Musicians Who Quit Just Before Their Band Made It Big

The old saying “timing is everything” is especially true for musicians, for whom keeping the beat is crucial. However, some musicians have terrible timing, especially those who quit or were kicked out just before their band made it big.

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These almost famous few must be bummed that they missed out on the fame and fortune that their former bandmates gained, though some of them went on to have successful careers of their own. We’ve compiled a list of forty musical groups who had a change in lineup that led to a change in luck.

The Beatles: Pete Best

Perhaps the most well-known example of a musician who left a band too soon is Pete Best, the original drummer for the Beatles. Best joined Lennon, McCartney, and Harrison in 1960 and toured with them throughout Germany and the U.K. However, when the Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein negotiated a record deal with E.M.I., George Martin was unimpressed with Pete.

The Beatles perform at a club.

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Martin thought Best’s timing was inadequate, that he wasn’t suitable for studio work and should be replaced by a session drummer. The rest of the band didn’t protest and had Epstein fire Best, whom Ringo Starr replaced in 1962.

Fleetwood Mac: Bob Welch

Fleetwood Mac is perhaps the group with the highest number of early lineup changes out there. All three of the band’s original members quit within the first few years after the band formed. So, Bob Welch, Bob Weston, and vocalist David Walker replaced them by 1971.

A band portrait of Fleetwood Mac.

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But, like their predecessors, the new members didn’t last long in Fleetwood Mac and departed dramatically, one and all, by 1974. The remaining band-members−Mick Fleetwood and John and Christine McVie−recruited with Lindsey Buckingham as their new guitarist, who brought along his bandmate Stevie Nicks. In 1977, they topped the U.S. charts with the album Rumours.

The Beach Boys: David Marks

David Marks is often considered one of the founding members of the Beach Boys, although he didn’t play on their first single Surfin’. David was the rhythm guitarist for the group’s first four studio albums Surfin’ Safari, Surfin’ U.S.A., Surfer Girl, and Little Deuce Coupe.

A portrait of David Marks.

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Unfortunately, in 1963 Marks quarreled with Murry Wilson, the band’s original manager, and Brian, Carl, and Dennis’ father. After the fight, Marks left the Beach Boys and formed his own band, the Marksmen. Following his departure, the band released the album Pet Sounds. Marks reunited with the Beach Boys in 1997 and 2012.

Beastie Boys: John Berry & Kate Schellenbach

Known for their work as a hip-hop group, the Beastie Boys actually started out as an experimental hardcore punk band. Original members guitarist John Berry and drummer Kate Schellenbach formed the band with Michael Diamond and Adam Yauch.

An original portrait from the band.

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The Beastie Boys’ first show took place in Berry’s apartment, and he and Schellenbach both played on the group’s first EP, Polly Wag Stew, from 1982. However, Berry left later that year and was replaced by Adam Horovitz. In 1984 the Beastie Boys went full hip-hop, prompting Kate Schellenbach to be fired. By 1986, their debut album topped the Billboard charts.

The Rolling Stones: Tony Chapman

Anthony ‘Tony’ Chapman played drums in the Rolling Stones early lineup after quitting the Cliftons. Chapman was also supposedly the drummer during the Stones’ first official performance in 1962. However, he left soon after, feeling that the Rolling Stones’ approach to Blues was not for him.

Tony Chapman is playing drums.

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Perhaps Tony’s most significant contribution to the band was bringing in his friend Bill Wyman. Wyman stuck with them, while Chapman was replaced by Charlie Watts. Chapman went on to form his band, The Preachers, which had less of a rock and roll vibe.

The Clash: Keith Levene

In 1976, Keith Levene, Paul Simonon, and Mick Jones founded the punk band the Clash. Soon Levene and Jones asked Joe Strummer to join and recruited Terry Chimes as their drummer. But after playing together for just two months, Levene was fired from the band.

The Clash performs on stage.

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Keith Levene had been unhappy with the band and had already made backup plans with John Lydon of the Sex Pistols to form a band together. They united to create the band PiL in 1978, a year after the Clash became famous worldwide.

U2: Dik Evans

Dik Evans and his younger brother David “The Edge” Evans were among the founding members of the group The Hype, who later became U2. The band started with three guitarists, but it felt like too many. Dik was older than the rest of the group and felt like the odd one out.

