Almost Famous: Musicians Who Just Missed Their Shot

Chris Willman
Stop The Presses!

If there’s any "type" you want to avoid becoming as a rock 'n' roll musician, it’s winding up as a famous band’s Pete Best – the guy who splits from the group right before they take over the world, as the Beatles did after Ringo Starr assumed Best’s spot at the drum kit. (Being the act’s “Pete Best” narrowly edges out being an "Andrew Ridgeley" as the fate to elude.)

The New York Times hit the jackpot on the Best trope this week, focusing a lengthy story on Jason Everman, who had the dishonor of being kicked out of both Nirvana and Soundgarden. These were “two rock bands that would sell roughly 100 million records combined,” as the Times pointed out. “At 26, he wasn’t just Pete Best, the guy the Beatles left behind. He was Pete Best twice.” But the story told by the newspaper is no tragedy. The moodiness that made Everman poor company in a van-full of musicians turned out to be perfectly suitable for his post-rock career choice, as a member of the U.S. Special Forces who was highly decorated for his service in Afghanistan and Iran. For Everman, joining the military wasn’t an act of desperation, but the ultimate punk-rock move. "I was in the cool bands," he said. "I was psyched to do the most uncool thing you could possibly do."

Not very many of the other Pete Bests of the world have a mantle full of medals to show for their post-rock careers. But not all of them fell into bitter jealousy over their near-misses, either. Here’s a gallery that includes early exiles from the Black Eyed Peas, Dixie Chicks, Destiny’s Child, Guns N’ Roses, and others who came thisclose to the big time:

Pete Best, formerly of the Beatles

He set the standard for close brushes with superstardom. He spent just over two years as a member of the group when he was sacked shortly after their first demos were recorded. Producer George Martin privately expressed a desire to use a session drummer in Best’s place, but that led the others to suggest they just axe Best altogether instead, a firing they left up to new manager Brian Epstein. "I decided that the drums, which are really the backbone of a good rock group, didn't give the boys enough support," Martin said years later. "They needed a good solid beat and I said to Brian, ‘Look, it doesn't matter what you do with the boys, but on record, nobody need know. I'm gonna use a hot drummer,' and I used the guy who was the best session drummer of the period…Now it was pretty tough for him and I felt guilty because I felt, maybe, I was the catalyst that had changed his life, so I'm sorry about that, Pete." Some of those seminal recordings with the original stickman did show up decades later in the Beatles' Anthology series, anyway. Best is still around and eager to update you on his last half-century at

Kim Hill, formerly of Black Eyed Peas

Hill was the proto-Fergie on the group’s first two albums, which sold in the low hundreds of thousands, not millions. What happened? Hill cited a few factors in a 2011 interview with the fan site PortalBEP. One was deteriorating chemistry with "I toured with them for over five years," Hill said. "So when things started to get a little tricky with will and I, it was very difficult for me to stand onstage and perform, because I felt like the chemistry had been tainted, and once your audience doesn’t believe that what you projecting is organic, it’s just not gonna work." But she also felt pressure to project a more sensual image. “Looking back, it probably sound sophomoric that I would leave, but a really knew that the band was about to take a turn, because there were a lot of pressure on me from the label [to] sex it up. They were like: ‘You are size 4, you are attractive – wear some rollerstakes and some panties and call it a day.' …I knew that songs like 'My Humps’ were on the horizon, and this is not an insult to Fergie or the Black Eyed Peas, that’s just not a record that I wanna make. ‘Cause I wanna make records that when I`m 90, I still feel comfortable singing them." Apparently the others weren't reluctant to let her go: "I never got a phone call from will, Apl, or Taboo. We have never spoken about that, since the day I quit in the end of 2000.” Though she’s done some recording over the last 12 years, Hill is mostly known for her DJing now.

