10 Bassists Who Departed Before Their Bands Became Famous

10 Bassists Who Departed Before Their Bands Became Famous

The 10 Bassists Who Departed Before Their Bands Became Famous were musicians who either failed their bandmates as a teamer or decided they didn’t want to stick around. It’s already difficult for aspiring bands who want to make it big in the music business to get noticed as it is. It requires lots of hard work and patience just to become respectable enough at a local level. The quest to achieve stardom as a band means every person involved has to be a team player. This means the chemistry has to be there, as well as the talent, in order for a musical group to amount to anything of value. When there are so many different personalities involved, this isn’t always so easy to do. There’s also the pressure from members of the music industry who pull all the puppet strings that can dictate the course of a band’s destiny.

10 Bassists Who Departed Before Their Bands Became Famous

#10 – Jason Everman – Soundgarden

After serving as Nirvana’s guitarist, Jason Everman became a bass player for Soundgarden. While growing up as a kid, he lived under the roof of an emotionally unstable mother. This had an impact on the young man before his grandmother intervened and took him to see a therapist. This is when he began to play the guitar as he spotted the musical instrument in his therapist’s office. This became an important influence during Everman’s therapy sessions as it served as a key source of healing. While in high school, he teamed up with many different bands and at one point reconnected with his biological father, whom his mother separated from shortly after he was born.

When Everman was twenty years old, he joined Nirvana as the band’s second guitarist. The June 1989 release of Nirvana’s debut album, Bleach, had Jason Everman credited as the second guitarist but he didn’t record any of the songs on its tracklist. All he did was pay part of the fee Nirvana was charged to have the album recorded. As far as Kurt Cobain was concerned, that was good enough and it was his decision to put Everman’s name in the credits as a token of his gratitude.

The 2009 remastered edition has Everman’s role as second guitarist removed from the credits but was still given thanks in the album’s booklet. His image is also still seen on the front cover. Everman’s run with Nirvana was short-lived. He was dismissed after touring with the band in 1989 to support Bleach. The cause for the dismissal was the band feeling he was too moody for their liking.

After he was let go from Nirvana, Everman temporarily signed up with Soundgarden during the fall season of 1989. He replaced Hiro Yamamoto as the band’s bass player. His contribution to the band’s EP, Loudest Love, can be heard with its version of a Beatles’ classic, “Come Together.” He also appeared in Soundgarden’s home video, Louder Than Live.

After the band completed its promotional tour for Louder Than Love in 1990, Everman moved on to play bass for another band, OLD. OLD is an acronym for Old Lady Drivers. From 1992 until 1994, Everman was also a guitarist for another rock band, Mind Funk. It would be in 1994 that Everman was inspired to join the United States Army and served as a soldier in Afghanistan and Iraq. Once his tours were completed, he left the military and briefly lived in New York City before traveling to Tibet and its Buddhist monastery. Everman returned to military life after he was given the opportunity to join its Special Forces.

In 2006, Everman was honorably discharged. In 2013, he earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in philosophy from Columbia University School of General Studies. Even though Jason Everman joined the ranks of the rich and famous like members of Nirvana and Soundgarden did, his life came with its own set of blessings that was just as fulfilling. He also never gave up his love for playing the guitar. This was evident in 2017 when he started up a band called Silence & Light with fellow war veterans. In 2019, it recorded and released an album where the profits went to members of the Special Operations Community, the Military, and First Responders.

#9 – Nick Thomas – Twenty One Pilots

Along with Tyler Joseph, Nick Thomas was a founding member of Twenty One Pilots. The two met while playing youth basketball in Columbus, Ohio. Thomas later transferred to the same school as Joseph and the two maintained a solid friendship that lasted clean through high school. They also became bandmates as Joseph was a keyboardist and Thomas played bass. When Joseph went to Ohio State University, he met a drummer named Chris Salih at a party.

Before long, Thomas joined these two in 2009 as they moved into a house that had a basement that served as the band’s recording studio. At the time, the trio hadn’t come up with an official name yet. That didn’t happen until they started to play at various venues in and around Columbus. The musical styles varied between electronic, hard rock, and metal. These men experimented with different musical styles, costumes, and on-stage stunts in an effort to win the interest of the audience, promoters, and talent scouts.