The Edge and his brother Dick Evans pose backstage.

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In March 1978, the same month that they changed their name to U2, Dik exited the group. The older Evans co-founded The Virgin Prunes, while his little bro The Edgereached the Hall of Fame with U2.

The Who: Doug Sandom

In 1962, Doug Sandom, a thirty-year-old bricklayer, joined the Detours, which later became The Who, as the band’s drummer. Doug was over a decade older than the rest of the group, and his wife got annoyed that he would stay out late at night.

A photo of Doug Sandom with The Who.

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In 1964, they changed their name to The Who and auditioned for Fontana Records. The label didn’t like Sandom’s drumming, so their manager and Pete Townshend decided he had to go. A month after they kicked out Sandom, Keith Moon was asked to join The Who.

The Velvet Underground: Angus MacLise

In 1964 John Cale brought his friend Angus MacLise into The Velvet Underground along with Lou Reed and Sterling Morrison. MacLise played with the band for over a year but didn’t record anything with them because, according to Cale, he never showed up on time.

A portrait of Angus MacLise.

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In November 1965, Angus quit the band after they were scheduled to play a paid gig, saying they were selling out. He was replaced by Maureen Tucker. A year later, when they became famous, Angus tried to rejoin the band, but Lou Reed said no.

Green Day: John Kiffmeyer

In 1987, John Kiffmeyer, or “Al Sobrante,” joined Billie Joe Armstrong and Mike Dirnt as drummer for their band Green Day. He played with them for three years but only recorded one album with the band, called 39/Smooth, in 1990.

John Kiffmeyer, Billie Joe Armstrong, and Mike Dirnt perform on stage.

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That same year he took a break to focus on his college degree and was replaced permanently by his stand-in, Tré Cool. After Kiffmeyer stopped playing with Green Day, he stayed on good terms with them and worked as executive producer on their second album Kerplunk.

Black Eyed Peas: Kim Hill

In 1995, Kim Hill joined the alternative hip-hop group the Black Eyed Peas after meeting them backstage at a show. Hill sang on the group’s first record, Behind the Front, in 1998. But while they were producing their second album, Bridging the Gap, in 2000, she left the Black Eyed Peas to focus on her solo career.

Kim Hill attends an event, / Fergie attends an event.

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Two years later, Fergie replaced her as the group’s lead singer, and the Peas transitioned into the pop-rap group they are today. Their new sound attracted more audiences and gained positive reviews.

Nirvana & Soundgarden: Jason Everman

Jason Everman joined Nirvana in 1989 as the band’s second guitarist. Although he didn’t play on their debut album Bleach, Jason toured with the band to promote it and was credited in it. Midway through the tour, the band returned to Seattle because of differences with Everman, who quit.

Jason Everman in Soundgarden’s band portrait / A picture of Jason Everman in the army.

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After Nirvana, Everman replaced founding Soundgarden member Hiro Yamamoto on bass (another musician who left a band too early) before Ben Shephard also replaced him. After that, Everman temporarily quit playing professionally and joined the U.S. Army.

Metallica: Dave Mustaine

Lars Ulrich and James Hetfield hired Dave Mustaine in 1981 as lead guitarist for Metallica when they saw his expensive equipment. However, in April 1983, they fired Dave from the band because of his violent behavior, drinking, and drug abuse. They later called him “a real crazy person, a raging megalomaniac.”

Dave Mustaine and James Hetfield are together on stage.

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Mustaine did alright after being sacked from Metallica and founded the band Megadeth in 1984. However, he never forgave Kirk Hammett, the guitarist who replaced him and continued to bad-mouth him, claiming Hammett stole his job.

N.W.A.: Arabian Prince

In 1986, Arabian Prince, Dr. Dre, Eazy-E, and Ice Cube founded the influential hip hop group N.W.A. Arabian Prince, or Kim Renard Nazel, who appeared in the group’s first compilation album, quit just after Straight Outta Compton was released.

Arabian Prince attends an event.

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Nazel claimed that he left the group in 1988 because they weren’t paid for touring, and he had disputes with the record label over his contract and royalties. After departing from N.W.A., Kim returned to his solo career, recording under the names Arabian Prince and Professor X.

