It’s not hard to see that getting a start in a band, no matter how small, can lead to some pretty great things. Tons of successful musicians today started off with a few companions, skyrocketing them into the industry and helping them land where they are today. Everybody has to start somewhere, and sometimes it’s easier to stand out as a group rather than an individual in what is considered one of the hardest industries to break into. Becoming a famous singer or band takes a lot of work and a lot of resilience – groups are turned away by labels day in and day out, but that can’t be what stops them from giving up their dreams. There are a few household names that everybody knows started off in a band or group.
Beyonce, one of the world’s biggest superstars, got her rise to fame in the all-girl group Destiny’s Child with Kelly Roland and Michelle Williams. Most people know them by songs like “Say My Name” and “Survivor.” Similarly, Justin Timberlake started off many years ago in the heartthrob boy band N’Sync. N’Sync was made up of Timberlake, JC Chasez, Chris Kirkpatrick, Joey Fatone and Lance Bass. Today, Timberlake is the only one still in the spotlight and making a relevant name for himself. Even the King of Pop himself, Michael Jackson, started off in the Jackson 5 (as we all know).
To break into the industry and get your toes wet, you might have to suck it up and move forward with a group instead of expecting to be solo. Here are 12 musicians whose early bands or groups are less well known.
12. Richard Fairbrass
When you hear the band name Right Said Fred, a face or song probably doesn’t come to mind. However, everybody knows who Right Said Fred is, as it’s the group behind the hit song “I’m Too Sexy.” Richard Fairbrass is the creator of the band Right Said Fred – but before Right Said Fred, Fairbrass had a much different gig. Before starting his own band, Fairbrass was never really committed to another band but he did play bass for many prominent artists before settling down with his own project. Fairbrass shared the stage with Boy George and was even in a music video for David Bowie.
11. Sheryl Crow
Famous American singer and songwriter Sheryl Crow had quite the wild ride before she made an actual name for herself. Out of all the people in the world, Crow had the opportunity to be a backup singer for the one and only Michael Jackson. Crow shared the stage with Jackson during his Bad tour during 1987-1989. According to an interview with Daily Mail, Crow didn’t even have a passport when she got the job with Jackson – despite this, she was still traipsing across the world with the biggest pop star. In the early nineties is when Crow officially became a solo artist.
Ian Fraiser Kilmister, or most commonly known by the world as Lemmy, was famous for being in the band Motorhead. Before Lemmy was in Motorhead, he was in a band called Hawkwind. Hawkwind was formed in 1969 and after being active for a little while, Lemmy joined the band. Lemmy went on tour with the band and recorded two albums with them before being arrested in Canada for drug possession. Because of his arrest, Hawkwind released Lemmy from the band, which led to him joining Motorhead. According to loudwire.com, Lemmy wasn’t all that fond of the albums he put out with Hawkwind anyway.
9. Bob Marley
Even people who aren’t fans of reggae music know who Bob Marley is. Marley promoted peace, love, reggae music, and indirectly, smoking weed. Marley’s music is still popular today with all ages. Before there was Bob Marley as a solo artist, there was The Wailing Wailers. The Wailing Wailers was a band that made ska and gospel music. The band was made up of Bob Marley, Neville Livingston, Peter McIntosh and Clement Coxsone Dodd. After the band broke up in 1974, Bob Marley decided to pursue a solo career and ended up becoming one of the world’s most famous musicians.
8. Amy Winehouse
Amy Winehouse, who passed away back in July, 2011, is known for her eclectic looks and unique voice. Winehouse sang a myriad of styles, ranging from jazz to soul during her career. Before she became a short-lived famous Hollywood star, the young singer was in two groups before making her official debut. Winehouse was originally in a small rap group called Sweet-N-Sour that didn’t really make it far. After Sweet-N-Sour, Winehouse sang for a jazz group called The Bolsha Band.
7. Phil Collins
Before the success as a solo artist and “In The Air Tonight”, Phil Collins was a member of Genesis. Genesis was formed in Surrey in 1967 and also featured Peter Gabriel, who went on to have a successful solo career. The band went from being a folk and progressive group during the seventies and eventually settled into being a pop group at the end of the decade. Genesis, while not as widely known, did extremely well and sold between 100 and 130 million albums worldwide. Collins has since settled down from his solo career fame, although there has been talk of him getting back into the studio and recording again.
Everybody remembers the band FUN. as the band that made the song “We Are Young” go crazy popular in 2011-2012. Any time you got in the car, it was on the radio, and everybody seemed to know the tune. Sadly, FUN. has broken up since their success with “We Are Young” and “Some Nights,” but from the breakup, guitarist Jack Antonoff has embarked on his own solo journey called Bleachers. Outside of FUN., Antonoff was also in a band called Steel Train in 2002. Bleachers’ current project features artists like Charlie XCX, Carly Rae Jepsen, and Sara Bareilles. Antonoff also co-produced the endlessly famous Taylor Swift‘s 1989 album.
5. Lionel Richie
Lionel Richie is quite popular with the older generations, but the millennials can appreciate him as well. Previous to Richie being a solo artist, he was in the popular band The Commodores and was a founding member. The Commodores were among the biggest bands in the late seventies and are known for their songs “Easy,” “Brick House” and “Three Times A Lady.” In the band, Richie played the saxophone, wrote some songs, and lent his vocal talent. 1980 is when Richie left the band to pursue a solo act, and he released his debut album in 1982.
When we hear the name Fergie we think of “Fergalicious” and the Black Eyed Peas. The Black Eyed Peas were extremely famous during their prime, but that’s not the only band Fergie comes from. Before she was with The Black Eyed Peas, she was in a female trio called Wild Orchid. Wild Orchid was signed to RCA Records, and the first album they released did well enough to render a second. The second album only sold 200,000 albums worldwide, causing the label to halt the production of the third album. Fergie left the band after this and moved onto The Black Eyed Peas. After success with them, Fergie become a solo act with songs like “London Bridge” and “Big Girls Don’t Cry.”
3. Lauryn Hill
Lauryn Hill is famous for her songs “Killing Me Softly,” “Doo Wop” and so many more, but she started off in a band called the Fugees. The Fugees became popular for bringing a unique sound to the market, blending reggae, rock, and soul styles into one. Fans became interested in Hill’s rapping and unique voice, wanting her to be more present in the band. In 1997, The Fugees broke up to start solo projects which is what led Hill to her individual fame. Hill is still making music to this day, and was even supposed to perform with The Weeknd at the 2016 Grammy’s, but due to scheduling issues, wasn’t able to do so.
2. Missy Elliott
Missy Elliott has been a name that people have known for many years. The world just about lost it when she performed during the 2015 Super Bowl with Katy Perry, proving that the love for her is still very much alive. Before she was her own rapper though, she was in a group called Fayze. Timothy Mosley (Timbaland) just happened to be the group’s producer, which was already a good start. The group eventually got signed to the Swing Mob label, and their named changed from Fayze to Sista. Unfortunately, the album didn’t do as well as projected and Swing Mob went under in 1995, causing the members to go their separate ways.
Just like Beyonce, it’s hard to imagine an artist as talented and strong as Rihanna ever being in a group. A beautiful, powerful singer like herself would do nothing but outshine any other members (again, just like Beyonce). When Rihanna was 15, she auditioned with producer Evan Rogers with two of her classmates to become a trio group. Rogers told Entertainment Weekly that “when Rihanna walked in the room, it was like the other girls didn’t exist.” So, Rihanna went her separate ways and moved to Connecticut with Rogers and his wife to record a demo. Shortly after, Jay-Z heard her demo and skyrocketed her into the industry she’s in now.