12 Super Supergroups And One That Almost Was
Supergroup (ˈsü-pər ˈgrüp): A musical group whose members have experienced individual success either solo or with another band. These groups pop up for a multitude of reasons and range from flashes in the pan to long-standing forces in the field of music.
Press play to your left and start mentally preparing your objections for the comments at the bottom. WARNING: This playlist may cause musical whiplash, rock with caution. From country to hip-hop to metal and beyond, here’s a list of 12 of the best supergroups.
12. Damn Yankees
Even the last place group on our list had their debut album go double platinum in 1990, which is to say that ordering this list was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. Damn Yankees were made up of guitarist Tommy Shaw of Styx, Ted Nugent of solo fame, Jack Blades of Night Ranger, and a then unknown drummer, Michael Cartellone who would later go on to join Lynyrd Skynyrd.
They enjoyed a fair amount of mainstream success with singles “Coming of Age,” “Come Again,” and the rock ballad “High Enough.” After the release and success of their self-titled debut album that, if you missed it the first time, WENT DOUBLE PLATINUM, they launched a year-and-a-half tour of the globe with Bad Company, Poison, and Jackyl. The band dissolved in 1994 when Ted Nugent resumed his solo career.
Audioslave, or as I like to call them, RageGarden, were a supergroup formed in the early 2000’s after the disbanding of hyper-political rock outfit Rage Against the Machine. Following Zack de la Rocha’s departure, the rest of Rage (guitarist Tom Morello, drummer Brad Wilk, and bass player Tim Commerford) joined forces with ex-Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell.
While initially sounding like a blend of the two bands, Audioslave quickly found their own voice and made a splash on the charts and at awards shows. While only existing for six years, the band released three studio albums, were nominated for three Grammy’s and were the first American rock band to headline an outdoor concert in Cuba. Audioslave may have started as a fusion group, but they definitely left their own unique marks on music history.
10. One Day as a Lion
Some might say “power duo,” some might say “supergroup,” but most will say “who?” While One Day as a Lion had a hot start with their debut, five-song EP One Day as a Lion peaking at 28 on iTunes US charts and as high as #3 on iTunes US indie charts, they never released any more music and eventually let this promising project fall by the wayside.
The members of this funky and now defunct rap-rock duo were Zack de la Rocha of Rage Against the Machine and Jon Theodore, the former drummer of The Mars Volta and current drummer of Queens of the Stone Age. Their styles blended perfectly in a flurry of furious vocals and jaw-dropping drumming. They are the best modern supergroup that no one even remembers.
9. Them Crooked Vultures
We’re into single numbers with an LA-based rock supergroup, Them Crooked Vultures. Comprised of John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin on bass and keys, Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age on guitar and vocals, and Dave Grohl of Nirvana and the Foo Fighters on drums; the band performed their first gig in February 2009 and their first self-titled album was released in November of the same year. Quickly garnering attention from the members’ individual fame alone, the Vultures wasted no time in setting themselves apart from anything they had ever done before.
The trio received glowing critical praise in addition to strong album sales and tour attendance. By blending their years of expertise in various subgenres of rock, along with Homme and Grohl’s familiarity from Grohl’s stint with Queens of the Stone Age, they created an impressive project that has fans clamoring hopefully for more. The band has not officially broken up and are officially listed as being “on hiatus” so keep your ears peeled for something to randomly pop up and blow you away.
8. Velvet Revolver
Velvet Revolver rose from the ashes of two of the biggest rock bands in the last 30 years, Guns N Roses and Stone Temple Pilots. When Axl Rose and the rest of the band had a falling out, Slash, bassist Duff McKagan, and drummer Matt Sorum teamed up with late Stone Temple Pilots singer Scott Weiland and Wasted Youth rhythm guitarist Dave Kushner.
The five-piece rock supergroup only released two studio albums, 2004’s Contraband, and 2007’s Libertad, but still enjoyed mainstream and critical success. In their short existence, they snagged two Grammy nominations and cashed in on one of them, winning the 2005 Grammy for "Best Hard Rock Performance" for the song “Slither.” The group disbanded in 2008 following Weiland’s return to Stone Temple Pilots. Although they attempted briefly to find another vocalist, they were never able to replace what Scott Weiland brought to their sound.
While not a traditional supergroup, Toto is what is known as a studio supergroup. After being included on albums for popular groups like Steely Dan and Sonny and Cher, the Porcaro brothers (drummer Jeff and keys player Steve) and several other well-known and sought after studio musicians joined forces to release some of the catchiest hits of the '80s.
Toto’s biggest hit is, of course, “Africa” from the 1982 album Toto IV. The triple platinum album signified the band’s most successful era of their short history. Also on this album was smash hit “Rosanna.” All of their songs and albums combine to create a dynamic range of sounds that show off each member’s rich history of successful recording.
Toto is still touring and making music, though with somewhat of a skeleton crew at this point. Their fourteenth album Toto XIV was released in 2015. Legendary bassist Leland Sklar has taken over as the band's touring bass player in recent years and brings a fresh kind of funk to the band’s familiar '80s hits.
6. The Highwaymen
I honestly feel a little disrespectful for not having this group in the top 5, but Bullet Music lists are a cut throat business and we do what we must. Only one word can describe the members of this country music supergroup: legendary. Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, and Kris Kristofferson struck gold – well, platinum – with the formation of The Highwaymen in 1985.
Their first, self-titled album reached #1 on the US country chart with the single of the same name finding its way up to #1 as well. A remake of Guy Clark’s “Desperados Waiting for a Train” found the group once again inside the top 20 and set them up for a top 40 album and Grammy nomination for their second album Highwayman 2. Odds are that you’re a fan of at least one of these members, so do yourself a favor and get acquainted with The Highwaymen.