Red Hot Chili Peppers: Jack Irons

In 1983, Jack Irons, Michael “Flea” Balzary, Anthony Kiedis, and Hillel Slovak formed a one-off band that was so successful after one show that they decided to continue and called themselves the Red Hot Chili Peppers. However, Irons and Slovak didn’t stay on because their other band, What Is This?, was more important to them.

Flea and Jack Irons play drums together.

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A few years later, they both rejoined RHCP. Unfortunately, when Slovak died of a heroin overdose in 1988, Irons left the band again, too heartbroken to play in the group. In 1994, he joined Pearl Jam.

Genesis: Anthony Phillips

In 1967, Anthony Phillips and Mike Rutherford founded From Genesis to Revelation with Tony Banks and Peter Gabriel of the band Garden Wall. They soon renamed the group Genesis, and their friend Jonathan King helped them record an album.

A picture of Anthony Phillips in a recording studio.

Photo by Victoria Carew Hunt

In 1970, Anthony became worn down from touring and frustrated they had no time to record new material. He also developed crippling stage fright and bronchial pneumonia and decided to leave the band. The group almost disbanded without Phillips but instead recruited Phil Collins and Steve Hackett and started releasing hits.

The Stone Roses: Pete Garner

Formed in Manchester, England, in 1983, the Stone Roses’ first bassist was actually their friend and roadie, Pete Garner. Garner claimed he couldn’t play anything except Block Buster! However, he still managed to stick around for a while.

Pete Garner in a band portrait of The Stone Roses.

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Garner quit the band in 1986 but stayed on until they found a new bassist. When Mani replaced him in 1987, “everything just fell into place,” and the Stone Roses were headlining shows within a year. In 1988, they were signed to a major label and released their first album in 1989.

Television: Richard Hell

In 1972, old high school friends Tom Verlaine and Richard Hell formed the Neon Boys with drummer Billy Ficca. In 1973, they renamed the group Television and recruited a second guitarist, Richard Lloyd. In 1974, Television started playing at the CBGB, where they gained a following.

Richard Hell in Television’s live performance.

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At first, Hell and Verlaine wrote the songs, but tension began to build between them. Richard preferred a raw, untrained, punk approach, while Tom wanted a more professional sound. In 1975, Hell quit Television and formed the Heartbreakers and later the Voidoids.

Weezer: Jason Cropper

Weezer was formed in 1992, and the band’s guitarist was Jason Cropper. Cropper played on the group’s demo tapes, which helped them get signed to Geffen Records. However, while they were recording their debut album, his girlfriend got pregnant.

A picture of Jason Cropper.

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Jason was overwhelmed at the thought of becoming a father and started acting out and disrupting the recording process. The band’s leading man, Rivers Cuomo, eventually asked Cropper to leave because he was jeopardizing their work, and Brian Bell replaced Jason. Despite being kicked out, Jason stayed friends with Weezer.

NSYNC: Jason Galasso

In 1994, Jason Galasso was recruited to the boyband NSYNC as the group’s bass singer. Besides meaning ‘in sync,’ the band’s name is made up of the last letter of each member’s name- Justin, Chris, Joey, Jason, and J.C.

Jason Galasso in a band portrait of NSYNC.

Source: MTV

But after just a few weeks of recording, Galasso quit the band, saying he didn’t want to be a teenage icon. Lance Bass replaced Jason. Lance was then nicknamed Lansten so that the name NSYNC would still represent the last initials of each members’ name.

Dave Matthews Band: Peter Griesar

Peter Griesar and Dave Matthews met while working as bartenders in 1990. Dave soon quit bartending to focus on his band, later named The Dave Matthews Band. The group would practice at the bar, and soon Griesar started playing keyboards for them.

A portrait of Peter Griesar.

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They were a big hit at the local college bars and decided to record an album in 1992. But in 1993, Griesar quit the band, unable to tour, because he had to stay home and help his unwell mother. In 1998, Peter formed the band Supertanker.

Pink Floyd: Bob Klose

Bob Klose met Syd Barrett and Roger Waters at Cambridge. Later, he moved to London for university and formed an R&B band with Waters, Richard Wright, Nick Mason, Clive Metcalfe, Keith Noble, and Juliette Gale. When Barrett replaced Metcalfe, Noble, and Gale, the group settled on the name Pink Floyd.

A portrait of Bob Klose.

