Talent Factories: Ten Bands That Spawned Multiple Successful Artists

Some bands pool their talents to present a united front – writing credits are shared and there’s a designated lead singer. These bands often feature stable lineups and long tenures; examples include R.E.M. and Rush. Other bands are full of competing talents with distinct individual voices.

Here are ten bands that couldn’t contain so many talented members for long – each band spawned at least two notable spin-off acts. These spin-off acts includes solo legends like Neil Young and Dr. Dre and notable bands like Led Zeppelin and Whitesnake.

I only included bands that provided the first notable recording experience for an artist; for instance I disqualified the Eagles because Joe Walsh was already established as a solo artist before he joined (and because Don Henley was the only other Eagle with a notable solo career). Bands that just missed the cut include John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers and The Housemartins.

Ten Bands That Spawned Multiple Successful Artists

The Beatles

The Beatles Abbey Road

Unlike some of the other acts on this list, The Beatles’ career clearly overshadows the members’ solo work. Nonetheless, all four Beatles scored UK number one singles as solo artists; even Ringo Starr scored a pair of number ones in 1974 (‘Photograph’ and ‘You’re Sixteen’). Some great albums also came out of The Beatles’ solo careers, notably George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass, John Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band, and Paul McCartney’s RAM.

Buffalo Springfield

1960s folk-rockers Buffalo Springfield only released three albums, and only one of them (1967’s Buffalo Springfield Again) captured their potential. Nonetheless, many of the individual members went on to subsequent success. Neil Young, Stephen Stills, and Poco’s Richie Furay were all original members of the band, while replacement bass player Jim Messina went on to form Loggins and Messina.

The Byrds

The Byrds Younger Than Yesterday

While Roger McGuinn anchored folk-rock band The Byrds during their 1960s and 1970s heyday, plenty of talent passed through the group. Gene Clark quit to enjoy an artistically satisfying solo career, while David Crosby formed Crosby, Stills, and Nash after his dismissal. Later, Gram Parsons and Chris Hillman left to form the country-rock pioneers The Flying Burrito Brothers.

Deep Purple

Legendary English hard rock band Deep Purple boast an extremely convoluted history – so complicated that the different lineups of the band between 1968 and 1976 are labelled Mark I, II, III and IV. They also spawned a lot of spinoffs; guitarist Ritchie Blackmore left to form Rainbow, Ian Gillan formed Gillan, and David Coverdale formed Whitesnake.

Fairport Convention

Fairport Convention Full House

English folk-rockers Fairport Convention were formed in 1967 and were a going concern more than fifty years later. At least 25 different musicians have passed through their ranks. Notable Fairport Convention alumni who’ve enjoyed solo acclaim include Sandy Denny, Richard Thompson, and Iain Matthews, while founder Ashley Hutchings later formed Steeleye Span and the Albion Band.


Genesis A Trick of the Tail

In 1971, the classic Genesis quintet of Peter Gabriel, Phil Collins, Steve Hackett, Tony Banks, and Mike Rutherford released their first album together. The progressive rock of Nursery Cryme belatedly peaked at #39 on the UK charts. Fifteen years later, Genesis and its offshoots were commercial juggernauts; Invisible Touch, Peter Gabriel’s So, Phil Collins’ No Jacket Required, and Mike + The Mechanics were all hugely successful. Former guitarist Steve Hackett never reached the same height of commercial success, but has quietly released many well-received solo records.


N.W.A. inarguably peaked with their debut album, 1988’s Straight Outta Compton, popularising gangsta rap. Before they released a followup, Ice Cube had already left the band and released AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted, while Dr. Dre eclipsed his former group commercially with 1992’s The Chronic. The charismatic Eazy-E had little chance to establish a solo career, passing away from AIDS in 1995.

Velvet Underground

The Velvet Underground and Nico

The Velvet Underground are often name-dropped, but I didn’t hear any of their songs until I tracked down their albums. On the other hand, leader Lou Reed’s solo career produced famous songs like ‘Perfect Day’ and ‘Walk on the Wild Side’. Personally, I prefer the solo output of former band-mate John Cale, who created records like Paris 1919 and Fear, and later helped to popularise Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’.