Tracii Guns, formerly of Guns N’ Roses

At least Pete Best didn’t have to live with seeing his last name (made-up, or otherwise) incorporated into the name of the act that went on to superstardom without him. Not so Tracii Guns, who formed GNR with Axl Rose in 1985. Rose had been a member of Guns’ previous group, L.A. Guns, starting in 1982. "Axl at that point in time was a real gentleman,” Guns recalled in an interview this year with “He was a very smart and funny guy. The kind of guy you would want as a best friend." Guns blamed his ouster shortly into GNR’s history on the usual infighting, along with Axl’s increased mouthiness onstage. "I just stopped going to rehearsal. Axl would call me screaming and yelling, and then Izzy would get on the phone in a more calm voice and try to reason with me…The band had turned into the podium for Axl to speak onstage, which is a great place to speak your mind, but the other four guys onstage wanted to play our songs. We were to the point where we were playing six songs a night rather than 12." Surprisingly, he holds no apparent hard feelings: "As soon as Slash was in the band, I really started enjoying the band more. I think it worked out the best for everybody. I really do." He reformed L.A. Guns and went on to have three platinum albums without Axl.

Robin Lynn Macy and Laura Lynch, formerly of the Dixie Chicks

The Chicks never would have become the scourge of middle America if they’d kept Macy and Lynch as co-lead vocalists. But they probably never would have had two 10-million-selling albums, either. After Macy and Lynch formed the group with the Maguire sisters in 1989, the Chicks were widely viewed as a retro-Western group without much national potential, although they were favorites of fellow Texan George W. Bush. The Chicks' first album, Thank Heavens for Dale Evans, was self-issued in 1990. Macy quit around the time a second CD, Little Ol’ Cowgirl, came out in 1992. Lynch took on all the lead duties for their third and final indie release in '93 before being edged out two years later in favor of Natalie Maines, as the sisters decided to shoot for a more mainstream sound and major-label deal. According to a fan site dedicated to the two former members, Lynch “cried everyday…for six months” after her ouster. But she eventually married a $29 million Texas Lottery winner, which makes up for a lot of lost gold and platinum.

Dik Evans, formerly of U2 (The Hype)

In the early version of U2 known as the Hype, there were three guitarists, which turned out to be about two too many. Bono put down his six-string to concentrate on vocals, while the other one that came out on top in this game of musical chairs was the one with the cool nickname: Dave Evans, aka the Edge, aka Dik’s younger brother. But Dik didn’t get out of music after leaving the band in 1978. With Gavin Friday he co-founded the Virgin Prunes, sticking with the cult group till 1984. By some accounts, Dik was more interested in edgy music than the Edge. "Dik was a genius," Bono said in the book Conversations With Bono. "The government was paying for him to go to college in computer engineering. More than just a scholarship, where they pay your studies – they were paying him to study. He was that good. And then he joined the Virgin Prunes. So there were two mad musicians in the house for the Evans family." After quitting the Prunes (with whom he reunited in 2009 at Carnegie Hall), Dik went back to school and got his Ph.D in artificial intelligence technology.

LaTavia Roberson and LeToya Luckett, formerly of Destiny’s Child

Although the group formed as a quartet in Houston in 1997, these two were history a little more than two years later, a split instigated by their feelings that manager Mathew Knowles was favoring daughter Beyoncé and Kelly Rowland. They filed suit twice – first in 2000, shortly after they found themselves replaced in the group, and again in 2002, when they contended that the lyrics of "Survivor" violated their previous settlement by publicly disparaging them. "I have spoken to all the girls since then," Roberson told KempireRadio in 2012. "I've seen Beyonce and we've embraced each other and we've hugged…There's not a bitter bone in my body. Even through the breakup, I just have to believe that that was my fate in that group." Luckett also tried to show there were no hard feelings when she tweeted this year that the DC reunion that didn't include them was "the most entertaining Super Bowl I’ve ever seen in my life from start to finish!”