Source: Flickr

Klose preferred playing jazz and blues, but Barrett wanted the band to be more psychedelic pop. So, in 1965, Klose quit Pink Floyd to focus on his studies and later became a photographer. Two years later, Pink Floyd signed a record deal.

The Supremes: Barbara Martin

In 1960, Barbara Martin replaced Betty McGlown in the Primettes. A year later, the group, including Diana Ross, Mary Wilson, and Florence Ballard, signed a record deal with Motown and changed their name to the Supremes. At first, their singles were unsuccessful, and they mainly worked as backup singers.

Barbara Martin in a band portrait of The Supremes.

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After becoming pregnant in 1961, Martin quit the Supremes in 1962 to start a family. Later that year, the remaining trio released their debut album, Meet the Supremes, that Barbara sang on, but she wasn’t in the cover photo.

The Police: Henry Padovani

Henry Padovani was the lead guitarist of The Police for almost a year in 1977, before being replaced by Andy Summers, who had started as their second guitarist. Padovani couldn’t speak much English at the time but was interested in punk and knew how to play, so Stewart Copeland recruited him to the Police.

A backstage photo of Stewart Copeland, Sting and, Henry Padovani.

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However, Sting and Summers thought Henry’s musical abilities weren’t up to par. They wanted him out, so they asked Padovani to leave, and he went on to play rhythm guitar for Wayne County & the Electric Chairs.

Primal Scream: Gavin Skinner & Jim Beattie

Jim Beattie and Bobby Gillespie formed Primal Scream in 1982. At the time, Gillespie was playing drums for The Jesus and Mary Chain. Gavin Skinner joined the band after several other members were asked to leave in 1986.

A photo of the band as they perform on stage.

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However, after their 1987 indie-pop debut album failed, both Beattie and Skinner quit Primal Scream. A year later, Primal Scream took a more garage, psychedelic, and dance direction and started producing hits. Skinner has since succeeded as a composer for movies, and T.V. Beattie formed his own band, Adventures in Stereo.

Sugababes: Siobhan Donaghy

The teenage girl group Sugababes was founded in 1998 and included Siobhan Donaghy, Keisha Buchanan, and Mutya Buena. They were doing quite well when Donaghy decided to quit and pursue a career in fashion. She later claimed that the other girls had bullied her out of the band.

Siobhan attends an event / A picture of Liz, Keisha and, Heidi.

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In 2001, Siobhan was replaced by Heidi Range of Atomic Kitten, with whom the group reached even more success. In 2011, despite their conflicts, the original trio reunited under the name Mutya Keisha Siobhan before reclaiming the name Sugababes in 2019.

No Doubt: Eric Stefani

In 1986, Eric Stefani founded the group No Doubt with his younger sister Gwen Stefani and their friend John Spence, whom they met while working at Dairy Queen. By 1987, No Doubt had recruited seven more members, including Tony Kanal, who began secretly dating Gwen.

Eric Stefani and Gwen Stefani pose for the press.

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Later that year, Spence committed suicide, and Gwen became the lead singer. After signing a record deal, Eric began to step back from the band because their producer took creative control. In 1994, he officially quit No Doubt to focus on a career in animation.

The Jam: Steve Brookes

In 1972, Steve Brookes joined the Jam, Paul Weller, and Rick Buckler’s band. He played lead guitar for the group for four years. When he left the group in 1976, they wanted to recruit a new guitarist but couldn’t find anyone who fit.

Steve Brookes in a band portrait of The Jam.

Source: YouTube

So, instead, Weller took up lead guitar, and the band’s second guitarist, Bruce Foxton, replaced Weller on the bass. After that, they decided to remain a trio. Brookes and Weller made up and became close friends again in 2009. In 2010, they collaborated on Weller’s solo album.

Spice Girls: Michelle Stephenson

In 1994, Michelle Stephenson was picked by Heart Management, along with Melanie Brown, Victoria Adams, Melanie Chisholm, and Geri Halliwell, to be one of the members of the girl group Touch. They had auditioned with hundreds of other women to form what would later become the Spice Girls.

A photo of Michelle Stephenson.

Source: YouTube

However, after months of rehearsing, Heart Management fired Stephenson for not fitting in and lack of commitment. Michelle was replaced by Emma Bunton, who became Baby Spice. Stephenson claims to have no regrets about leaving the group that became worldwide superstars.

