8

This question arrived after conversing about the spontaneous variety that is Les Claypool. I ask in terms of artists (whether they are, or have been, a singer, guitarist, or bassist, pianist, or any other artist) that has/had a lead role in more bands than any other front man.

As I do not listen to every single genre, or am not familiar with every single band, I figured I'd ask a community of well-rounded, diverse, experienced listeners.

  • I doubt he's the record holder, but Jack White is known for fronting a number of different projects. – Chris Sunami Nov 19 '15 at 18:46
  • Jack White was one I thought of, considering he's led the White Stripes, The Raconteurs, Dead Weather, The Upholsters, and himself, (there may be others beyond that.) I'll do a little more research to verify. I'll need to run his number of bands against other notable artists that may appear as an answer or comment to my question. – Jasper Nov 19 '15 at 19:54
  • My best guess would be Dave Grohl. Aside Nirvana and Foo Fighters he participated in so many great bands (to many to list in a comment), but i am not sure if you can call that a lead role, because he mostly recorded in studio for some albums or songs but had no permanent role in the bands... – kl78 Nov 19 '15 at 21:19
5

This is a tough question to answer, as it depends on the definition of the word "band". Did they have to have toured? Did they have to record an album? Did they have to have more than one actual member? Is the front man considered a member of his backup band, i.e. is James Brown a J.B. or Bruce Springsteen in the E Street Band? Etc. etc. etc. That having been said, let's give it a shot.


Les Claypool is definitely up there, as the front man of seven bands:

  • Primus
  • Les Claypool and the Holy Mackarel
  • Colonel Les Claypool's Fearless Flying Frog Brigade
  • Oysterhead
  • Colonel Claypool's Bucket of Bernie Brains
  • Electric Apricot
  • Sausage

He also has a solo album or two among his discography, usual featuring himself playing a number of instruments and some guest appearances for a track or two by various musicians.

Another musician who has been in a lot of bands is Bill Laswell. Looking through his discography, it's tough tell how many of the groups and bands he has been in would actually qualify as a "band", and how many of those "bands" he has actually led.

Bootsy Collins has also led a number of bands. In addition to being an important member of the J.B.'s, Parliament, Funkadelic, and Praxis, he has led the following bands:

  • The Pacemakers
  • The House Guests
  • Bootsy's Rubber Band
  • Sweat Band
  • Bootsy's New Rubber Band (if you count that separately from Bootsy's Rubber Band)
  • Zillatron
  • Science Faxtion

As for Dave Grohl, he has been in a large number of bands as well, and it seems he has led or co-led most of the bands and projects he has been involved with since the dissolution of Nirvana. These include:

  • Foo Fighters
  • Late! (recorded before Nirvana, released afterward; he was the only member)
  • Harlingtox A.D. (recorded before Nirvana, released afterward; I'm unsure if he was actually the leader/front man or not)
  • Probot (he was the only member)
  • Them Crooked Vultures (co-leader)

He has also drummed with Queens of the Stage Age and Tenacious D since Nirvana ended.

Another musician who is up there is Sammy Hagar, who has been in a number of bands, and as the lead singer has been the front man of pretty much all of them.

  • Montrose
  • The Waboritas (his long-time backup band)
  • Hagar Schon Aaronson Shrieve
  • Van Halen
  • The Hagar/Hart Project
  • Chickenfoot
  • The Circle

We also have Robert Plant, who has fronted five bands

  • Band Of Joy
  • Led Zeppelin
  • The Honeydrippers
  • Page And Plant
  • Strange Sensation (his backup band)

As @papakias mentioned in his answer, Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree has also fronted a number of bands.

There's also the little known musician Paul McCartney, who has fronted

  • The Quarrymen
  • The Beatles
  • Wings
  • The Fireman
  • A variety of touring bands, whose names I've been unable to find

You also have George Clinton, who has been leading bands/groups/collectives since the 1950s.

  • The Parliaments
  • Funkadelic
  • Parliament
  • P-Funk All Stars
  • A variety of one-off, studio-only groups, like Incorporated Thang Band, Our Gang Funky, and the P-Funk Guitar Army, among others.

Those are the only prolific frontmen I've been able to think of for the time being; I'll add more if think of anyone else.

4

There are many "front men" who fronted one or two bands that were famous, early in their careers, and then went on working for decades with a long series of obscure bands that never gained much fame and that you've never heard of. So if we were to list their names it might not mean much to you.

By the same token, there are many "front men" who began their careers by singing with a long series of bands who played local clubs in their home towns and never got a recording contract, never put out an album, and typically each band did not have a long history. And then the singer joined a band that became famous. So for every "front man" you could name, it's highly likely that they sang in a dozen bands before the singer became a star. Do we know the names of all of these early bands at the beginning of the stars' careers? No, we don't.

For these reasons, it's not practical to crown a winner in this category of yours because the category has to be very loosely defined.

That notwithstanding, here are some of the biggest names in British hard rock:

Joe Lynn Turner has been the front man for:

  • Fandango

  • Rainbow

  • Yngwie Malmsteen

  • Deep Purple

  • Mother's Army

  • Brazen Abbot

  • Hughes Turner Project

  • Sunstorm

  • Jan Holberg Project

  • Rated X

Graham Bonnet has fronted so many bands I can't list them, so look up his Wikipedia page.

  • I never liked Bonnet, but damn he's fronted just about every Rock band that ever existed. – Johnny Bones Dec 1 '17 at 14:16
3

Steven Wilson has been the frontman of:

  • Porcupine Tree
  • Blackfield
  • His own solo band
  • Storm Corrosion
  • I.E.M. (Incredible Expanding Mindfuck)
  • Bass Communion
  • No-Man
2

Roy Wood

Apart from playing 17 instruments or more, he’s been involved with

  • Hi @Jax, welcome to Music Fans SE! Thank you for your answer :) I have submitted an edit improving the formatting and adding links to Wikipedia. If you feel it's alright, then could you please approve it? Also, since we are not a discussion forum, do go through our tour to get familiar with this site and how we function. :) – Brahadeesh Apr 27 at 4:56

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