Thirteen Musicians Who Left the Band…And Then Returned

Grace Beehler, Isaac Slone, Tiffany Cahmi, Wayan Zoey on February 23, 2012

The longest running bands oftentimes have the most tumultuous lineups. Working and living together for months at a time (and in tight, tour bus-sized living quarters) can send any person over the edge – and out of the band. Whether the departure was amicable or whether it was acrimonious, sometimes the departed was so dearly missed that he ultimately returned to the band. We pulled together some of the most notable splits and returns. What are your thoughts? Are we missing any important band shakeups and triumphant returns?

1. Levon Helm, The Hawks – By the mid 1960s, Bob Dylan was interested in performing electric rock music and asked The Hawks to be his backing band. Disheartened by fans’ negative response to Dylan’s new sound, Levon Helm returned to Arkansas for what turned out to be a two-year layoff, being replaced by Mickey Jones. During this period Helm ended up working on off-shore oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico until he was asked to rejoin the band.

2. The Grateful Dead – Drummer Mickey Hart joined the dead in 1967 but left in 1971 due to conflicts between his father and the band’s management. Hart recorded a solo album during his time apart from the Dead, but rejoined in 1974 and remained in the band up until they officially disbanded in 1995. During his departure, Bill Kreutzmann took on the drum responsibilities by himself.

3. The Beach Boys – Al Jardine (guitarist and vocalist) quit The Beach Boys for a year in 1962 and worked in the airline industry for a year. Brian Wilson asked him to rejoin in 1963, and Jardine continued to be a touring member of the band up until 1998. Recently, Jardine announced his return to the Beach Boys for the band’s 50th anniversary. Also, though Wilson did not technically quit, he stopped touring with the band for two years due to deteriorating mental health. Wilson’s return was marked by the 1976 release of 15 Big Ones.

4. Fleetwood Mac – Another group with a tumultuous history of ever-changing lineups and rocky relationships. Singer and guitarist Lindsey Buckingham quit in 1987 to pursue a solo career then rejoined in 1996 for the tour and subsequent live album The Dance.

5. The Roots – Malik B of the Roots (an original member, though absent from Phrenology, was present on The Tipping Point, Game Theory, but then gone again as of How I Got Over) was publicly credited for leaving the group as a result of crack addiction, and he has never toured with the band as a result. But Malik B isn’t the only member to be in a state of flux. Beat-boxer Rahzel keeps popping in and out and interestingly, two members have left permanently following jamband festival performances: beat-boxer Scratch following Bonnaroo (?uestlove was quoted soon after as saying “we haven’t heard from Scratch at all since Bonnaroo” ) and original bassist Leonard “HUB” Hubbard following moe.down.

6. Van Halen – Van Halen is undeniably a band that has had some tensions. David Lee Roth was one of the founding members but in the midst of 1984 tour, Roth left the band. Sammy Hagar was used as his replacement but Roth returned to the band in 1996. This didn’t last long and in 1997, Gary Cherone (lead singer of the band Extreme), joined the group. After taking a full hiatus from the public, both Hagar and Roth returned, with Roth currently on lead vocals.

7. The Disco Biscuits – Marc Brownstein, the personality-at-large in the Disco Biscuits, left the band for a brief period in 2000. After hitting a huge stride in 1999, Brownstein took a break from the band and worked on side projects such as Electron and Conspirator. During this period, the Biscuits tried to fill the gap many different ways, hiring new bass players and using their electronic abilities. Jordan Crisman filled in most consistently during Brownstein’s absence. Brownstein returned to the Biscuits at a show at the Crowbar in State College, PA to a welcoming crowd.

8. Yes – Everybody not named Chris Squire who has ever been in Yes (exception: Bill Bruford).

9. A Tribe Called Quest – Jarobi White, an original member of A Tribe Called Quest, left the group in 1991 to attend culinary school, but rejoined in 2006 for an appearance at the Bumbershoot Festival in Washington, D.C.

10. Pink Floyd – Richard Wright was fired by Roger Waters following The Wall sessions due to the pair’s rocky relationship. Though he wasn’t technically a full-time member, the management held on to Wright as a salaried session musician during their spectacular concerts so he was the only member of the band who profited from the tour. He rejoined for A Momentary Lapse Of Reason (released in 1987) after Waters quit the band.

11. The Allman Brothers Band – The history of the Allman Brothers is a tumultuous one, with untimely deaths and acrimonious splits. With the releases of two sub-par albums, founding drummer Jaimoe was fired from the band in 1980 following trouble with his back (a result of a car accident six years earlier). He rejoined in 1989 when the Allmans reformed. More recently, Warren Haynes left the Allman Brothers Band in 1997 to focus on Gov’t Mule and then returned in 2001, ostensibly replacing Dickey Betts, though Jimmy Herring filled in for a while in the interim.

12. Perpetual Groove – Keyboardist Matt McDonald played in Perpetual Groove from the band’s incarnation until 2008, when he left and was replaced by John Hruby. McDonald had sat in a handful of times during his absence but officially announced his return this past fall. In addition to the keys, McDonald plans to play some guitar as well.

13. The Spin Doctors – In September 1994 founding guitarist Eric Schenkman left the band during a performance in Berkeley, CA. Five years later bassist Mark White departed during the recording of the group’s album, _ Here Comes the Bride_. Then on September 7, 2001 during the final days of Wetlands Preserve, the pair reunited with Chris Barron and Aaron Comess and the quartet has been at it ever since.