The 20 Greatest Supergroups of All Time
"Supergroup" is a word that doesn't sit well with a lot of people.
For some, it conjures thoughts of bloated egos battling for creative control. For others, it brings to mind flash-in-the-pan projects that lacked a lasting impact.
That said, in the 48 years since Cream stepped forward as arguably the world's first rock and roll supergroup, there have been quite a few all-star bands that have made an indelible mark on the musical world — independent of their collective members' individual pasts.
So what do we consider a supergroup?
1. There have to be at least three members.
2. They have to have released at least one album — no all-star jams.
3. A majority of their band members have to have been in well-known bands before the supergroup formed.
4. A supergroup cannot be formed by a well-known musician joining a pre-existing band — no Van Hagar.
In making our picks for this list, we tried to take into account the impact the supergroup itself had on the music scene. We couldn't help but take into consideration the profiles of the musicians involved, but — and you can quote this — merely having big names does not a great supergroup make.
10. A Perfect Circle
In 1999, Tool vocalist Maynard James Keenan heard some instrumental demos laid down by friend and guitar tech Billy Howerdell, and soon after, A Perfect Cirlce was born. After being joined by former Failure guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen and Primus drummer Tim Alexander, APC released their debut album, Mer de Noms, which to date holds the mark for highest Billboard 200 debut for a rock band’s first album.
11. Temple of the Dog
Began as a tribute to late Mother Love Bone vocalist Andrew Wood, Temple of the Dog was the brainchild of Soundgarden vocalist Chris Cornell, who decided to invite Wood’s ex-bandmates to join him on the album. They had recently moved on to form a new band, but happily obliged, even recruiting their new singer to duet with Cornell on a song called “Hunger Strike.” That new band? Pearl Jam.
Take half of Van Halen's highest-selling incarnation and add the guitar virtuosity of one Joe Satriani and the infectious funk of Red Hot Chili Peppers' drummer Chad Smith, and you get Chickenfoot. The 'Foot have so far released two albums of funky-fresh rock and roll that have pleased fans old and new, and show no signs of stopping
While there was a time when it seemed unfathomable for metal fans to think of Philip Anselmo as anything but Pantera’s singer, Anselmo has been grinding it out with Down since 1991. With the dual guitar sludge of Pepper Keenan (Corrosion of Conformity) and Kirk Windstein(Crowbar), Down have managed to craft three incredible metal albums and are still going strong.
13. Mr. Big
Mr. Big was one of the better things to happen in the '80s -- a supergroup respected for its stockade of talent and blessed with chart success. The band included (and includes) Billy Sheehan (David Lee Roth) on bass, Paul Gilbert (Racer X) on guitar, singer Eric Martin and drummer Pat Torpey (The Knack). Hits include "To Be with You" and "Green-Tinted Sixties Mind." They're named after a song by Free, which featured Paul Rodgers, who's in two bands on this list.
14. The Highwaymen
Who says these supergroups have to be rock bands? In 1985, one of the coolest-ever musical conglomerations took place when Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson -- the biggest names in "outlaw" country music -- formed The Highwaymen. Perhaps to drive home the point, they called their album Highwaymen and had a No. 1 hit with "Highwayman." Let's face it: Any band that included The Man in Black belongs on this list.
The sheer musical prowess of Primus bassist Les Claypool and Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio should be enough talent for any band, but when Oysterhead needed to perform live, they couldn’t help but bring in a mutual musical hero: Stewart Copeland of the Police. The band debuted live at the New Orleans Jazz Festival in 2000, with The Simpsons creator Matt Groening and Apocalypse Now director Francis Ford Coppola in attendance.
16. Black Country Communion
Joe Bonamassa had already been jamming with former Deep Purple and Black Sabbath bassist Glenn Hughes for a year when they decided to form BCC in 2010. Two recommendations from producer Kevin Shirley -- drummer Jason Bonham (son of Bonzo) and former Dream Theater keyboardist Derek Sherinian -- filled out the rhythm section. BCC have released two heavy-blues-rocking albums, and a third release is in the works.
17. Them Crooked Vultures
When a photo started making the rounds featuring a Foo Fighters logo, a Queens of the Stone Age logo and a Led Zeppelin symbol, the excitement level from rock fans everywhere went through the roof. Somehow, Dave Grohl, Josh Homme and John Paul Jones managed to turn out a heavy blues rock record as weird and wonderful as anyone could have hoped for.
