wog Stew’, but lost interest in the band and stopped showing up. His slot was taken by Adam Horovitz (Ad-Rock) and everything – eventually – went stratospheric.

Steve Brookes (The Jam)

The early Jam were nowhere near the streamlined outfit they ended up as, pulling in guitarists willy-nilly. One of them was Steve Brookes, there from 1972 to 1976, but never replaced when he decided to drop out just before it all went right. He’s stayed mates with Weller, though, and appears on the Modfather’s recent album ‘Saturns Pattern’.

Tracii Guns (Guns N’ Roses)

Tracii Guns (the clue’s in the name) formed Guns N’ Roses with Axl Rose (the clue’s in the name) back in 1985, but couldn’t be bothered getting off his arse half the time. “I just stopped going to rehearsals. Axl would call me screaming and yelling,” he said. He was gone about a year before ‘Appetite For Destruction’.

Glen Matlock (Sex Pistols)

What was Glen Matlock’s big mistake? Liking The Beatles. Oh, and The Monkees (according to legend). Ditched between ‘Anarchy In The UK’ and ‘God Save The Queen’, Matlock was really a victim of Malcolm McLaren’s plan to get Sid Vicious in. Everything’s OK now though: he’s been back in the fold for some 21st Century reunions.

Arabian Prince (NWA)

Founder member of NWA, rapper Arabian Prince (not his real name – that’s Kim Renard Nazel) split during the recording of seminal album ‘Straight Outta Compton’ because he reckoned the band weren’t getting paid. Deciding he could make more cash on his own, he sunk into relative obscurity, with just a single credit on ‘Straight Outta Compton’ to keep him warm.

Eric Stefani (No Doubt)

Even before you hear the story, the name makes you wince. Gwen’s brother was the primary creative force in the band up until breakthrough album ‘Tragic Kingdom’, which he appeared on but left before its release. Maybe he was sick to the back teeth of all those songs about his sister and bassist Tony Kanal’s failed relationship.

Paul Di’Anno (Iron Maiden)

Bruce Dickinson’s so intrinsically linked with the ‘Maiden that it’s hard to imagine anyone else screaming up front, but Paul Di’Anno was the man for their first two albums. Drugs and drink impaired his performance though, and in 1981 he was paid off, never to receive another penny from the soon-to-be metal legends.

Dave Mustaine (Metallica)

Dumped by Metallica in April 1983 for issues with drug abuse, Dave Mustaine went on to form the pretty-massive-themselves Megadeth, but he’s still basically spent the ensuing 30 years bitching about his sacking, including taking Lars Ulrich to task in the Some Kind of Monster documentary. They’re all (kind of) friends now.

John Kiffmeyer (Green Day)

Early Green Day drummer John Kiffmeyer only appears on 1990 debut album ’39/Smooth’. He made the mistake of swanning off to university for a bit, only to find his temporary replacement Tré Cool becoming a bit more permanent. He took it on the chin and went into production and management.

Angus MacLise (The Velvet Underground)

A fellow alumnus of La Monte Young’s Theatre of Eternal Music with John Cale, Angus MacLise was the Velvets’ original drummer, a student of the avant-garde and, later, Eastern mysticism who ducked out just before the band’s first gig because – brilliantly – he thought they were selling out. Mo Tucker replaced him and took all the glory.

Keith Levene (The Clash)

Clash founding member Keith Levene never actually made a record with the group, but does he regret missing out on a life as a West London outlaw? Maybe the Levi’s cash, anyway. Thing is, he and John Lydon then went and formed avant-garde post-punk brutalists Public Image Ltd and they, of course, were a much better band.

You May Like