This led to the December 29, 2009 release of the group’s debut album, Twenty One Pilots. It would be at this time the trio participated in several “Battle of the Band” contests in the area with the hope their brand of rock music would stand out and get them noticed. In 2010, two of the band’s tracks were listed on its SoundCloud account. One was a cover of Christina Perri’s “Jar of Hearts” and the other was a cover of Andrea Bocelli’s “Time to Say Goodbye.” After this, the lineup for Twenty One Pilots changed. Salih left in May 2011 to focus on career and family.

Nick Thomas left for North Carolina a month later to finish his schooling but he was quick to come back and move into the house that was now occupied by Joseph and Salih’s drumming replacement, Josh Dun. However, instead of returning to play bass, Thomas took on the role of merchandise management on behalf of Twenty One Pilots. This was a role he kept all the way up to the production and tour of 2015’s Blurryface. Thomas continues to contribute to Twenty One Pilots but behind the scenes, as he seems perfectly content to stay out of the spotlight.

#8 – Frank Farrell – Supertramp

Frank Farrell was born and raised in Birmingham, England, and enjoyed a career as a musician for three decades. At one point, he was a bass player for Supertramp and it was he who co-wrote “Rosie Had Everything Planned” with Roger Hodgson. Another song to Farrell’s credit is the 1975 global fan favorite, “Moonlighting.” Before Supertramp, Farrell performed for a beat band known as The Silverlinks. Between 1964 and 1968, he performed bass and backing vocals for a band that toured extensively in the UK’s West Midlands.

It would be in 1968, as Breakthru, that Farrell would have his first taste at fame as this psychedelic rock band became popular fan favorites in the Birmingham area. Breakthru was on the same bill as The Jimi Hendrix Experience that year and would earn a contract with Mercury Records to record and release “Ice Cream Tree.” It failed to win an audience but the group was still successful enough to have a loyal fan following in the UK and throughout Europe. However, Breakthru broke up after Farrell and fellow bandmate, Gary Aflalo, moved to London. Aflalo went on to join the original London cast of Hair while Farrell became a road manager for Johnny Johnson and the Bandwagon as they embarked on a concert tour in the UK.

After Johnny Johnson and the Bandwagon finished its tour in early 1970, Farrell began to play bass again. In 1971, he was rehearsing with an unknown rock group that called itself Supertramp. With songwriting experience under his belt, Farrell contributed to the band’s debut album, Indelibly Stamped. The album not only featured Farrell’s bass playing and songwriting talent but the accordion and piano he used during the recording sessions as well. Unfortunately, the 1971 release of Indelibly Stamped did not earn Supertramp the commercial success it hoped for.

Farrell remained with Supertramp as it went on tour to support its album but left in February 1972 to join the UK-based progressive rock group, Fields. He was part of the lineup when it recorded Contrasts: Urban Roar to Country Peace. However, it was quickly shelved, and that put an end to Fields as a band. It wouldn’t be until 2015 that it would finally be released. For Farrell, this was a posthumous release as he passed away on July 19, 1997, at fifty years old. Ten years later, Supertramp’s Roger Hodgson paid tribute to Farrell with “Rosie Had Everything Planned” before a sold-out crowd at Birmingham Symphony Hall.

Although Farrell wasn’t part of the Supertramp lineup that became a global superstar, he still enjoyed his own taste of fame in the entertainment industry. In 1973, he was the musical director of the first Rocky Horror Show and played piano before moving on to join Renaissance. He stayed with that group off and on until 1974, sharing the role of bass player with John Wetton. While with Renaissance, Farrell was spotted and recruited by Leo Sayer. While on the UK segment of Sayer’s concert tour, keyboardist Dave Greenslade abruptly left the lineup and Farrell took his place.

Once Leo Sayer began to tour in the United States, Farrell went back to his role as bass player. Between 1974 and 1975, Farrell and Sayer wrote a number of songs together that would have ten of them on the tracklist belonging to 1975’s Another Year. “Moonlighting” would be its big hit that would peak as high as number two on the UK Singles Chart. It also became certified silver by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) after selling over two hundred and fifty thousand copies. All the way up to his death in 1997, Farrell stayed close to the music industry as a songwriter, session musician, and touring musician.

