Before they became big stars, many musicians had to pay their dues and find their styles by playing with a wide variety of musicians. Here are some band pairings that might surprise you.
1. Jimi Hendrix and the Isley Brothers
In 1964, the Isley Brothers recruited a 21-year-old guitarist named Jimmy James to join their backing band. James, who later became famous using his real name -Jimi Hendrix- played on the group’s novelty single “Testify,” in which each of the Isleys take turns imitating soul legends like Ray Charles, James Brown, and Stevie Wonder.
Future funk superstar Rick James fled his hometown of Detroit for Toronto in 1965. (He was dodging the Vietnam War draft.) While living there, he played guitar in a band called the Mynah Birds. Other members of the band: Goldy McJohn (of Steppenwolf) and Neil Young.
3. Boz Scaggs and Steve Miller
Steve Miller on the far left and Boz Scaggs on the far right.Boz Scaggs and Steve Miller (of the Steve Miller Band) both found success in the 1970s, but they joined forces twice before. Scaggs and Miller were in a band called the Marksmen, formed in 1959 at the Dallas high school they both attended. In 1967, after Scaggs’s first album flopped, he reunited with Miller in the Steve Miller Band. He recorded two albums with Miller before leaving for a solo career, at which point Miller took over all the vocals.
4. Bob Dylan and Harry Dean Stanton
The Chabad Telethon has aired annually on Los Angeles television for more than 30 years, raising money for Jewish charities. In September 1989, a trio calling itself Chopped Liver performed on the broadcast. Its members: Bob Dylan on harmonica and recorder, and character actor Harry Dean Stanton and Peter Himmelman (Dylan’s son-in-law) on guitars. They performed several Jewish folk songs, including “Hava Nagila.”
5. Kiss with Anton Fig
Kiss fired drummer Peter Criss in 1980 and auditioned new musicians to replace him. Although he never toured with the band (and never put makeup on his face), South African drummer Anton Fig played the drums on two Kiss albums before leaving in 1982. His next gig: he joined the World’s Most Dangerous Band, the Paul Shaffer-led house band on Late Night with David Letterman.
6. Tom Petty and Dave Grohl
Contains NSFW language. (YouTube link)
Longtime Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers drummer Stan Lynch left the band in 1994, primarily because he resented having to play on Petty’s solo hits at concerts. His replacement: Dave Grohl, who had been in Nirvana until earlier that year, when the suicide of Kurt Cobain ended the grunge band. Grohl was offered the position permanently, but declined, and moved on in 1995 to start his own band, Foo Fighters.
7. Clem Burke and The Ramones
In 1987, Ramones drummer Richie Ramone (all Ramones took on a stage name) abruptly quit the band in the middle of a tour. Singer Joey Ramone called up an old friend to fill in: Clem Burke of Blondie. Burke was a Ramone for two shows; his stage name for the gigs was Elvis Ramone.
8. Michael Bolton and Bruce Kulick
The American rock band Blackjack had a minor hit in 1979 with a song called “Love Me Tonight.” The band broke up the following year, but some of the members went on to much more success. Lead singer Michael Bolotin changed his name to Michael Bolton and became a songwriter and a soft rock superstar. In 1984, guitarist Bruce Kulick joined Kiss… which had a big comeback hit in 1989 with the ballad “Forever.” That song was cowritten by Michael Bolton.
9. The Germs
The Germs were one of the major bands of the 1970s Los Angeles punk scene. They formed in 1977 with each member taking on sarcastic, aggressive stage names, including singer Darby Crash, guitarist Pat Smear, and drummer Dottie Danger. After the band broke up in 1980, Smear would go on to be a touring guitarist with Nirvana and a member of Foo Fighters in the 1990s. Dottie Danger, however, only lasted in the Germs for a few months. She started her own, all-female rock band called the Go-Gos under her real name: Belinda Carlisle.
In 1992, Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page really wanted to reunite with his old bandmate, singer Robert Plant, for a reunion tour. Plant said no- his solo career was going pretty well. So Page tried to make Plant so jealous and annoyed that he’d eventually have to get back together with him. Page recruited David Coverdale, lead singer of the 1980s hair metal band Whitesnake (“Here I Go Again”) and recorded one album under the name Coverdale•Page. Critics said Coverdale sounded a lot like Plant; when asked to comment, Plant called David Coverdale “David Cover-version.” The album sold poorly, but maybe that was Page’s plan all along. He and Plant went on an international stadium tour in the summer of 1995.