Any musical group be it rock, pop or rap is a delicate organism. Change the line-up, even slightly and you could permanently alter the chemistry and not necessarily for the better. Sometimes it works spectacularly. In many ways, Peter Gabriel leaving Genesis was the best thing that ever happened to that band. With Phil Collins taking over lead vocals, Genesis had an amazing run of success with over sixteen million albums sold in the U.S. alone.
The same thing could be said about Van Halen. When David Lee Roth left the band, many people thought Van Halen was doomed. While he did have a successful record with “Eat ‘Em and Smile,” which went double platinum, after that Diamond Dave’s solo career pretty much petered out while the Sammy Hagar fronted Van Halen went on to sell millions of albums and consistently sell out arenas and stadiums.
To a lesser extent, it’s also true with Journey. When Steve Perry left for medical reasons, the band found their new lead singer, Arnel Pineda in Manilla. This guy sounded more like Steve Perry then Steve Perry and while Journey never rose to the same heights in terms of selling records, that band has had many successful, sold-out tours. Another case in point is the Beach Boys who have had more former members then Menudo but the fans don’t seem to care.
And then there are the ones that don’t work. The ones where you know there’s no chance for this band to be successful without the missing member like the Doors who tried to continue without Jim Morrison. Bad idea because it turns out that while Ray Manzarek was as pretentious as Morrison, he also had one percent of the charisma. The following ten were also astounding failures in their own unique way. Please enjoy the ten least successful personnel in music history.
10. Gary Cherone – Van Halen (1996)
Proving that you can go to the well one too many times, Gary Cherone seemed like a poor choice to succeed the departing Sammy Hagar for a couple reasons. Cherone has a good voice as his work from “Extreme” denotes but it’s not a hard rock voice like Hagar and Roth‘s. Also, Cherone never really felt comfortable being the front man for Van Halen which is understandable because he was younger then everyone else and the band had so much history without him. The one album that Cherone sang on, Van Halen III, sold poorly.
The worst part is that when a lead singer is ousted from Van Halen, there’s a lot of bad blood with lots of finger pointing about who’s a dishonest snake and who’s a crappy musician, etc. Turns out that Cherone was forced out by the record company and he and the rest of the band were never on bad terms. What a gyp.
9. Tiffany “O’so Krispie” Baker – TLC (2005)
TLC was a three person group that mixed r & b, rap, hip hop, soul and funk. Now, I was never great in math but if you change one in three, that’s something like a 33% change. In fairness, it’s not like they had a choice. Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, the rapper in the group whose trademark were glasses with a condom over the left eye (It was the 90’s, what can I tell you…) died in Honduras on April 25th, 2002.
At first, the other two members, Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins and Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas vowed to retire after completing their album, 3D. But bills have to be paid and who wants to be out of the spotlight? Not the remaining members of TLC who decided to find Lisa’s replacement via a reality show. R U The Girl? Tiffany “O’so Krispie” Baker “won” and was allowed to sing on the single “U Bet” which failed to chart in the U.S. and that was the end of Baker’s involvement with TLC.
TLC continued to put out seemingly endless greatest hits packages while Baker went to college but returned to the music industry in 2008 learning the lesson that only one person was fit to wear the glasses with the condom on the left eye.
8. Ray Wilson – Genesis (1996)
1996 was not a good year for the group, Genesis. Not only had lead singer Phil Collins left, but also support musicians, but guitarist Daryl Stuermer and drummer, Chester Thompson as well. There were two finalists for the lead vocal slot: David Longdon and Ray Wilson. Wilson won and lived to regret it.
In the beginning, he was treated well. Wilson’s input on song writing was encouraged instead of barely tolerated which would be the case for many bands in this situation. Wilson received three co-writing credits on the resulting album, 1997’s “Calling All Stations.” The album was a major stink bomb, failing to reach the top fifty in America which meant there would be no tour. From there, the band went on “extended hiatus.” Ray kept trying to contact his band mates to find out what was next. He never heard back, saying “it was like death by silence.”
7. Rome Ramirez – Sublime (2009)
You’re a band that’s been breaking its ass to get discovered. You play anywhere that’ll have you… be it bars, street festivals, weddings, and finally it all pays off. You get signed to a record deal by a major label…and then your lead singer overdoses on heroin. Making it worse is that you score posthumous hits like “Santeria,” “Wrong Way” and “Doin’ Time.” It’s like the god of rock are mocking you and that ain’t right either.
The two surviving members decide to carry on and recruit Rome Ramirez to handle the vocals only you’re not allowed to call it “Sublime” because the former singer’s, Bradley Nowell, family has the rights to it. What are they going to do with it? Finally, a settlement is announced and the new group will call itself “Sublime With Rome.” Yeah, pretty weak. Anyway, the new band released their album, “Yours Truly” in 2011 and then founding drummer, Bud Gaugh…quits. And yet, “Sublime With Rome” still tours.
6. Vinnie Vincent – Kiss (1982)
The sole non lead singer on this list, Vincent was brought in to replace departing lead guitarist, Ace Frehley. At first, Vincent seemed like the answer to all their prayers. He had a good voice and co-wrote eight of the ten songs on the then new Kiss album, “Lick It Up.” Then they went on tour and when it was over, Vincent was out. Apparently, the guy is a huge pain in the ass and leads the league in being thrown out of bands, including one he started called the “Vinnie Vincent Invasion” which went on to moderate success as “Slaughter.”