Sex Pistols: Glen Matlock

Glen Matlock became the guitarist for the Sex Pistols in 1975, recruited by Malcolm McLaren, the group’s manager. However, Matlock didn’t get along with the leading man, Johnny Rotten. McLaren reportedly tried to aggravate the tension between the two further, hoping it would lead to creativity.

Glen Matlock, Johnny Rotten, Steve Jones, and Paul Cook in a band portrait.

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However, some say it was actually a ploy of Malcolm’s to have Glen kicked out so that Sid Vicious could be guitarist instead. After Matlock left in 1977, they barely wrote any more songs and broke up in 1978, a year before Sid overdosed.

Iron Maiden: Paul Day & Paul Di’Anno

When Iron Maiden first got together in 1975, it wasn’t Bruce Dickinson screaming the lyrics but rather Paul Day as lead singer. However, Paul was fired just a year in for lacking a charismatic stage presence. The same year, the band’s founder and bassist, Steve Harris, disbanded Maiden temporarily.

A band portrait with Paul Di’Anno.

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After a few more lineup changes, they recruited Paul Di’Anno as lead vocalist in 1978. This Paul didn’t last long in the second version, either. In 1981, he was also fired due to issues with drug addiction and replaced by Dickinson.

Kasabian: Chris Karloff

Former guitarist of Kasabian Chris Karloff was actually the one who picked the band’s name. He based it off the surname of Linda Kasabian, a member of the Manson Family, who testified against Charles Manson. Although they formed in 1997, the band only released their first album in 2004.

Chris Karloff performs on stage.

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Surprisingly, in 2006, while recording their second album, the rest of Kasabian asked Karloff to leave the band due to “artistic and creative differences.” The band gained far more success without Chris, who went on to form the band, Black Onassis.

The Killers: Dell Neal

In 2001, Dell Neal joined the Killers, his roommate Dave Keuning’s band with Brandon Flowers. Neal played bass for the group but quit the Killers just one year later, in 2002, because of stress. He later said, “I don’t regret making the call.”

Dell Neal in a band portrait of The Killers.

Source: Reddit

The band entered the limelight a year later when they released Hot Fuss, their promising debut album. The album’s lineup consisted of Flowers on vocals and keyboard, Keuning on guitar, Ronnie Vannucci on drums, and Mark Stoermer on bass instead of Neal.

Arctic Monkeys: Andy Nicholson

Formed in Sheffield in 2002, The Arctics Monkeys’ first bassist was Andy Nicholson. He played on their debut album and the band’s early E.P.’s. However, when the group went on tour in the U.S. in 2006, Andy didn’t join due to “fatigue.”

Andy Nicholson during a concert.

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Nick O’Malley replaced him on tour, and afterward, the band asked Nicholson to leave for good, having felt that O’Malley was a better fit. Andy stated that being kicked out of his own band was “soul-destroying” and caused his mental health to spiral.

The Cure: Michael Dempsey

In 1973, bassist Michael Dempsey started playing with the band that would later become The Cure. He remained part of Easy Cure and the Cure’s original lineup, appearing on their early singles and their first album, Three Imaginary Boys from 1979 and the single Boys Don’t Cry.

Michael Dempsey performs on stage.

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That same year, Dempsey was kicked out of the Cure after speaking up about his dislike for the new material Robert Smith wrote for their second album. Michael then joined The Associates, who opened for the Cure on tour.

Guns N’ Roses: Tracii Guns

In 1985, Tracii Guns and Axl Rose founded the band Guns and Roses, based on their names and their previous band names, L.A. Guns and Hollywood Rose. However, Tracii was lazy; he explained, “I just stopped going to rehearsals. Axl would call me screaming and yelling.”

A portrait of Tracii Guns.

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So, about a year before their first album, Appetite for Destruction, came out, Rose kicked Guns off the band. He was replaced by Slash, a member of Hollywood Rose. By 1987, Guns and Roses reached no. 1 on the Billboard charts.

Destiny’s Child: LaTavia Roberson & LeToya Luckett

LaTavia Roberson and LeToya Luckett were part of the original 1997 lineup of Destiny’s Child, along with Beyoncé Knowles and Kelly Rowland. Destiny’s Child released several no. 1 singles before tension built up and tore apart the group. LaTavia and LeToya wanted to replace the band’s manager, Mathew Knowles.

