Bands Stars Were in Before They Were Stars
by Chuck Eddy | January 25, 2011
Before your favorite rock, rap, pop and country stars were famous, they were just people. Which, chances are, also means they were struggling and striving musicians or singers who probably spent time in bands that never hit big, and that you may have never even heard of. Some of those bands recorded actual albums, or at least singles many of which just happen to be available on Rhapsody. Here's a pile to check out.
These sun-fried late '60s blues banditos were best known for the love-in-the-elevator nugget "99th Floor" a radio chart-topper for over a month in Houston, not so much anywhere else. Guitarist Billy Gibbons later made his name with ZZ Top.
The Vagrants were soul-garagers who attended the same Forest Hills, Queens, high school as sundry future Ramones; the group featured hefty guitarist Leslie West before he moved on to form '70s hard-rocking boogie bunch Mountain.
The Mynah Birds
This Toronto R&B outfit recorded sundry tracks under different lineups in the mid-'60s notably "It's My Time" and "Go On and Cry," which Motown didn't release at the time, though they showed up on a box set four decades later, after ex-Mynahs Rick James and Neil Young had become household names.
The group were folk-rockers from L.A. who actually appeared on TV's wacky F Troop once, albeit calling themselves the Bed Bugs. A few members, including Lowell George, would later form the core of eclectic '70s chooglers Little Feat.
Clover started out in San Francisco, moved to England where country-rock could sneakily pass as "pub rock," put out a few LPs and then backed Elvis Costello on My Aim Is True. But their biggest claim to fame is that Huey Lewis was in the band, supplying harmonica and vocals.
Sequence were three high-school cheerleaders from South Carolina who, with their 1979 debut 12-inch, "Funk You Up," became the first all-female rap group to record. Many excellent singles followed, after which lead voice Angie B went on to become oft-R&B-charting neo-soul singer Angie Stone which just might make her the graduate of hip-hop's oldest-school class with the most consistently successful long-term musical career. Who would have guessed?
These hardcore Seattle punks united to cause trouble in 1981. A year or two later, their first drummer a fellow named "Loud Fart" was replaced by Duff McKagan, who a few years later still wound up playing bass in Guns N' Roses. For the last several years, he's been in Velvet Revolver, but who's counting?
Green River were front-runners of the "Sasquatch metal" fad that shuffled ancient Sabbath, Stooges and Aerosmith riffs in mid-'80s Seattle. Though exciting, the style didn't get much attention until some joker changed its name to "grunge" and various musicians moved on to Pearl Jam and Mudhoney.
The Beatnigs were Michael Franti's protest-punk-industrial-jazzoetry-hop unit in late '80s San Francisco, before he started The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy, which was before he started Spearhead, which is where he had a huge, happy-faced pop hit called "Say Hey (I Love You)." Wonder what Jello Biafra thinks of him now.
These uniformed underwater superhero surf-ska kiddie cartoons from Southern Cali included future blink-182 dude Travis Barker from 1996 to 1998, during which time they recorded The Fury of the Aquabats.
The Ranch were a twanging trio who despite being from way down under in New Zealand managed to crease the U.S. country chart with two singles, in 1997 and 1998. They only put out one album at the time, now available as Keith Urban in the Ranch. Urban later met Nicole Kidman and played more guitar.
Wild Orchid were an anomaly in the mid- to late '90s a three-gal dance-pop troupe who almost could've passed as Latin freestyle, had they materialized a decade earlier. Nobody much noticed sad, since both albums the albums they released were pretty decent. You now know one member, Stacy Ferguson, as Fergie of the Black-Eyed Peas.
Eden's Crush put out an album in 2001 called Popstars, same name as the reality show for which they were formed. But one of the five girls in the group, Nicole Scherzinger, went on to bigger and arguably better things, namely the Pussycat Dolls.
Stiffed, a biracial co-ed punk gang from Philadelphia, got Darryl Jennifer of Bad Brains to produce their 2005 debut album, Burned Again. It stiffed (har har), but their singer, Santi White, went on to attain hipster dub-wave acclaim as Santigold.