28 Musicians Who Left A Band Too Soon

Pete Best

Leaving a band just before the make it big must be pretty tough to take. Sitting there watching them rocket up the charts with all the fame and fortune that goes with it would leave you wondering what might have been. Spare a thought for the 28 artists on this list of musicians who left a band too soon. And if you are just starting out in a band now, a piece of advice: think twice before moving on!

1. Pete Best, The Beatles (drums)
A list like this really has to start with Best. Dismissed in 1962 from The Beatles, some argue that he just wasn’t a good enough drummer, while others say Lennon and McCartney wanted a “less attractive” band member. Either way, it was a big missed opportunity!

2. Tony Chapman, Rolling Stones (drums)
Chapman played with an early line-up of the Rolling Stones before they settled on their permanent band members. After a short time he felt he did not fit in with the way-out approach of the group and left to form a band called The Preachers. Not long after Charlie Watts took over the drums.

Jason Everman

3. Jason Everman, Nirvana/Soundgarden (guitar/bass)
As the New York Times once said, “At 26, he wasn’t just Pete Best, the guy the Beatles left behind. He was Pete Best twice.” You see Everman left both Nirvana AND Soundgarden. He joined Nirvana in February 1989 as a second guitarist, and is listed as being second guitarist on Bleach (and appears on the cover) but did not actually play on any of the tracks. He joined Soundgarden the following year as as Hiro Yamamoto’s temporary successor on bass, before leaving to join OLD. He eventually joined the US Special Forces where he served with distinction. But joining the military wasn’t an act of desperation. “I was in the cool bands,” he said. “I was psyched to do the most uncool thing you could possibly do.” Props to him.

4. Eric Stefani, No Doubt (keyboards)
Stefani’s did have some glory as he was with the band for their breakout album, Tragic Kingdom, but he left soon after to become an animator. He did however eventually work on The Simpsons so things turned out okay.

5. David Mustaine, Metallica (guitar)
According to folklore, James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich fired Mustaine from the band because of his alcoholism, drug abuse, overly aggressive behavior, and personality clashes. Mustaine reckons there was “no warning, no second chance”, but he did go on to join Megadeath.

musicians who left a band too soon

Dave Evans

6. Dave Evans, ACDC (vocals)
Back in November 1973, Malcolm and Angus Young formed AC/DC and with Larry Van Kriedt on bass, ex-Masters Apprentices Colin Burgess on drums and Evans taking vocal duties. After a year the Young brothers let him go apparently because he was a bit too much of a glam rocker and Bon Scott replaced him.

7. Scott Raynor, Blink-182 (drums)
Raynor was part of the band from the start but Mark Hoppus and Tom DeLonge fired him in the middle of a 1998 tour, citing his alcohol abuse. “I was contacted over the phone and asked to quit drinking. I asked for the weekend to think about it, I came back and agreed. They said, “too bad,” and I don’t really know why.” He was gone for their breakthrough album Enema Of The State and missed out o the millions the others made.

8. Tim Staffell, Queen (bass)
In 1968 Staffell became a member of Smile, a band that included Brian May and Roger Taylor. He eventually left to join a band called Humpy Bong and May and Taylor recruited Freddie Mercury and John Deacon and changed the name of the band to Queen.

9. Stuart Sutcliffe, The Beatles (bass)
Often referred to as the “fifth Beatle”, Sutcliffe was the original bass player but in 1961 he left the band and enrolled at Hamburg College of Art. Though he was an acclaimed artist, he gave up a fair bit! Sadly he died in 1962 of cerebral paralysis when just 21.

10. Ron McGovney, Metallica (bass)
Metallica has dropped a few along the way but he was the band’s first casualty, leaving after just one year. Some say he quit, while others say he was overthrown by his replacement, Cliff Burton.

11. Mike Starr, Alice in Chains (bass)
The original bass player with Alice in Chains, Starr left after six years due to either a) wanting to spend time with his family, or b) drug problems. Hmmm…

Chuck Mosley

12. Chuck Mosley, Faith No More (vocals)
While Mosley had some success with Faith No More, the band didn’t really take off until Mike Patton replaced him. He parted ways with the band in 1988 for a number of reasons, including creative differences with other members, and rumors of substance abuse. His departure made quite a stir, when he sued the band for publishing rights, in an attempt to clear his name of the accusations of substance abuse.

13. Paul Di’Anno, Iron Maiden (vocals)
In 1981, Di’Anno was kicked out of Iron Mainden. In Di’Anno’s words: “It’s like having Mussolini and Adolf Hitler run your band. Because it is Rod Smallwood [the manager] and Steve Harris and that’s it”. Dickinson took over the vocal duties, they released The Number of the Beast and stardom was theirs.

