13 Bands Who Carried On Without Founding Members

Music is a connection to the soul that speaks without words. It counsels, heals, inspires, and rages just as we do, and without it, life would be much more mundane. Thanks to all those musicians who’ve picked up a microphone or an instrument to soothe our weary selves, this list is all about bands who’ve carried the torch without one or more of their original members.


Dimebag Darrel
Image Credit: Rik Goldman via CC2.0 / WikiCommons.

In 1981, brothers Dimebag Darrel and Vinnie Paul became the cornerstone members of the rock band Pantera. With hits like “Walk” and “Domination,” their unique sound propelled them into superstardom among heavy metal rock bands of the eighties. Darell was shot and killed on stage in 2004 during a concert, while Paul left the band before dying of heart failure in 2018. As of 2022, the band features Zakk Wylde and Charlie Benante as fill-ins for Darrell and Paul.


Speedway, IN/USA - May 27, 2016: The rock group Journey performs at an outdoor concert in Indiana.
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While Steve Perry wasn’t an original member of this group, he was the lead vocalist for every song most Journey fans attribute to their distinctive sound, songs like “Faithfully” and “Don’t Stop Believin.” He left the band in 1998 after a falling out with his bandmates. Journey continued to make music, although they have yet to reach the heights they did when Perry was leading vocals and writing music.


LINCOLN, CA - June 22: Lynyrd Skynyrd performs at Thunder Valley Casino and Resort in Lincoln, California on June 22, 2013
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Active since 1964, this rock band is known for hits like “Free Bird” and “Simple Man;” the band is one of the most notable of the ’70s and ’80s. However, in 1977, they took a massive personal hit when three original band members died in a plane crash. The band entered the Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame in 2006.


Clarkston, Michigan -USA- Jully 13, 2023: The band Jefferson Starship performs live at Pine Knob Music Theater as guest for Bret Michaels
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Founded in 1974 as Jefferson Starship, the band created hits like “We Built This City” and “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now;” Jefferson Starship, then shortened to Starship, produced some of the hottest radio hits of the ’80s. Two lawsuits over the band’s name and use of previous members’ likenesses rippled through the band, which still tours and has undergone several member changes since its first album.

5. AC/DC

Live Concert of ACDC
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In 1973, Australian brothers Malcolm and Angus Young started one of the most notorious rock bands of the ’80s and ’90s, with hits like “Thunderstruck” and “Back in Black.” Original singer Bon Scott tragically died at 33 while the album Back in Black was being recorded. Brian Johnson took over as lead singer and still is today. Back in Black became one of the best rock albums of all time, selling over 25 million copies in the United States.


Detroit, Michigan / USA - 09-18-2019: GWAR performing live at the Majestic Theater in Detroit
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GWAR, founded in 1984, is a heavy metal band from Richmond, Virginia, and purposefully features a lineup of rotating artists and musicians. When frontman Dave Brockie died in 2014, the band no longer had any of its founding members. The remaining members created a foundation to remember Brockie, encourage future artists, and preserve Brockie’s body of work.


Clisson, France - June 16, 2023: Skid Row perform at the Hellfest Open Air festival
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Founded in 1986, this American rock band achieved commercial success by 1990 with Billboard hits like “I Remember You” and “18 and Life.” Sebastian Bach was the frontman for the height of Skid Row’s success but eventually had creative differences with other band members. Johnny Solinger replaced him in 1999, and the band continues to make music today.


Foreigner rock band
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In 1976, Mick Jones came up with the band’s name as half of the members were British and half were American. This lineup meant there would always be foreigners in the band, regardless of the country they played events in. “Feels Like the First Time” and “Hot Blooded” became Billboard chart singles, skyrocketing the band to become one of the best-selling rock bands in the late seventies and eighties. Of all the original band members, Mick Jones is the only one left.


DENVER AUGUST 8: Max Cavalera performs August 8, 2001 at the Fillmore Auditorium in Denver, CO.
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This Brazilian heavy metal band formed in 1984 when Max and Igor Cavalera belted out their most successful albums from 1989 to 1996. It sold over three million units in the United States and almost 20 million worldwide, including in countries like France, Australia, Indonesia, the U.S., and Cyprus. Obviously, in Brazil, they gained renowned fame. However, by 1996, Max Cavalera was ready for something new and performed his last set at Brixton Academy on December 16th.


Musicians performing in concert
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1967 saw a German electronic band come to success, with one founding member staying true to his roots until he died in 2015. Edgar Froese was active throughout the band’s life from 1967 to 2015. Phaedra and Rubycon were their two chart-topping albums in the U.K.


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It’s hard to think of Queen without their iconic singer Freddie Mercury. He was a fan of the band Smile, which featured guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor before the three formed Queen in 1970.

After Mercury died in 1991, the band released the album Made in Heaven, which featured Mercury, in 1995. The band recorded  “No One but You (Only the Good Die Young),” featuring a three-piece lineup of May, Taylor, and bassist John Deacon. Deacon would retire later that year, while May and Taylor continued to perform together. They would officially reunite Queen and tour, featuring Paul Rodgers and Adam Lambert as vocalists.

12. STYX

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Best known for their hits such as “Lady,” “Come Sail Away,” “Renegade,” and “Babe,” the founding lineup of Styx features Dennis DeYoung, James “J.Y.” Young, John “J.C.” Curulewski, Chuck Panozzo, and John Panozzo. John Curulewski would leave the band before a 1975 tour, with Tommy Shaw replacing him. That’s not the departure everyone knows about, though.

While Styx saw iconic members come and go during the 1980s and 1990s, Dennis DeYoung left the band for good in the late 90s. He felt ill in 1998 and asked the band for some time to recover while they worked on their upcoming album, Brave New World. Styx instead replaced him with Lawrence Gowan in 1999, subsequently going on tour. DeYoung would then sue the band.

There is little to no chance of a reunion between DeYoung and Styx.


Image Credit: GNU Free Documentation License 1.2 CC 3.0 / WikiCommons.

Southern rock band Molly Hatchet, best known for their hit “Flirtin’ with Disaster,” formed in 1971. Founded by guitarist Dave Hlubek, the lineup for its 1978 debut album features Hlubek, Danny Joe Brown, Duane Roland, Steve HJolland, Banner Thomas, and Bruce Camp.

The band would see a revolving door of members from the 1980s through the mid-2000s when Hlubek would return—however, lead vocalist Danny Joe Brown. Guitarist Duane Roland died in 2006. Hlubek himself died in 2017. In fact, by 2020, every original member of the band had passed. The current lineup features John Galbin, Bobby Ingram, Shawn Beamer, Tim Lindsey, and Parker Lee.


The Fugutive
Image Credit: Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.


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