A picture of Destiny’s Child original band members.

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He was Beyoncé’s father, and they claimed he displayed favoritism to his daughter and Kelly. However, instead of him being replaced, they were, by Michelle Williams and Farrah Franklin. A few months in, Farrah quit, and the group remained a threesome.

Manic Street Preachers: Miles Woodward

Miles Woodward was the original bassist for the Manic Street Preachers, but he quit when the Welsh band started getting into pop music. Woodward had signed up to be part of a punk band and didn’t like the direction they were taking.

A vintage portrait of the band.

Source: Facebook

So, in 1988 Nicky Wire switched to the bass, and Richey Edwards took over on guitar. Sadly, in February 1995, Edwards went missing and has been presumed dead ever since. This proved that maybe Woodward made the right choice when he left the Manics.

The Cranberries: Niall Quinn

In 1989, Niall Quinn formed the band Cranberry Saw Us, along with Noel Hogan, Mike Hogan, and Fergal Lawler. However, by 1990, Quinn, the lead singer, was replaced by Dolores O’Riordan, and the band changed their name to The Cranberries.

A portrait of Niall Quinn.

Source: YouTube

Niall left the band on good terms, going back to his other group, The Hitchers. Quinn was even the one to introduce them to O’Riordan, his girlfriend’s sister. The Cranberries quickly rose to fame with their 1993 debut album Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We?

Dixie Chicks: Robin Lynn Macy

In 1989, Robin Lynn Macy founded The Dixie Chicks along with Laura Lynch and sisters Martie and Emily Erwin. She was the lead guitarist and co-lead vocalist of the group and even wrote some of the songs. However, in 1992, Macy left the band after fighting with the Erwins.

Robin Lynn Macy speaks during an interview.

Source: YouTube

She wanted the Chicks to continue playing pure bluegrass, whereas the others liked the contemporary country direction the band had taken. They only really reached mainstream recognition when Lynch left and was replaced by Natalie Maines as lead vocalist.

T.L.C.: Crystal Jones

Crystal Jones dreamed up the idea of a tomboyish girl group with a hip-hop image in 1990. Tionne Watkins and Lisa Lopes soon joined her, and they called themselves 2nd Nature before changing their name to T.L.C., a word made up of their first names’ initials.

A band portrait.

Source: Pinterest

However, when they auditioned for a record label, the executive didn’t like Crystal and wanted to replace her. The other members asked Jones to leave and proceeded to sign a record deal. She was then replaced by Rozonda Thomas, who was nicknamed “Chilli.”

My Chemical Romance: Matt Pelissier

When My Chemical Romance first banded together in the early 2000s, Matt Pelissier was their drummer. Matt and Gerard Way founded the group together and practiced in Matt’s attic. They were soon joined by Gerard’s brother, Ray Toro and Frank Iero.

Matt Pelissier attends an event.

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They then recorded their debut album, I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love. In 2004, they released their second album and replaced Matt Pelissier with Bob Bryar on the drums one month later. The band never shared why Matt was cut, but there are many theories.

Blink 182: Scott Raynor

Scott Raynor and Tom DeLonge formed the band Blink in Raynor’s bedroom in 1992, with Mark Hoppus. They then signed with Cargo Music and spent 1993 recording their first album while Scott was still in high school. However, just after the trio started getting famous, Raynor began having issues.

A picture of Scott Raynor.

Source: Reddit

He wanted to go to college and suffered from alcohol abuse, which began to ruin Blink 182’s performances. In 1999, his bandmates kicked Scott out and replaced him with Travis Barker, who helped propel Blink to pop-punk stardom.

Nirvana: Chad Channing

Chad Channing started drumming for Nirvana in 1988 and played on most songs in the band’s first album, Bleached, from 1989. They began their second record in 1990, and Channing was bummed that Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic wouldn’t let him write songs.

A picture of Kurt Cobain, Krist Novoselic, and Chad Channing.

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Meanwhile, Cobain and Novoselic became unhappy with Chad’s drumming and had him leave Nirvana in May of 1990. By autumn of that year, they’d recruited Dave Grohl in Channing’s place. The song Polly on Nevermind features Channing on the drums, although, until recently, he was uncredited.