Dave Mustaine, formerly of Metallica

If anyone did a good job of overcompensating for his Pete Best complex in a big way, it was Mustaine. Some would say he more than made up for being fired from Metallica in 1983 by founding Megadeth, which had six consecutive platinum albums before their success began to wane. But it seemed as if he never got over the ouster. “It's like getting into a car crash; every time you close your eyes you relive the car crash, and every time someone brings up the name of that band it's like reliving a car crash,” he told Kerrang! magazine in 2004. That same year, he appeared in the Metallica documentary Some Kind of Monster, tearfully confronting Lars Ulrich about why they kicked him out 21 years earlier instead of just sending him to rehab. A reconciliation became apparent when Mustaine got up with Metallica and played several songs from the ’83 debut album on which he appeared, Kill ‘Em All, at a 2011 show in San Francisco. But he got in trouble with James Hetfield again after publicly proposing a Metallica/Megadeth supergroup. “I see him healthier now,” Hetfield told So What! magazine in 2012. "I see him as less of a bitter guy. But I do see a lot of stuff in the press with him talking about jamming with us and making an album. All this other crazy stuff. I read it and say to myself, 'Hold on. This is the Dave that we kind of wanted to forget about. You know, the big mouth…He doesn’t think too much before he [speaks]."

Glen Matlock, formerly of the Sex Pistols

Matlock can feel better about his lot in life than the bassist who replaced him – although Sid Vicious, obviously, is no longer around to feel anything at all. Some say Matlock’s professionalism was at odds with the image the Pistols wanted to project at the time, with guitarist Steve Jones claiming at the time that Matlock liked the Beatles, as if that were the worst possible insult in the London of early 1977. Matlock was still credited with co-writing most of the songs on the band’s lone studio album, and reportedly performed on it as a session musician. He told his version to Lehigh Valley Music earlier this year: "Basically, I really felt that Johnny Rotten changed soon as he got his face in the newspaper. Everything was aiming on him. I wasn’t jealous of him, but I thought I’d done more than a quarter share of the work, and I didn’t feel I’d been backed up. And it became a bit untenable, really. So I walked. I remember it was not the best career move…" But Matlock rejoined the group for a 1996 reunion tour and has played wiht htme on and off ever since. "Of all the people they could have asked, they asked me. So maybe I’m proved right."

Stephen Duffy, formerly of Duran Duran

A New Romantic before his time, Duffy co-founded Duran Duran with John Taylor and Nick Rhodes and was the band’s singer and lyricist before taking off in 1979, prior to the group signing a record contract. "I never had anything to do with any of the songs that made them famous. I certainly could have helped them become as big as Suicide," he joked in a 2004 interview with In the mid-2000s, Duffy reunited with Rhodes to record some of their unreleased Duran tunes from the late '70s, under the name the Devils. "I bumped into Nick at a Vivienne Westwood fashion show; I hadn't seen him for 20 years or something. He looked up at me and said, 'Why did you leave?' and then it appeared that I hadn't.” Why revive the old songs? "Nick hates waste and we obviously had an album's worth of material that no one had ever recorded. It was great fun pretending that it was 1979/'80 and that we had never heard any music made after [the Talking Heads'] Stop Making Sense." Taylor was unavailable to complete the reunion of the original Duran, but in any case, Duffy cheerfully joked that it was "the most unwanted reformation in the history of music." In the intervening decades, he’d gone on to become lead singer of the Lilac Time and co-write songs with Robbie Williams.

Eric Stefani, formerly of No Doubt

No Doubt was really "his" band at the outset. "I was completely passive," Gwen, Eric's sister, told the Telegraph. "My mom always said I was the peacemaker in the family. My older brother, Eric, was the leader, the creative one. I was just his puppet." In 1986, he founded No Doubt after fixating on the British band Madness and deciding he should form a Southern Cali ska band, for which Gwen was recruited as background vocalist. Long after she moved up in the ranks, Eric split after Tragic Kingdom was recorded but before it was released – in other words, right before they went from zeroes to heroes. He found a truer calling thereafter as an animator.