Often a new band member replacing an original player has, despite fans’ worst fears, actually turned out for the better (think: Ringo Starr for Pete Best). Here are 12 other examples of happy endings, from AC/DC to the Sex Pistols.
In this era of “farewell tours” and big-money reunions, there is a common misconception that a band’s “classic lineup” was its original grouping. But often this idea is off-base. For example, Ringo Starr was not the original drummer of The Beatles – credit Pete Best for that one – and Rob Halford was Judas Priest’ replacement for original vocalist Al Atkins.
Taking matters a step further, often a new band member replacing an original player – even after some notoriety had been achieved – has actually turned out for the better creatively and commercially. Then again, L.A. Guns has had around 50 different musicians play as part of the band, so sometimes it can be unclear as to how much effect a new member has on an already-successful act.
Below are 12 examples of replacement band members who were awesome, spanning various genres, scenes and decades.
Before he joined The Ramones in 1978, Marky Ramone was part of punk innovators Richard Hell & The Voidoids. His first run with The Ramones lasted through 1983, while his next run went from 1987 through the last Ramones show in August 1996. With 10 studio albums and over 1,700 Ramones shows to his credit, Marky Ramone was the most prolific drummer for The Ramones. Also, a lot of his personal video footage was used for the Ramones: Raw DVD. So even if John Lydon doesn’t disagree, Marky Ramone is responsible for keeping the legacy of The Ramones going.
The original run of The Sex Pistols went from late 1975 through early 1978, leading many to call the group a “one-album band.” Original bassist Glen Matlock, who was credited as a co-author on 10 of the 12 songs on that “one album” (Never Mind The Bollocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols) left the band while it was being recorded. He has since been part of all the Sex Pistols reunions tours. His replacement, Sid Vicious, may not have been an excellent bass player, but his image continues to grace shirts, posters and all forms of Pistols merch. Image aside, his version of “My Way” was included in Goodfellas, which is undeniable genius on top of genius.
Prior to joining The Rolling Stones, Ron Wood had played with The Jeff Beck Group, The (Small) Faces and solo Rod Stewart. Wood replaced fan favorite Mick Taylor (who was himself a replacement for the late Brian Jones) on guitar in 1975, having collaborated with both Mick Jagger and Keith Richards before he joined the Stones. Wood is still in the Stones all these years later. In that time, he has also found success as a visual artist, author and radio host.
There is an unfair myth that you have to be a fan of “Dave or Sammy” when it comes to Van Halen – “Gary” unfortunately doesn’t fit into that equation – rather than being a fan of Van Halen in general. But the fact is that Van Halen technically sold more albums with Sammy Hagar in the frontman position. Hagar has kept busy as a solo artist, entrepreneur, television host and author since leaving the Van Halen brothers, and the current incarnation of his solo band The Circle includes bassist Michael Anthony and Zeppelin-related drummer Jason Bonham.
Back to the opening paragraph of this piece, not everyone realizes that Bon Scott was not the original lead vocalist of AC/DC, as that honor belongs to Dave Evans. Brian Johnson was not well-known when asked to audition for and subsequently join AC/DC following Scott’s death in 1980. Although the current status of Johnson in AC/DC is not yet known – Axl Rose was his replacement on the most recent AC/DC tour, yet Johnson has since been spotted in the same city as his AC/DC bandmates as recording was taking place – the key is that Johnson was there for Back In Black, For Those About To Rock, Who Made Who and a lot of other classic recordings. Johnson has also been the star of a number of documentary television projects in recent years.
Before Bruce Dickinson was part of Iron Maiden, two studio albums were released with vocalist Paul Dianno at the helm. Dickinson’s success quickly overtook anything which Dianno did with Maiden, as the next album — 1982’s The Number Of The Beast — included “The Prisoner” and “Run To The Hills.” Dickinson may have gone solo in 1993, but since returning in 1999, Maiden has continued to play arenas and stadiums in every territory imaginable. Plus, if you’ve seen that documentary Flight 666, he’s also a pilot.
When the Red Hot Chili Peppers formed, Hillel Slovak was its guitarist. Slovak would leave the band in late 1983, only to be replaced by Jack Sherman, only to be replaced in early 1985 by a returning Slovak. Slovak’s tragic death in 1988 led to the joining of DeWayne McKnight on guitar, who was quickly replaced by John Frusciante. With Frusciante, the RHCP made the classics Mother’s Milk and Blood Sugar Sex Magik. He would leave the band in 1992 and ultimately return in 1998 and then depart again in 2009. Fortunately, the Chili Peppers seem to be in good hands these days with Josh Klinghoffer playing guitar.
Glenn Hughes was notably part of two classic bands with revolving door lineups: Black Sabbath and Deep Purple. While his work with Sabbath in the mid-1980s is among the lower points of its history, his time with Purple remains popular with fans; he was part of the “two-lead-singer thing” alongside a not-yet-famous David Coverdale. In recent years, Hughes has had a successful solo career — much of which associated with Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith — while also part of Black Country Communion with drummer Jason Bonham, guitarist Joe Bonamassa and keyboardist Derek Sherinian.
RONNIE JAMES DIO
Speaking of Black Sabbath replacement members, Ronnie James Dio also falls into that category. Prior to his work with Tony Iommi and crew in Sabbath, Dio was the founding vocalist in Ritchie Blackmore’s post-Deep Purple band known as Rainbow. Dio went on to have a solo career for 25-or-so years of his life, and also found success with his former Sabbath bandmates under the moniker Heaven & Hell. For me personally, Ronnie James Dio will forever remain awesome because of that Hear ‘N Aid single “Stars.”
Kirk Hammett is generally thought of as “the” guitarist in Metallica, thanks to his unique soloing technique. But prior to replacing Dave Mustaine in 1983, Hammett had been part of Exodus. The roots of “Enter Sandman,” which remains Metallica’s most famous song, lie in a guitar riff written by Hammett. Music aside, Hammett also has a lot of fans from his curating of Kirk Von Hammett’s Fear FestEvil, an annual horror convention.
Before John Bush joined Anthrax in 1992, he was the singer of Armored Saint. In the midst of his first run with Armored Saint, Bush notably turned down an offer from Metallica to join as their lead singer. With Anthrax, Bush was onboard for a few classic albums — including “Sound Of White Noise,” “Stomp 442” and “We’ve Come For You All” — before leaving the band in 2005. He returned for a few one-offs in 2009 after the sudden departure of singer Dan Nelson, but has since fully been back with Armored Saint. Oh, and he has done commercial voiceovers for Burger King, which I happen to think is cool.
When Alice In Chains singer Layne Staley died in 2002, most people assumed that the band was over. But when you think about it, many of the Alice In Chains staples were sung by (and also written by) guitarist Jerry Cantrell. In turn, the group did not need a full-time lead vocalist or songwriter to move ahead. Fortunately AIC hired William DuVall, who can sound like Staley when he wants to while still having a voice and stage presence of his own. DuVall has recorded three albums with Cantrell and crew since 2009 and ticket sales are arguably as strong as ever for the Seattle-rooted act.