All things considered, being a rock star is a great way to make a living. These men and women get paid, and sometimes obscenely, to do a thing they love and express themselves, all while earning the adulation and devotion of the millions of fans whose lives they soundtrack. Despite all the unique trappings, perks, and weird circumstances of being in a rock band for a living, however, it’s still very much a job. Just like almost everyone else, musicians have to get along well with others and work toward a common goal — and pull their own weight in the process.
Sometimes an employee isn’t a good fit, behaves poorly, or turns out to be underqualified for their job. The same thing happens with rock bands, leading to some very awkward band meetings and the dismissal of a colleague. Most people are probably going to get fired at least once in their lives, even musicians. These guys are special cases, however — they got the proverbial pink slip from more than one prominent rock band.
Stone Temple Pilots and Velvet Revolver had their fill of Scott Weiland
Scott Weiland brought blues singer and crooner elements to his work as the frontman for the metal-meets-alternative band Stone Temple Pilots. STP sold 18 million albums (according to The Morning Call) and scored one hit after another, like “Plush,” “Wicked Garden,” “Interstate Love Song,” and “Big Bang Baby.” After splitting up in 2003 and reuniting in 2008, STP made a big change in 2013 when it fired Weiland. It told the world via a curt press release (via Rolling Stone): “Stone Temple Pilots have announced they have officially terminated Scott Weiland.” Just before the news broke, as luck would have it, Rolling Stone had interviewed the singer, who addressed rumors that the band was in disarray. “There were some hurt egos,” he said. “No one has ever fired anybody in STP.” After his band publicly fired him, Weiland released a statement revealing that he’d found out about his “supposed ‘termination'” by “reading about it in the press.”
After his first split with STP in 2003, Weiland quickly moved on, singing for the hard rock supergroup Velvet Revolver, the home of three ex-Guns N’ Roses members. Its debut album Contraband hit #1 on the Billboard album chart, and follow-up Libertad peaked at #5, but that wasn’t enough to save Weiland’s job. Following a tour, Velvet Revolver fired the singer in April 2008. “This band is all about its fans and its music and Scott Weiland isn’t 100% committed to either,” guitarist Slash said in a statement (via Blabbermouth).
Van Halen and Montrose both sent Sammy Hagar away
Had guitar virtuoso Ronnie Montrose formed Montrose, his accessible hard rock group, in the 1980s, he might have been more successful. By that time, bands like Boston and Van Halen had made the seamless combination of pop hooks and metal riffs popular and familiar. Instead, Montrose became a band with a small following and a couple of minor hits in the mid-’70s. Montrose is also linked to Van Halen in that the group’s second frontman, Sammy Hagar, got his start as the vocalist for Montrose. Upon the recording of the band’s sophomore album Paper Money, “we didn’t know what we were doing,” Hagar said in Martin Popoff’s Montrose biography Rock the Nation (via Ultimate Classic Rock). “And Ronnie was so insecure that he told us on the making of the second record we’re too late in this whole game, we have to change, otherwise we’re not going to make it.” Needing to make a big move quickly, Ronnie Montrose got rid of Hagar.
Hagar joined Van Halen in 1985, replacing the departed David Lee Roth. When he wanted to take some downtime after an album and tour to hang out with his newborn baby in 1996, according to The Spokesman-Review, it incensed bandmate Eddie Van Halen. After the band recorded two new songs with Roth for a greatest hits album (which Hagar was opposed to), Hagar found himself out of his band. Eddie Van Halen fired him on Father’s Day 1996.
The frequently fired Aynsley Dunbar is a one-man history of rock
Aynsley Dunbar just might be the Forrest Gump of classic rock. The English drummer has kept the beat for a number of disparate successful acts, including the Mothers of Invention, David Bowie, Jefferson Starship, and Whitesnake. He started out in Britain’s thriving blues-rock movement, landing a job as drummer with John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers in 1966. Many legendary musicians did a spell in that band, including the Rolling Stones’ Mick Taylor, Eric Clapton, and Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac — who replaced Dunbar after he was dismissed from the group in 1967.
But the drummer got his revenge, in a low-key, gentle way: He named his new blues-rock band The Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation as, well, a retaliation against Mayall. From there, he joined Journey, which, in the mid-’70s, was a progressive-rock and psychedelic jazz outfit. The band soon evolved and adopted an arena rock sound, which Dunbar didn’t like and refused to play. They had no choice but to let him go.
