5 Musicians Who Left Future Legendary Bands Before They Were Famous

One of the hardest things about playing in a band is keeping it together.

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First, you must find reliable musicians who fit specific boxes: can play their instruments but aren’t musos, have decent gear, good hair, and a van and/or PA system (in a certain era). But keeping a young group together—when everyone’s bleeding money they don’t have while playing run-down bars with the TVs on—is daunting.

Some musicians quit and others are sacked. But what if you quit or were sacked from what would become one of the biggest bands in history? The five musicians below know exactly what it feels like.

Dave Mustaine (Metallica)

Long before Metallica sold 125 million albums (and counting), they earned the nickname Alcoholica, famous for how much beer and Jägermeister they consumed. However, the band’s original lead guitarist Dave Mustaine was fired from the band because explosiveness and violence accompanied his drinking. It’s always fun until it’s not.

Mustaine told Loudwire, “When you’re around a lot of people that like to drink and get silly, they just want to have fun. I would drink and have fun until someone would refute something I had said. And then that was war, baby. I’d be aggressive and confrontational because I was a violent drunk. I lost all inhibitions when I was drinking, and that didn’t go over [too] well in the end.”

James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, and Cliff Burton had had enough. The band was in New York recording their debut Kill ’Em All and hired Kirk Hammett to replace Mustaine. Hetfield drove the former guitarist to the bus station for the four-day journey back to California. Mustaine recovered to form his own successful heavy metal band Megadeth. But a lingering feud with his former bandmates lasted decades.  

Jason Cropper (Weezer)

Though Jason Cropper left Weezer before their first album (aka the Blue Album) was finished, his impact remains in two very important areas. First, Rivers Cuomo’s iconic blue Stratocaster belonged to Cropper. On the Shred with Shifty podcast, Cuomo explained the guitar’s history to Foo Fighters guitarist Chris Shiflett. At the time, Cropper only played acoustic guitar in the band, so Cuomo played his electric guitar, a Fender Strat copy made from Warmoth parts which became known as the “Blue Guitar.”

Cropper is also responsible for writing the acoustic fingerpicking intro to “My Name Is Jonas.” However, while Weezer recorded their debut in New York with producer Ric Ocasek, Cropper learned his girlfriend was pregnant. The guitarist became filled with anxiety that strained his relationship with the rest of the band. An argument ensued after Cropper’s girlfriend arrived in New York without a place to stay, leading Cuomo to fire him. Cuomo re-tracked Cropper’s guitar parts and Weezer finished their groundbreaking debut without him. Brian Bell joined in 1994 toward the end of the Blue Album sessions.

Chad Channing (Nirvana)

In 1990, Nirvana recorded demos at Smart Studios in Madison, Wisconsin, with producer Butch Vig. But drummer Chad Channing became increasingly frustrated with his limited role in the group, feeling left out as a songwriter. Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic lost patience with Channing’s drumming and the inevitable became clear. Channing would have to go.

Nirvana completed a short tour in April and May of 1990 and by June, Channing was out. Buzz Osborne from the Melvins passed along the phone numbers of Cobain and Novoselic to Dave Grohl, whose band Scream had just broken up. Soon, Nirvana signed with DGC Records and began recording Nevermind at Sound City Studios in Los Angeles. Grohl eventually wrote songs, too—in a band called Foo Fighters.

Tony Chapman (The Rolling Stones)

An early ’60s version of The Rolling Stones included drummer Tony Chapman, who introduced bassist Bill Wyman to the group. Chapman was around when Brian Jones named the band in 1962. A journalist enquired about a band name and Jones, after spotting a Muddy Waters album on the floor, responded, “The Rollin’ Stones.”

Before the band’s official recording career, Chapman left because he’d disagreed with the experimental direction of the music. Charlie Watts played his first gig as drummer for The Rolling Stones in 1963 and the “World’s Greatest Rock Band” soon took flight. Chapman formed a band called The Preachers and later played briefly with The Herd. (Both bands featured a young Peter Frampton.)

Pete Best (The Beatles)

On a late summer day in 1962, The Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein approached drummer Pete Best with terrible news. His fellow bandmates, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and George Harrison, didn’t think his drumming was good enough and they chose to replace him with Ringo Starr.

Best had been The Beatles’ drummer for two years as the Fab Four honed their skills in Hamburg, Germany, clubs. He struggled with life after The Beatles and attempted suicide at the height of Beatlemania, though he denied to The Irish Times that The Beatles had anything to do with it.

Said Best, “I think if I’d kept reflecting about what happened yesterday, all the time, and it was like a nightmare to me, I would have ended up bitter and twisted. But there came a period in my life when I was like, to hell with what happened yesterday it’s about today and tomorrow.”

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Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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