In 1986, Eric Stefani, his younger sister Gwen, and John Spence decided they would form a ska band while working at a Dairy Queen in Orange, California.
John Spence’s “No Doubt”
Inspired by British ska bands like Madness, The English Beat, and The Specials, the Stefani siblings and Spence had their earliest formation of a band—a nine-piece including Gwen Stefani on backing vocals, Eric on keyboards and Spence as lead vocalist. Inspired by Bad Brains frontman H.R., Spence’s on-stage antics were explosive and everyone knew his signature response to most things: “no doubt.”
Spence’s recurring phrase eventually stuck as the band’s name.
Just four days before Christmas, and two days before the band was to perform for some industry executives at The Roxy in Hollywood, Spence took his life in 1987. Initially, No Doubt broke up following Spence’s death and later regrouped with band member Alan Meade temporarily taking on lead vocals.
“He was the inspiration for the whole band,” said Eric Stefani of Spence’s influence on No Doubt. The band wrote the track “Dear John” for their former singer, which was never officially released. You’re singin’ in a band with a mic on in your hand / That way that you would sing really made me feel all grand / You left your friends alone right upon this earth / I wish that would’ve seen how much life was worth sings Meade along with Gwen on backing vocals on the tribute song.
No Doubt soon rounded out with previous bassist Tony Kanal, guitarist Tom Dumont, who left the heavy metal band Rising, Adrian Young replacing drummer Chris Webb in 1989, and Eric Stefani.
Playing shows around the West Coast and with bands like Fishbone and Red Hot Chili Peppers, No Doubt was eventually signed to Interscope Records in 1990 and released their self-titled debut in 1992, followed by an album of outtakes from previous sessions on their 1993 release The Beacon Street Collection.
Eric Stefani’s Departure, Tragic Kingdom
After the release of their second album, Gwen’s brother Eric left the band and went on to work as an animator for The Simpsons and The Ren & Stimpy Show. Around this time, Kanal and Gwen Stefani, who began dating when the bassist joined the band in 1987, ended their relationship and poured their breakup into some tracks on No Doubt’s second album, Tragic Kingdom, released in 1994.
Tragic Kingdom hits, “Just a Girl” and “Spiderwebs,” along with the ballad “Don’t Speak” (about Stefani and Kanal’s breakup), plunged the band into the mainstream, earning them two Grammy Award nominations for Best New Artist and Best Rock Album in 1997 and two more nods for Song of the Year and Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal for “Don’t Speak.”
Following the release of their fourth album, Return of Saturn, the band went to Jamaica to record most of their fifth album, Rock Steady, which produced hits “Hey Baby,” featuring Bounty Killer and won the Grammy Award for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal, and the ballad “Underneath It All,” picking up the same Grammy a year later. Other Rock Steady tracks include the single “Hella Good,” co-written by Pharrell Williams, and “Waiting Room,” which was co-produced and co-written by Prince.
No Doubt took a break after Tragic Kingdom, going on hiatus in 2003 to spend time with family and work on outside projects—Stefani released two solo albums and launched her clothing label L.A.M.B. The band released its sixth album Push and Shove in 2012.