14. Aaron Burckhard, Nirvana (drums)
Nirvana without Dave Grohl? It could have been as Burckhard was originally behind the kit. He was part of Nirvana’s first lineup in early 1987, but by the end of the year he was out. Apparently he was a bit wild and Cobain couldn’t handle him!

15. Bob Welch, Fleetwood Mac (guitar)
Welch was hired by Fleetwood Mac in 1971 without actually playing with him or listening to any of his recordings. All was going okay until he resigned in December 1974 and was replaced by Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks… and they became superstars.

Syd Barrett

16. Syd Barrett, Pink Floyd (guitar)
Barrett was a founding member of Pink Floyd and recorded two albums as a songwriter and guitarist. But he left in 1968 amid rumours of heavy drug use that apparently was the cause of later mental illness.

17. Anthony Phillips, Genesis (guitar)
A founding member of Genesis, Phillips played guitar and sang backup vocals for the fledgling band for four years. He left due to suffering from stage fright, after being told by his doctor that the best thing would be to leave the band.

18/19. LaTavia Roberson and LeToya Luckett, Destiny’s Child (vocals)
Roberson and Luckett left Destiny’s Child in January 2000. There had been some success at that point but both left the group after struggling with the manager’s favoritism of his daughter Beyonce and his niece Kelly Rowland.

20. Matt Pelissier, My Chemical Romance (drums)
MCR was formed by front-man Gerard Way and drummer Matt Pelissier approximately one week after the September 11 attacks, and he was there long enough to help them record their platinum-selling 2004 album, Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge. A month later he was gone, with the rumour being that he was fired for making mistakes on stage and being unwilling to play with a metronome during live performances.

21. Tracii Guns, Guns N’ Roses (guitar)
In 1985 Guns and Axl Rose decided to merge both their groups – L.A. Guns and Hollywood Rose – together. It was okay for a while but left (along with the formers LA Guns members Ole Beich and Rob Gardner) when infighting increased. Happily, he holds no grudges and the reformed LA Guns had a fair bit of success – just not quite as much as GNR did.

Chicks: Macy (left) and Lynch (right)

22/23. Robin Lynn Macy and Laura Lynch, Dixie Chicks (vocals)
Macy and Lynch formed the group with the Maguire sisters in 1989 and while they had a profile, there didn’t seem to be much scope outside the retro-Western scene. Macy quit around the time a second CD, and Lynch was pushed out two years later in favor of Natalie Mainesas they pursued a more mainstream sound. Lynch was gutted at her dismissal but did end up getting married to a $29 million Texas Lottery winner!

24. Doug Hopkins, Gin Blossoms (guitar)
Hopkins co-founded the Gin Blossoms and wrote a couple of the songs that helped make the band popular, Hey Jealousy and Found Out About You. On the other hand, Hopkins had a big alcohol problem and was barely able to stand during the recording of their debut album. Faced with the prospect of firing Hopkins or being dropped by A&M, the band let him go.

25. Stephen Duffy, Duran Duran (vocals)
Duffy co-founded Duran Duran with John Taylor and Nick Rhodes and was the band’s singer and lyricist before leaving in 1979, just before they signed a record deal. He eventually became the singer with a band called Lilac Time and also co-wrote songs with Robbie Williams.

The Evans Bros: Edge (left) and Dik (right)

26. Dik Evans, The Hype/U2 (guitar)
The first version of U2 was called The Hype and had three guitarists. One – Bono – ditched the guitar to concentrate on vocals, one is known as Edge, and the third was Evans, Edge’s brother. He left to study but eventually formed the Virgin Prunes.

27. Chad Channing, Nirvana (drums)
After Burckhard got the flick from the Nirvana drumming stool, Channing came aboard. After a couple of years Cobain and Novoselic realized he just wasn’t as metronomic as they wanted, and soon after Dave Grohl joined… and the rest is history.

28. Kim Hill, Black Eyed Peas (vocals)
A former Philadelphia 76ers cheerleader, Hill was the first Fergie, being part of the first two albums from the band. But when her relationship with will.i.am soured and creative differences emerged she left to do her own thing.

2 Comments on “28 Musicians Who Left A Band Too Soon

  1. Jeff Holdsworth was a founding member of Phish. He left the band around 1986 and Phish started their domination of the live music experience shortly after. 30 years later they are still melting faces and changing lives on a consistent basis.

    • An important one the changes the bands history was the first drummer for Rush (hall of fame group) John Rutsey. He was asked to leave and replaced by Neil Peart. Peart wen on to be know as one of the best drummers in the world (ask any of the drummers in the article. He also wrote the lyrics for Rush and unfortunately recently passed away.

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