#7 – Pete Garner – The Stone Roses

When Ian Brown and John Squire attended Manchester’s Altrincham Grammar School for Boys, the two formed Patrol in 1980, a short-lived band whose musical style was influenced by the Clash. The lineup included Andy Couzens and Simon Wolstencroft. These four young men performed a series of gigs and had a demo tape recorded before deciding to shift its musical direction. When Patrol had Brown perform as lead vocalist for “Block Buster!,” he realized he preferred this role as opposed to serving as bassist. In comes the band friend and roadie, Pete Garner. He stood in while Couzens traded his lead vocalist role to guitarist. In 1981, Patrol lost its momentum and the bandmates went their separate ways, except for Couzens and Squire.

The two decided to start a new band, Fireside Chaps. It was quickly renamed Waterfront after the band was inspired by the 1954 movie, On the Waterfront. The musical influence of this band came from a variety of 1960s groups but the lineup experienced some changes that would have Ian Brown invited to join as lead singer in 1983. However, just like Patrol, Waterfront was a band that didn’t have enough spark to go anywhere. However, a determined Couzens refused to give up and in 1983, started up another band with Brown, Squire, as well as Pete Garner and Steven Wolstencroft, in the lineup. It would be during a rehearsal The Stone Roses would be suggested as a band name.

In the meantime, Wolstencroft left as the band’s drummer in favor of Terry Hall’s Coulourfield. This opening was eventually filled with the 1984 recruitment of Alan “Reni” Wren. This was the same year The Stone Roses supported Pete Townshend’s anti-heroin concert at the Moonlight Club in London. This led to more gigs and management offers that would start the road for The Stone Roses to achieve stardom as a rock band. Starting in 1985, the group was managed by Howard “Ginger” Jones.

It had its first studio recording session that would lead to the debut single, “So Young.” It didn’t take long before The Stone Roses grew a loyal fan following in and around Manchester. It was only a matter of time before this group would make its big breakthrough. However, there were times when it felt like The Stone Roses wasn’t getting enough local attention so Brown and Wren decided to go on a graffiti campaign between Manchester’s city center and West Didsbury. Despite the bad publicity the band received, this tactic won a fan base.

Going into 1986, “Sally Cinnamon” was a song The Stone Roses worked on, as well as the planned follow-up, “So Young.” These were shelved for the time being as Jones was replaced by Gareth Evans as the band’s new manager. It was also during this time Brown and Squire collaborated more often as songwriters. The two also felt they deserved to earn more money than the rest of their bandmates. At first, Couzens and Wren were offended enough to leave the band, only to return shortly afterward. However, Couzens would soon be ousted as The Stone Roses wanted to move forward as a rock group that was on the same page at all times.

Going into 1987, the group signed a deal with Black/FM Revolver that had “Sally Cinnamon” released as a single. Although all one thousand of its copies were sold, it still wasn’t enough for The Stone Roses to realize its big breakthrough. By June, Pete Garner decided he had enough but stayed on until his bandmates could find a new bass player to take his place. He was briefly replaced by Rob Hampson before Gary Mounfield came in. For The Stone Roses, Mounfield became that perfect fit as a team player who would help this band finally achieve stardom. 1989 became the group’s big year between “She Bangs the Drums” and “Fools Gold/What the World is Waiting For.”

#6 – Dale Hibbert – The Smiths

When The Smiths formed as a band in 1982, the original lineup was Johnny Marr, Steven Morrissey, and Steve Pomfret. As a band name, Morrissey chose the Smiths as he felt it was about time the “ordinary” showed their faces. It was also at this time Morrissy preferred to be called by his last name only. Marr referred to him as either “Moz” or “Mozzer.” As for Pomfret, he didn’t stay in the lineup for long and was replaced by Dale Hibbert.