Wu-Tang Clan

Staten Island’s Wu-Tang Clan were an unusually large hip hop crew – the original lineup featured nine MCs. The collective’s solo albums often feel like a continuation of the group’s oeuvre – mastermind RZA is in the producer’s chair for solo efforts from Raekwon, Ghostface Killah, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, and Genius/GZA.

The Yardbirds

The lineup of 1960s blues band The Yardbirds was relatively stable, featuring mainstays like Chris Dreja, vocalist Keith Relf, and drummer Jim McCarty. But the group went through a succession of legendary lead guitarists. Eric Clapton left the band to form Cream and was replaced by Jeff Beck who injected a middle eastern sound into the group. The Yardbirds broke up in 1968, but still were contractually bound to perform a Scandinavian tour. Guitarist Jimmy Page pulled together a new band; initially named The New Yardbirds, they were later renamed as Led Zeppelin.

Did I miss any of your favourite talent factories? Suggestions below please!


  1. Fun idea for a list! I suppose one could add many other examples.
    One that comes to my mind I find particularly compelling would be John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers. Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce, Peter Greene, Mick Fleetwood, John McVie and Mick Taylor all played with John Mayall before they formed other successful bands like Cream and Fleetwood Mac, or in the case of Mick Taylor joined The Rolling Stones.
    Speaking of The Stones, each Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood and Charlie Watts have released solo albums. Another band that comes to mind is Pink Floyd, where Roger Waters and David Gilmour in particular established themselves as solo artists.

    • Mayall is a really good call actually – Clapton was already famous when he joined, but that’s a lot of talent that passed through.
      If I was picking favourite Pink Floyd solo career, I’d choose Syd Barrett actually.

  2. Great list but while it’s true that Don Henley had the most successful solo career after The Eagles, Glenn Frey had a couple of really good albums and hits as well, ie. “Smuggler’s Blues.” While not as noteworthy, I have to say that Don Felder’s only big hit, “Heavy Metal” from the soundtrack of the film with the same name is my favourite song of Eagles’ solo stuff.

    • I had a Frey greatest hits once, and didn’t really enjoy it – for some reason it omitted Smugglers Blues, which didn’t help. Schmitt’s the guy that I’m wondering about checking out his solo stuff.

  3. Imaginative Fun Post!
    The Runaways come to mind – Joan Jett and Lita Ford…they had bigger careers than The Runaways…commercial wise.
    For a less known one that won’t count… The Mynah Birds who were signed with Motown that had the oddest pair ever… Rick James and Neil Young

  4. When I saw “Lamb’ i thought it was going to be a take on that album. Interesting take. We had a small chat on this with your Roxy piece. I followed those members solo works. I like following the paths band members branch out on. I guess one of the first of these for me was all the Graham Bond/John Mayall/Yardbirds/Cream bunch. Makes my head spin. Then you have the King Crimson line. Good stuff.

  5. Great idea this. Off the top of my head, I guess Kyuss would be one of mine – Homme and Bjork, Queens of the Stone Age (and others) and Fu Manchu. There’s also Oliveri and Mondo Generator.

    • I figured you’d come up with something in the 1990s. Kyuss does have a bunch of offshoots, although I didn’t know Bjork at all – had to Google it to make sure you weren’t talking about the Icelandic lady (who I assumed wasn’t a stoner desert band…).

  6. The eagles also had Timothy Schmidt and Randy Meisner who had some success (e.g. Top 40 hits) after leaving the eagles. This makes 5, the most of any group I believe.
    Fleetwood Mac had 4 solo members who had top 40 hits AFTER leaving the group. (Dave Mason joined after he had solo hits, which I don’t think counts.)
    Bob Welch
    Stevie Nicks
    Christine McVie
    Lyndsey Buckingham

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