18. Damn Yankees
Although it's hard to picture it now, Ted Nugent was in a band. A few of them, actually; and the biggest of them all was Damn Yankees, which also featured Tommy Shaw of Styx, Jack Blades of Night Ranger and drummer Michael Cartellone. The supergroup, which got together in 1989, released a self-titled debut album that went double-platinum 1990 and spawned several hits. They had some damn staying power, too, releasing gold albums into the mid-'90s.
19. Blue Murder
Blue Murder’s eponymous 1989 debut was also the vocal debut of Whitesnake guitarist John Sykes, the de facto leader of a group who would see musicians like bassist Tony Franklin and drummers Carmine Appice and Cozy Powell pass through the ranks over the years. After being dropped from their label in the mid-'90s, Sykes began releasing material under his own name, effectively ending Blue Murder.
By the time Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton came out in 1966, Clapton was on to bigger things, namely Cream. Clapton, who had made a name for himself as a Yardbird and a Bluesbreaker, joined bassist Jack Bruce, formerly of Blues Incorporated, Graham Bond Organization and Manfred Mann, and drummer Ginger Baker of Graham Bond Organization. What followed was a string of classic studio albums and singles, including “Sunshine of Your Love” and “White Room.”
03. Bad Company
After Free split in 1973, vocalist Paul Rodgers and drummer Simon Kirke decided to put together a new band with King Crimson bassist Boz Burrell and Mott the Hoople guitarist Mick Ralphs and name it after one of Rodgers' favorite films: Bad Company. Bad. Co were so impressive that they became the first act signed to Led Zeppelin’s own Swan Song Records, churning out hits like “Bad Company,” “Feel Like Makin’ Love” and “Shooting Star.”
02. Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
Before there was CSNY, there was Crosby, Stills and Nash. The trio came together after David Crosby quit the The Byrds, Graham Nash became frustrated with The Hollies and Stephen Stills watched Buffalo Springfield disintegrate. They were already hot (Their 1969 self-titled album spawned two Top 40 singles) when Neil Young, Stills’ former Buffalo Springfield bandmate, joined the party in late '69. A classic album, Déjà Vu, followed.
04. Traveling Wilburys
In 1988, George Harrison needed a B-side for a single, so he wrote “Handle With Care.” He asked a few rock-star buddies to help out with the session -- then they told two friends, and so on. When the label heard the song that had been recorded by Harrison, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne and Roy Orbison, they said it was too good for a just a B-side – and the Wilburys were born. They released two albums, Volume 1 and Volume 3.
05. Velvet Revolver
When Izzy Stradlin started jamming with an early incarnation of Velvet Revolver – which also includes Slash, Duff McKagan and Matt Sorum – it looked like we were only an Axl away from a full-fledged Guns N’ Roses reunion. But Izzy left, as Izzy does, and the band recruited Wasted Youth guitarist Dave Kushner and Stone Temple Pilots vocalist Scott Weiland and crafted one of the decade’s most memorable guitar songs, “Slither.”
Fans deterred by the rap metal movement finally got a taste of how powerful Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello’s riffs could be when paired with a set of rock pipes as powerful as that of Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell. Joined by his RATM rhythm section of Tim Commerford and Brad Wilk, Morello & Co. crafted three albums of hard-driving funk rock before disbanding in 2007.
07. Blind Faith
By late '68, Eric Clapton was tired of Cream’s long-winded jams and commercially driven blues (not to mention breaking up brawls between Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker). His friend, Steve Winwood, also had to the itch to step outside of his own band, Traffic, and the pair started jamming in Clapton’s basement with Rich Grech of Family on bass. It became a proper group when Baker turned up, drumsticks in hand. Do you think Bruce was mad?
Since the mid-'70s, various prog-rock superstars -- people with names like Wetton, Bruford and Wakeman -- had been plotting a supergroup, but plans kept falling though. Until '81, that is. That's when Asia -- featuring Steve Howe of Yes, John Wetton of King Crimson, Geoff Downes of The Buggles and Yes and Carl Palmer of Emerson, Lake & Palmer -- got together. Besides their cred as top musicians, it was impossible to escape "Heat of the Moment" in '82. Trust us.
08. The Firm
After five years without Zeppelin, Jimmy Page was itching for the band experience, and The Firm was born. The band, which also featured singer Paul Rodgers of Free and Bad Co.; drummer Chris Slade of Manfred Mann's Earth Band and bassist Tony Franklin, released two very '80s-sounding albums and had a bona-fide hit with "Radioactive." Factoid: Page and Rodgers originally wanted Yes drummer Bill Bruford and bassist Pino Palladino, but they were unavailable.