The Dirty Mac: Eric Clapton, John Lennon, Mitch Mitchell, Keith Richards
What’s a rock star to do when he’s already found plenty of success, loads of cash and made plenty of fellow famous friends? Start a supergroup of course! For almost as long as rock and roll has been around, we’ve had the supergroup. Whether they get their start after their previous bands broke up or simply as a fun outlet for their music, the supergroup has given rock plenty of iconic songs and plenty of dream lineups. Read on and check out a few of rock’s most popular supergroups and how they came to be!
Eric Clapton (The Yardbirds, John Mayall & The Blues Breakers)
Jack Bruce (Graham Bond Organization, Manfred Mann)
Ginger Baker (Graham Bond Organization)
The iconic cover to Cream's second album
Regarded by many as the first true supergroup, Cream brought together the talents of a trio of well known musicians who were already regarded as “the cream of the crop” in Britain, inspiring their name. Although Clapton was as of yet unknown in the US (he had left the Yardbirds before they released their US hit, “For Your Love”), he was easily the most famous of the trio, although both Baker and Bruce were just as critically acclaimed. The band began when Barker went to see Clapton at a Blues Breakers show and they both talked about the idea of starting a new band. Clapton felt confined by his current band and Barker had grown tired of Graham Bond’s drug use. Clapton agreed to start the band on the condition that Jack Bruce join as well, which initially didn’t sit well with Baker as he and former Graham Bond bandmate Bruce were known for their on stage fights and overall dislike of each other while in the group. They agreed to put their differences aside and began what would be one of the most influential bands in rock history with their unique blend of masterful technique and heavy sound, paving the way for other “heavy” acts such as Led Zeppelin.
Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young*
David Crosby (The Byrds)
Stephen Stills (Buffalo Springfield)
Graham Nash (The Hollies)
Neil Young (Buffalo Springfield) *Joined in ’69 then quit but returned sporadically
From Left: David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash
By the time the main trio joined forces to create what would be one of the most popular and influential groups of their era, they were already plenty famous in their own right. The folk rock supergroup had its start towards the later end of the ‘60s with each member being independently frustrated with their current bands. David Crosby and had been going through plenty of friction with his fellow Byrds bandmates as was Stephen Stills with the rest of Buffalo Springfield. By 1968, Buffalo Springfield had dissolved, leaving Stills effectively unemployed. It was at this time that he and Crosby began a series of impromptu jam sessions. Graham Nash had met Crosby while The Byrds were touring the UK and met up once again when The Hollies toured California. In July of ’68 at a party at “Mama” Cass Elliot’s house, Nash asked Stills and Crosby if they would play a new song by Stills, “You Don’t Have to Cry.” Nash came in and improvised a second harmony. To their surprise, the vocals jelled nicely and soon after, Nash went on to quit the Hollies (having been frustrated with the group at the time) to join Crosby and Stills with their new project. They insisted on using their last names as the name of the band to ensure that if one member left for whatever reason, the rest couldn’t just replace him, as was the case with The Byrds and The Hollies.
The Traveling Wilburys
George Harrison (The Beatles)
Jeff Lynne (Electric Light Orchestra)
Tom Petty (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers)
From Left: Harrison, Petty, Dylan, Lynne, Orbison
The Traveling Wilburys got its start when George Harrison was recording for his Cloud Nine album with Jeff Lynne. During their recording session, Harrison would regularly say to Lynne “we’ll bury ‘em” when referring to recording errors made in the mix. When the idea of a group was thrown around, the term was combined to create the slang, Wilbury. Although it is not known exactly when the five musicians formally agreed to record as a group, the first the public heard of it was during a Harrison radio interview while promoting his Cloud Nine album. When asked about future plans, he mentioned a new group of his he wanted to record an album with. Although Harrison mentioned the group’s name, he purposefully failed to mention the very famous members of his new band. While Lynne, Orbison and Dylan were initially the complete lineup along with Harrison, Petty’s involvement came completely by chance. During the group’s first official meeting, Harrison had remembered that he had left his guitar at Petty’s house. When Harrison went over to pick it up, he brought Tom back with him and soon offered him a spot. Although the group was never meant to be more than just a series of jam sessions between famous friends, their first recording, "Handle With Care," was so well received by the label that they insisted it not be used as a B-side filler to Harrison’s newly released single. Soon after, they recorded their first album in ’88 during a total of ten days. Traveling Wilburys, Vol 1 went on to achieve triple platinum status in the US as well as garnering the group a Grammy for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group in ’89.
Dave Grohl (Nirvana)
Pat Smear (Nirvana, The Germs)
Nate Mendel (Sunny day Real Estate, The Fire Theft)
William Goldsmith (Sunny Day Real Estate, The Fire Theft)
Taylor Hawkins (Sass Jordan, Alanis Morissette)
Chris Shiflett (No Use For A Name, Me First and the Gimme Gimmes)
Current Lineup From Left: Grohl, Hawkins, Mendel, Shiflett
The Foo Fighters got their start as a one man project initiated by Dave Grohl after the death of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain. The name itself comes from the UFOs and other strange aircrafts reported by Allied aircraft pilots during World War II, collectively calling them foo fighters. During the period right after Cobain’s death, Grohl was offered the chance to join several bands, even almost accepting the role of drummer for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, but instead he declined and went into Robert Lang Studios to record fourteen of the forty songs he had written while in Nirvana. With the exception of the guitars for the song “X-Static,” Grohl played every single instrument and sang vocals on all the tracks. He circulated the demo recordings under the name Foo Fighters, garnering a lot of interest from labels. When Grohl decided to form a band to support the album, he initially wanted Nirvana bassist Kris Novoselic to join but they both agreed that although it would be a natural fit for the two to work together, they realized that fans of the late Cobain would not take as kindly to the two moving on so quickly together after the recent death. After hearing about the disbanding of the Seattle based band Sunny Day Real Estate, Grohl decided to draft the group’s bassist, Nate Mendel, and drummer, William Goldsmith. Soon after, he asked Nirvana touring guitarist Pat Smear if he would join as the second guitarist to which Smear agreed. They would go on to sign with Capitol Records and release their first album under Grohl’s label, Roswell Records.
Me First and the Gimme Gimmes
Spike Slawson (Swingin’ Utters)
“Fat” Mike Burkett (NOFX)
Chris Shiflett (Foo Fighters, No Use For A Name)
Joey Cape (Lagwagon)
Dave Raun (Lagwagon)
FL: Shiflett, Raun, Berklett, Slawson, Cape
A punk rock supergroup that works exclusively with covers, Me First and the Gimme Gimmes got their name from a Gerald G. Jampolsky children’s book of the same name. Known for wearing exuberant matching outfits during live shows, the Gimmes first came about as small side project that never intended on releasing full length albums but rather solo tracks to be used on various compilations. By 1995, they had begun releasing singles named after the singer they had covered such as Billy, Diamond, Paul, Denver, Barry, Shannon, Stevens, and Elton. They went on to release their first full length album, Have a Ball, in 1997, a colelction of classic '60s, '70s and early '80s songs from very non-punk artists such as Elton John, Neil Diamond and John denver. They went on the continue their theme based approach to albums, such as the show tune heavy Are a Drag and '60s classics in Blow in the Wind, as well as others featuring R&B, country and pop songs.
Other Notable Supergroups
Derek and the Dominoes
The Dirty Mac
Rebel Meets Rebel
A Perfect Circle
The Dead Weather
Them Crooked Vultures
...and plenty more