5. Run the Jewels
The biggest Cinderella story of this countdown, four-year-old rap supergroup Run the Jewels is the first artist to crack our top five. Run the Jewels is the brainchild of Brooklyn rapper and producer El-P as well as Atlanta Native and Dungeon Family member Killer Mike. Their often hyper-political lyrics and entrancing beats have caused their popularity to soar.
Since releasing their first self-titled studio album for free in 2013, RTJ has released two more albums, Run the Jewels 2 and 3 as well as a charity remake of their first album, Meow the Jewels, made entirely with cat sounds. Their live shows exude a level of raw energy and passion that brings fans of different races, genders, and socioeconomic situations together under the great equalizer that is music. Run the Jewels have a summer tour planned in support of their latest album.
View those tour dates HERE
4. Bad Company
Bad Company are one of the original supergroups, and certainly one of the first to find consistent success and be more than a benefit band or a flash in the pan. The UK rock supergroup first took shape in Westminister, London in 1973. Ex-Free members Paul Rodgers (vocals) and Simon Kirke (drums) collaborated with Mott the Hoople guitarist Mick Ralphs and King Crimson bassist Boz Burrell. Even the manager of this band was a “super” manager. Peter Grant pulled double duty managing both Bad Company and fellow-UK stars Led Zeppelin.
Some of their greatest and longest lasting hits are the self-titled “Bad Company,” “Feel Like Makin’ Love,” and “Shooting Star,” among several others. The original lineup, dubbed the “Paul Rodgers Era,” spanned from 1973 to 1982 and represents the most successful period of the band’s history. Although they are still technically active, much like Toto, it’s a shell of the former supergroup lineup that got them to number four on this list.
3. Foo Fighters
Flying in at number three on the list, Foo Fighters from Seattle, Washington pack a powerful punch of modern alternative style built on top of a solid grunge foundation. Frontman and ex-Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl initially started Foo Fighters as a solo project following the death of his best friend and bandmate, Kurt Cobain. After releasing what was essentially a solo album with the self-titled Foo Fighters in 1995, Dave recruited Sunny Day Real Estate bassist Nate Mendel, his old Nirvana bandmate, Pat Smear, well-known punk guitarist Chris Shiflett, and Alanis Morissette’s touring drummer Taylor Hawkins.
Foo Fighter’s success came early and has continued to grow over the last 22 years since the first album’s release. Easily the longest-lasting and most long-term successful supergroup in history. Even without staying relevant and consistently topping charts for over 20 years, the mere fact that they have stayed together that long has them in contention for the greatest supergroup ever. Luckily for us, they have been a model of consistency and how to do it the right way. Nothing but positivity, caring for your fans, and treating your crew like family ever comes out of the Foo camp. If this list were based on personal preference alone, I would have them at number 1, but there’s no way I could ever replace the bands at the top.
Eric Clapton. Ginger Baker. Jack Bruce. Three of the most talented and successful musicians in British rock history. With four top-30 hits and the first platinum-selling double album in the world, it’s a shame this power trio only lasted three short years. From 1966 to 1968, Cream dominated the musical landscape.
With catchy tunes like “Sunshine of Your Love,” blues standards like “Crossroads,” and psychedelic jams such as personal favorite, “White Room,” Cream was able to sell 15 million albums in a three-year span. Widely regarded as the first successful supergroup, Cream has only had a small handful of reunion performances since their breakup in ’68, the most recent of these coming in 2005 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. With the death of bassist Jack Bruce in 2014, it’s safe to say that we’ll have to say goodbye to Cream officially. One of the greatest and most influential groups of all time, and they only needed three years to do it.
Bonus: The Greatest Supergroup That Almost Was - XYZ
I’m sure you’re probably thinking about who could possibly be better than bands like Bad Company, Foo Fighters, Velvet Revolver, and now Cream. But before we get to the big reveal, let’s take a second to recognize the premature death of what could have been the most musically amazing supergroup ever.
XYZ was the almost-happened supergroup comprised of ex-Yes bassist and drummer, Chris Squire and Alan White, along with Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin. XYZ was said to have stood for eX-Yes-&-Zeppelin to reflect the members’ musical lineages. Springing up shortly after the death of Page’s close friend and bandmate, John Bonham, they attempted to recruit Led Zeppelin vocalist Robert Plant as well, but the complexity of the music that the two Yes members and Page had composed turned him off of the idea.
Although a few demos were recorded, there were never any official releases or shows. Lord knows what kind of bullshit Yes could pull out of their pockets with Jimmy Page on lead guitar. If a singer had been acquired, we may be talking about them at the top of this list, but instead we're talking about….
1. The Traveling Wilburys
If you’ve never heard of the Traveling Wilburys, then I guarantee your dad has, and even if he hasn’t there’s no way you don’t know the individual members. Bob Dylan, George Harrison (The Beatles), Jeff Lynne (Electric Light Orchestra), Roy Orbison, and Tom Petty round out a stacked lineup. The band was only able to completely record and release one album before Orbison died in 1988, the same year that the first album was released.
With that being said, in a group so packed with superstars that Tom Petty is playing bass, they would have hit this #1 spot even if they only ever played one song at a benefit for three-toed lizards in Peru. Their first album went 6x platinum in Canada and 3x platinum in the US and won the Grammy for "Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group." They didn’t have much time, but they made the absolute most of it. The Traveling Wilburys are a true all-star team of immaculate musicians.