He worked at Manchester’s Decibel Studios where he met Marr and Andy Rourke while recording a demo for the band they had at the time, Freak Party. Hibbert played bass as the Smiths recorded its first demo at Decibel in August 1982. In October, the Smiths gave its first public performance at Manchester’s Ritz Hotel. When the group first performed on stage, it performed a handful of original songs and “I Want a Boy for My Birthday.” It was apparently an evening that could have gone better as the story had it Hibbert didn’t care for the band’s aesthetics while Marr and Morrissey were not happy with him as a bass player. Hibbert was replaced by Rourke. For Hibbert, the dismissal from the Smiths was baffling. He also disagreed with the statement that he felt the band’s aesthetics was perceived as “gay.”

For Hibbert, he discovered his true calling wasn’t to be a rocker. It was to become a barista and chef. This road began when he worked in the hospitality industry that had him in Australia and Czechoslovakia. At one point, he designed, launched, and ran Fuel Cafe Bar in Manchester for six years. While at Fuel, he opened a live music venue before moving to Sydney and then later to Prague. It would be in the Czechoslovakian city he met Sveta.

The two shared a love for music as musicians as he still played bass and she was a pianist and violinist. The two also shared a passion for coffee culture. This led to Domu, a plant-based coffee shop in Bangor, Wales. Together, the couple turned the former O’Shea’s Irish Bar into a popular hangout for discerning coffee drinkers and vegetarians. “Domu” and its derivatives found in most of the languages of Eastern Europe means “home” in English.

#5 – Simon Colley – Duran Duran

Originally, Duran Duran was referred to as Mr. Durand Durand. It was founded in 1978 by Nick Rhodes and John Taylor, along with Stephen Duffy. The band got its name from Milo O’Shea’s character from the 1968 science fiction movie, Barbarella. Shortly after the trio played its first gig at Birmingham Polytech, Simon Colley signed up to play bass and clarinet. Together, these four men performed a few concerts before Colley and Duffy decided to opt out before the year was over. Colley moved on to join Duffy’s newly formed punk band, the Subterranean Hawks, in 1979.

Their punk-style rock group released “Big Store” while signed to Five Believers Records. This was on the label’s compilation album, What a Nice Way to Turn Seventeen. However, this was a short-lived group that would disband in 1981. Colley did stay in the music business, though. From 1984 until 1990 he had a recording contract, signed as Sommerville, with Virgin 10 Records. From 1993 until 2002, it was with Sunshine Club. This group recorded and released two albums, Visit To a Small Planet in 1995 and Home in 1999.

The compilation album, Un-Scene: Post Punk Birmingham 1978-1982, “Birmingham U.K.” featured a rough live recording of DADA, another name associated with Duran Duran while Colley and Duffy were still in the lineup. “Big Store” is also heard here by the Subterranean Hawks. This was a 2022 release that featured what the music scene was like in Birmingham by a collection of musicians who either achieved stardom like Duran Duran did or remained relatively obscure as a local favorite.

#4 – Ron McGovney – Metallica

Metallica’s first year as a rock band featured Ron McGovney in the lineup as its bass player. Before this, he founded Leather Charm in 1981 with his childhood friend, James Hetfield, along with a guitarist named Hugh Tanner. Tanner left shortly after this band was formed and was replaced by Troy James. Also added to the group was a drummer named Jim Mulligan. Together, the men released a set of covers featuring Britsh heavy metal and new wave music before Mulligan decided it was his turn to move on. After Mulligan was gone, Leather Charm disbanded. Before 1981 was over, Hetfield teamed up with a drummer named Lars Ulrich, and the two formed Metallica.

McGovney was brought on board as bass guitarist, as well as Dave Mustaine as lead guitarist. These two joined the lineup going into 1982 and it was in McGovney’s garage, as well as a rental property once owned by his parents, where these men rehearsed and recorded a collection of demo tracks. “Hit the Lights” was a song that featured McGovney’s performance as a bass player that would be featured on a repressed version of Metal Massacre Vol. 1. Metal Blade was the label that featured a collection of upcoming recording artists who were part of the underground metal music scene. Metal Massacre Vol. 1 underwent three pressings between 1981 and 1982.

The first year of Metallica as a band wasn’t an easy one. McGovney’s relations with Mustaine and Ulrich often met with conflict and it made the bass player feel as if he was an undervalued member of the band’s roster. On December 10, 1982, he decided he had enough and was replaced by Cliff Burton. Once McGovney left Metallica, his interest to continue playing music was gone.