Today, Kiss continues to sell out and Vincent is a recluse in Tennessee and the target of several law suits. His hobbies appear to be getting in trouble with the police and suing Kiss which he has done several times, losing every time.
5. Johnny Edwards – Foreigner (1990)
Yes, Foreigner is one of the most bland examples that corporate rock churned out in the 70’s but, from a commercial perspective, they were very successful. They sold over twenty seven million albums and had hits like “Juke Box Hero,” “I Want to Know What Love Is” and “Urgent.” They were also blessed / cursed with insufferably arrogant guitarist and founding member, Mick Jones.
Jones is a very good guitarist, songwriter and producer but he can’t sing and kind of resents those that can. Lou Gramm, a man who could sing very well, came to resent Jones’s constant micro-managing. Gramm wanted to do more hard rocking songs and Jones favored synthesizer ballads so Gramm left the band and was replaced by Johnny Edwards on the album “Unusual Heat” which reached number 117 on the U.S. Charts. Somewhere, Lou Gramm was probably laughing his ass off.
Lou Gramm rejoined Foreigner and Johnny Edwards was out. Today, Johnny Edwards is out of the music business and living with his family in Louisville, Kentucky and working as an activist for peace and racial equality.
4. Emma Watkins, Lachlan Gillespie and Simon Pryce – The Wiggles (2013)
The Wiggles are to children what The Beatles were to people in the sixties. They’ve sold over twelve million albums which is really impressive when you consider that most of their fans disposable incomes were their allowances. They even had their own movie in 1997 with “The Wiggles Movie.” But the road can be a cruel mistress. Even crueler then a mean older brother. And in 2012, Greg Page, Murray Cook and Jeff Fatt announced they were leaving the group.
Emma, Lachlan and Simon were named as replacement touring Wiggles during the 2012 world tour and wore “In Training” t-shirts. In 2013, the new line-up toured and while the crowds were robust, they weren’t the automatic sell outs from years past. Perhaps replacing three members at once was too jarring for the audience. Maybe they can turn it around but it’s going to be an uphill battle.
3. John Corabi – Motley Crue (1994)
Motley Crue was one of metal’s most debaucherous and successful bands starting in the 80’s. They had already checked off many of the prerequisites for this like having members overdose, tons of infighting and killing a guy. Practically the only thing left was kicking out their lead singer which they accomplished in 1992. There is still some controversy about this as Vince Neil says he was thrown out while the rest of the Crue says he quit. Let’s let the good people at the unemployment office sort through that one.
In any case, the band needed a new signer and John Corabi got the gig. In the beginning, everyone (except for Neil) was thrilled and all pledged a wonderful new era in Motley Crue music…until the album “Motley Crue” tanked in 1994. At that point the record company refused to give the band anymore money until Vince came back. Being the true rock and roll rebels that they are, the Crue quickly acceded to this demand and welcomed Vince Neil back into the fold. Corabi went on to join a bunch of nondescript metal bands like Union, Twenty 4 Seven and Brides of Destruction.
2. J.D. Fortune – INXS (2005)
INXS, a band that is not Australia’s proudest export, nevertheless managed to score a bunch of hits in the beginning MTV era with some catchy hooks and the smoldering intensity of Michael Hutchence. Hutchence decided that if he was going to do the full Morrison he had to become addicted to alcohol and drugs which he did very well. He sadly passed away at the height of their fame.
The remaining boys in the band soldiered on with replacement singers like Jimmy Barnes and Terrence Trent D’Arby and then decided to chose their new permanent lead singer on a reality show. J.D. Fortune won the gig and appeared on the album, “Switch” and participated in several international tours. In March of 2009, Fortune believed he was out of the band. Why? Because his calls to other band members and management went unanswered for ten months. Classy. But Fortune continued to tour with INXS for the next few years.
In 2011, Fortune again assumed he was out of the band but this time with a better reason, the band’s website announced it and apparently it was mutual. Still, a call would’ve been nice. Today, INXS tours once in awhile but mostly in Australia. Fortune continues to tour with his band, “Fortune.”
1. Scherrie Payne and Lynda Laurence – Diana Ross and the Supremes (2000)
In 2000, Diana Ross thought it would be a good idea to tour with her old Motown group, the Supremes, who she last performed with in 1970. That’s when it got confusing. You see, after Ross, the most famous Supremes were Mary Wilson and Cindy Birdsong and despite some, what they considered shoddy treatment of them by Diana Ross in the past, they were willing to put that aside and join the tour.
Wilson thought all three ladies should be paid equally which was pretty unrealistic because Diana Ross is an international superstar. Wilson and Birdsong were initially low balled but at one point they were offered four million and one million respectfully. Wilson and Birdsong turned it down so Ross toured with Scherrie Payne and Lynda Laurence instead who were former Supremes but who never performed with Miss Ross.
The public didn’t buy it. After twelve dates with dismal attendance, the plug was mercifully pulled. The low point was on June 20th in Columbus, Ohio where 3,000 people showed up in an arena that held 22,000. Don’t feel too bad for Miss Ross, she still pocketed twenty million and Mary Wilson performed at the Sunset Junction Street Festival in 2009. Sometimes you should just shut up and take the four million.
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