Jason Everman helped Nirvana and Soundgarden before they both got rid of him
Rock n’ roll lore is full of stories of guys who quit or were fired from bands just before they made it big — like Stuart Sutcliffe and Pete Best, both Beatles but before worldwide Beatlemania broke out. Guitarist Jason Everman is one such individual who missed out on rock-related stardom, having been a member of two of the most popular Seattle-based grunge bands. According to The New York Times, Nirvana was looking for a supplemental guitarist in 1989, and at the recommendation of original drummer Chad Channing, they brought in Everman. His playing was fine, but he alienated and upset his bandmates when, during a small venue tour, he fell into a deep depression and refused to talk to anyone. Nirvana ultimately canceled the tour prematurely, drove back to Seattle, and then ghosted Everman, simply not inviting him to future band events.
Around the same time that Nirvana passively fired Everman, Soundgarden’s Hiro Yamamoto quit, just after recording the group’s major label debut, Louder Than Love. Everman aced his audition and went on to play with Soundgarden during an American and European tour. When it was all over, Soundgarden held a band meeting and fired Everman.
Creed moved on without Scott Stapp, and his next band sued him
Creed was one of the most popular rock bands of the late ’90s and early 2000s, mixing sludgy riffs and spirituality heavy lyrics. Identified by the growly pipes of lead singer Scott Stapp, Creed sold millions of albums and dominated rock radio with hits like “Higher,” “With Arms Wide Open,” and “One.”
The group’s time at the top lasted less than a decade. In 2004, following a series of Stapp-related incidents (recovery from a car accident, canceled shows because of laryngitis, skipping songwriting sessions), the band fell apart. “Scott and I hadn’t been close for a while,” guitarist and chief composer Mark Tremonti told MTV, “and things just weren’t working out. … None of us really argued amongst each other. It was always Scott who had the problem.” It soon became clear that the split was really a termination. Two months later, the entirety of Creed, minus Stapp and with the addition of singer Myles Kennedy, released its first album under the name Alter Bridge.
Stapp went on to a moderately successful solo career and then joined the supergroup Art of Anarchy alongside former members of Disturbed and Guns N’ Roses. He didn’t leave that band on the best of terms, either — Art of Anarchy sued Stapp for $1.8 million in 2018, according to Metal Injection, for reneging on his promises to tour with the band and appear in promotional materials.
Dave Walker was a member of Fleetwood Mac and Black Sabbath, until he wasn't
Stretching from its early years as a blues band into its time as a soft rock juggernaut that sold 45 million copies of Rumours, Fleetwood Mac has had a lot of members come and go. After Danny Kirwan departed in 1972, according to FleetwoodMac.net, the band brought in Dave Walker, who’d honed his chops as a member of the similarly blues-oriented Savoy Brown. Walker reportedly couldn’t muster much material to contribute to the 1973 album Penguin, and the songs bandmates Bob Welch and Christine McVie wrote for him wound up sounding too much like Savoy Brown. The rest of the band couldn’t hide their animosity for Walker, and in the middle of 1973, scarcely a year after he joined up, he was kicked out of Fleetwood Mac.
Heavy metal pioneers Black Sabbath have had their own musical chairs issues, albeit revolving almost entirely around lead singer and consummate wild man Ozzy Osbourne. Infighting led Osbourne to step away from Black Sabbath in 1977, leaving the band “grasping at straws” for a replacement in order to record a new album on time, guitarist Tony Iommi recalled in Iron Man: My Journey Through Heaven and Hell with Black Sabbath. So, he called in his old friend, Dave Walker. Walker wrote a few songs with the band and performed with Sabbath on TV, but in 1978, Osbourne decided to return, necessitating Walker’s quick exit.
Brian Robertson was tossed from Thin Lizzy and Motorhead
Thin Lizzy, a bluesy Irish band, doesn’t have much in common with Motorhead, titans of chaotic heavy metal played fast and loud. The link between the bands, according to AllMusic: guitarist Brian Robertson, who played in both bands until the time came where nobody wanted him around anymore. In 1974, Glasgow native Robertson left home for London at age 18 to audition for the open guitar spot in Thin Lizzy. He got the job and, with Scott Gorham, provided one half of the group’s signature two-pronged guitar attack, as heard on hits like “The Boys Are Back in Town.”
In 1976, Thin Lizzy hit the road on an arena tour opening for Queen. Just prior to departure, Robertson got in a bar fight, and a bottle so deeply cut through his hand that he temporarily couldn’t play the guitar. Gary Moore filled in for him on the tour, but when Thin Lizzy reconvened to record Bad Reputation, they welcomed back Robertson on a provisional basis and didn’t even include his picture on the LP sleeve. By 1978, he was back in Thin Lizzy full-time, until the group decided that they actually preferred life without Robertson and let him go.
Robertson switched gears thoroughly, replacing Fast Eddie Clarke as the guitarist in Motörhead. It was an odd fit, and it didn’t last — after a single album, Another Perfect Day in 1983, and a subsequent support tour, Motörhead sent Robertson away.
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