He sold most of his equipment and it wouldn’t be until 1986 that he would be persuaded by Hirax’s Katon W. De Pena to join him as he founded the thrash metal band, Phantasm. With a full band roster, a demo was recorded but never a properly recorded studio album. 1988 marked the end of Phantasm as the crew at the time lacked the chemistry needed to stay together as a group. In 2001, a remastered version of Phantasm’s demo was assembled by Deep Six Records and released as Wreckage.

As soon as his run with Phantasm was done, McGovney gave up music as a career for a second time. It wouldn’t be until 2011 that he would play “Hit the Lights” and “Seek & Destroy” onstage with Metallica as part of a celebration concert held by the band as it celebrated its thirtieth anniversary as a rock group. In 2013, McCovney teamed up with Mustaine’s Megadeath to share the lead vocalist role for a cover version of Thin Lizzy’s “Cold Sweat.”

#3 – Annette Zilinskas – The Bangles

Annette Zilinskas was one of the earliest members of The Bangles, along with Susanna Hoffs, and the Peterson sisters, Debbi and Vicki. Zilinskas answered an advertisement in classifieds as one of only two applicants for the role of bass player. The other was Lynn Elkind. While Elkind had the advantage of already knowing the Petersons, she didn’t share the same common interests as Hoffs. This left an opening for Zilinskas to join these three ladies to form a group that was first called The Colours in 1981.

The name was first changed to The Bangs and the ladies recorded and released an EP that was first titled The Bangs before it was reissued as The Bangles. This featured “The Real World” as a single that featured Zilinskas playing bass. The reason behind the name change of the EP and the band’s name came after it was realized another group was already called The Bangs. The ladies simply added the letters “les” after it was suggested to them by a sound engineer who felt their music shared similar qualities to The Beatles.

After the EP’s release, Zilinskas left The Bangles so she could focus on her own project, Blood on the Saddle. Michael Steele took her place. While with Blood on the Saddle, Zilinskas performed as lead vocalist. Since 1983, Blood on the Saddle has added a punk flair to country music that has the group recognized as a cowpunk band. Greg Davis was the founder who recruited Zilinskas to the lineup during the summer of 1983 as its lead singer. The bass player for Blood on the Saddle at the time was Ron Botelho.

Hermann Senac was the drummer. It would be this lineup that would release three studio albums. Those were 1984’s Blood in the Saddle, 1986’s Poison Love, 1987’s Fresh Blood. There was also a compilation album, 1984’s Hell Comes to Your House Vol. 2. Blood on the Saddle continues as a band but without Ziinskas in the lineup. In 2014, she began to perform live shows with the Bangles after the ladies reunited. In 2018, she officially became a member of its roster again.

#2 – Stuart Sutcliffe – The Beatles

Stuart Sutcliffe was born on June 23, 1940, in Edinburgh, Scotland, shortly before his family moved to Liverpool, England as his father was a civil servant who wanted to contribute to the military effort as World War II commenced. His first year as a student at Liverpool College of Art where he met John Lennon through a mutual friend of theirs, Bill Harry. Lennon and Sutcliffe became close as friends and colleagues, to the point where Paul McCartney often felt like the odd man out during a time when these men were exploring their artistic talents, both as painters and as musicians. In 1960, as Lennon, McCartney, and George Harrison performed as the Silver Beatles, Sutcliffe was asked to join them as their bass guitarist. Sutcliffe’s role expanded to become the group’s booking agent as well. At one point, the Silver Beatles became the Beetles before settling on the Beatles.

Often referred to as the “Fifth Beatle,” Sutcliffe was part of the lineup until he met a photographer named Astrid Kirchherr. Her influence gave him cause to enroll in the Hamburg College of Art where he studied as a painter under pop artist Eduardo Paolozzi. Unfortunately for Sutcliffe, the promise of engaging in a brilliant career as a painter, and perhaps even as a musician, his life was cut short on April 10, 1962. While he was studying in West Germany, Sutcliffe was experiencing intense headaches and was becoming sensitive to light. It became severe enough to require medical attention on more than one occasion but nobody could figure out while he was still alive what the problem was. it wasn’t until after he died that it was due to a brain hemorrhage in the right ventricle of his brain.

