(Continuing last month’s post about whether there was another rock and roll band whose members enjoyed as much success as solo artists as the Beatles.)
Cream and Traffic were short-lived, mid- to late-60s bands that did pretty well as ensembles and and spawned some successful solo artists. Eric Clapton of the former has recorded 23 solo LPs (2 of them No. 1s) and almost 60 singles (five No. 1s).
The other two Cream members, Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce, recorded 18 and 14 solo albums, some of the former’s with Ginger Baker’s Air Force and his Baker Gurvitz Army. Neither artist had much chart success, although one of Bruce’s did make it into the U.S. Top 100.
Traffic lasted about three times longer than Cream’s two-year life, in two stints. Steve Winwood has had a a solid solo career, seven of his nine LPs charting in the Top 30; he also recorded four Top 40 singles.
Bandmate Dave Mason did 15 solo albums, and three of his 13 singles were Top 40s. Traffic’s Jim Capaldi cut 12 albums, two of which charted in the Top 100. Chris Wood recorded one solo album.
The Byrds may not have been as commercially successful as some of these other groups, although their influence on rock was huge. And eight of their 12 studio LPs were Top 40s, and two of their seven Top 40 hits were No. 1s.
The seminal folk- and country-rock band also produced a bunch of solo artists, chief among them Jim/Roger McGuinn and David Crosby. The former recorded nine solo albums, two that charted in the Top 100, and three singles.
Crosby had seven solo albums and 11 singles, one of the latter a No. 3 on the Mainstream Rock chart, but is also known post-Byrds for being part of Crosby Stills and Nash and Young. Gene Clark and Chris Hillman did 14 and seven solo albums, respectively, the latter having some success on the country and bluegrass charts.
Many of the British Invasion bands besides the Beatles and Stones had a lot of success, and some still tour. The Animals had some big hits, and produced one notable solo performer, Eric Burdon.
Another original Animal, Alan Price, recorded 14 solo albums, only two of which charted. (Another bandmate, Chas Chandler, got out of recording and into management and production, helping to make Jimi Hendrix a star.)
Graham Nash came out of the Hollies — who are still a band — and did six solo LPs after moving on to CSN/Y, his first a No. 15. Bandmate Allan Clarke has done eight solo albums, but without much success
Genesis wasn’t quite in the same league as some of the other groups — only 21.5 million album sales in the U.S., although the worldwide total is more like 100-150 million. Like Fleetwood Mac, much of that occurred after a sea change in the band’s makeup: a progressive rock band with minimal record sales in the earlier years, after Peter Gabriel left and Phil Collins replaced him as front man, the group went pop-ish, and big time.
The Collins-led Genesis had 17 Top 40 singles, five straight Top Fives including a No. 1. But after Collins left, the band had very little chart success.
Collins, though, as a solo artist, lit it up: eight solo albums, all top 40s, four of them Top 10s, and two of those No. 1s. He had 26 charting singles (as lead artist), 21 of them charting in the Top 40, including seven No. 1s and five others in the Top Five.
Gabriel, who was not accessible enough for Collins and the other band members, went on to record nine solo albums, three of them Top 10s, two of those No. 2s; one of those was the multi-platinum So.
Steve Hackett, Genesis’ lead guitarist, also had a solo career. That included 19 solo rock albums, plus five in the “classical” genre and one blues LP; none of them made it into the U.S. Top 100, but several charted well in U.K.
Mike Rutherford, Genesis’ bassist, had a bit more solo and other success. He recorded four Top 40 singles with the Mike and Mechanics, including three Top 10s, one a No. 1. He also did two solo albums, the highest charting a No. 145, and six solo singles, one of those a Top 40 in the U.S. Mainstream Rock chart.
There were a number of Black groups that had huge success — the Motown and Stax acts, in particular — but they didn’t seem to spin off solo artists like the white rock and rollers. Don’t know why that was — racism? The way the bands were managed, by the likes of Berry Gordy?
Diana Ross had a big solo career after leaving the Supremes, who had an amazing run of 11 No. 1 hits over a four-year period. But the other members continued the group; Florence Ballard and Mary Wilson cut a few solo albums and singles, but without much success.
The Miracles were a similar story, incorporating the name of their lead singer into the band’s name and carrying on after Smokey Robinson departed for an eventual solo career. Smokey had limited chart success by himself — a handful of Top 40 singles, one of them a No. 2 — but the Miracles quickly faded without him.
Ditto for Martha and the Vandellas, who had a great run in the ’60s and early ’79s. Lead singer Martha Reeves recorded two solo albums that were well received critically but didn’t sell well. The Four Tops also had a string of ’60s hits, but continued to perform together into the late ’90s, and didn’t spin off any solos.
The Temptations sold a lot of records, and had four No. 1 hits. Original member Eddie Kendricks had some solo success, including a No. 1 and a No. 2 in 1973; Paul Williams tried to launch a solo career early that same year, but was found dead in August, an apparent suicide.
The Jackson 5 were also hugely successful — 16 Top 40 hits, four consecutive No. 1s when they debuted — and of course produced, Michael Jackson. The King of Pop was one of the best-selling artists of all time as a solo act; older brother Jermaine also went solo, recording a six Top 20 singles and a bunch of albums, one of which was nominated for a Grammy.
So, the answer to the question my wife posed a couple months ago — was there another rock and roll band whose members enjoyed as much success as solo artists as the Beatles? — is, in my opinion, “No.”