While with the Beatles, Sutcliffe began to wear sunglasses and tight trousers as he and the rest of the lineup became more popular in the UK and across Europe. One of his highlights was singing a cover version of “Love Me Tender,” which drew more applause from the audience than any other member of the Beatles at the time. This caused some friction between Sutcliffe, Lennon, and McCartney. While the Beatles were in Hamburg, Germany, in 1960, the lineup had Pete Best as its drummer at the time.

Harrison was sent back to Britain because he was under Germany’s age limit to play in any of its venues. Also in 1960, Best and McCartney were kicked out of Germany after they were accused of attempted arson at the Bambi Kino cinema. This left Lennon and Sutcliffe behind to keep performing in Hamburg. Lennon went back home but Sutcliffe stayed behind as he was too sick with a cold to travel. It was at this time Sutcliffe and Kirchherr became a couple. When he was well enough to return to Liverpool in January 1961, he went back to Hamburg in March before officially resigning as a member of the Beatles in July. Upon his departure, he lent his bass to McCartney with explicit orders not to alter the strings of the instrument.

The 1967 release of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band featured a photo of Stuart Sutcliffe on its cover. His image was on the extreme left. Released in 1995, Anthology 1 was a compilation album that featured previously unreleased recordings. There were three songs that featured Sutcliff performing bass while he was still part of the Beatles’ lineup. They were “Hallelujah, I Love Her So,” “You’ll Be Mine,” and “Cayenne.” On all three front covers of the Anthology albums to the band’s credit, an image of Sutcliffe is on it.

#1 – Jeff Jones – Rush

Before Neil Peart, Rush’s drummer was Jeff Jones. When Alex Lifeson and John Rutsey formed Rush in the summer of 1968, Jeff Jones served as their bass player until September. He was replaced by Geddy Lee as Jones as his interests weren’t exactly meshing with Lifeson and Rutsey at the time. Jones wouldn’t earn his fame with Rush but with the gospel rock group known as Ocean. This group made its 1971 debut with a version of Gene MacLellan’s classic, “Put Your Hand in the Hand.” Ocean disbanded in 1975 and Jones would later move on to join Red Rider. He was the group’s bass player who released the 1981 classic hit, “Lunatic Fringe.” Jones still performs with Tom Cochrane to this day.

In addition to Ocean and Red Rider, Jones also played bass with Stingaree, a Toronto-based band that had Bernie LaBarge and Bernie LaBarge as part of the lineup. In the Canadian province of Ontario, Stingaree had a large fan following before MacLeod was recruited by another Canadian rock band, Chilliwack. Six months after he left in 1978, Stingaree disbanded. In addition to Jones performing “Lunatic Fringe” for Red Rider in 1981, he also played bass for LaBarge when he released his hit single, “Dream Away.” Jones has also performed with Burton Cummings and his band, who are also known as the Carpet Frogs. Jones also plays bass for another group, Roar.

Another group Jeff Jones performed with on bass was the Juno Award-winning Infidels. Founded in 1990 by Molly Johnson and Norman Orenstein, the duo called themselves this as a tribute to Bob Dylan’s 1983 album, Infidels. Completing its lineup was Jeff Jones, as well as Washington Savage and Owen Tennyson. Together, the Infidels released its eponymous album in 1991. The hit singles that came from it were “100 Watt Bulb,” “Celebrate,” “Without Love” and “Shaking.” “Celebrate” was the group’s biggest hit as it peaked as high as number twelve on the Canadian Top Singles Chart in 1992.

In 1995, there was an attempt by the Infidels to record a second studio album but it was never released as there was an issue about the band’s name. IRS Records pointed out Infidels already belonged to another group as a name and demanded Johnson and Orenstein change theirs. They refused so the already financially struggling label responded by shelving what would have been the Infidels’ second studio album. This marked the end of a group that once upon a time showed so much promise. While Rush went on to become internationally famous as a legend of progressive rock, Jeff Jones earned his own claim to fame while performing with other stars who became legends themselves.

10 Bassists Who Departed Before Their Bands Became Famous article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2023

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