Super Groups

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Back in the 1960s. the concept of the “Super Group” was introduced in the world of pop music. As I recall, the first group to be so designated was a British rock band called Cream. That group consisted of Eric Clapton on lead guitar, Jack Bruce on bass and Ginger Baker on drums. All three artists had experienced success in other groups, most notably Clapton with The Yardbirds, and after the three left their previous groups hey decided to form a new trio. Though most of us American teens had never heard of Baker and Bruce, we had heard of Clapton, although his reputation as “Slowhand” was just beginning. Still, the press dubbed them a “super group,” and no matter what they were, their music blew your socks off. Cream managed to stay together for a couple of years and albums and they are now members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

One “supergroup” that was short-lived (one album) was Blind Faith, where two erstwhile members of Cream, Clapton and Baker, teamed up with bassist Rick Grech and keyboard player/vocalist Steve Winwood, a member of The Spencer Davis Group and Traffic. As I said, a very short-lived effort at “supergrouping.”

Another early “Super Group” which had a lot more some staying power (in several different configurations) was Crosby, Stills and Nash, in which a former member of the Byrds, David Crosby, joined up with a former member of The Hollies, Graham Nash, and Stephen Stills, a member of Buffalo Springfield. A couple of times during this trio’s on-and-off relationship over a 46 - year period, another former Buffalo Springfield member, Neil Young, joined them on record and/or on stage, and CSN became CSNY.

To show you the respect these musicians have, the Yardbirds, Cream, Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, Hollies and Crosby, Stills and Nash are all members of the Rock Hall.

The Traveling Wlburys (left to right - Bob Dylan, Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty, Roy Orbison and George Harrison

The recent death of Tom Petty, a true Rock and Rool legend, got me thinking about another so-called Super Group - one that may have been the best of them all. Back in 1988, George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, Roy Orbison and Jeff Lynne got together and made a record. They didn’t use any of their own names for this new supergroup, choosing instead to dub themselves The Traveling Wilburys. Indeed, in the liner notes and credits, none of these superstars was mentioned by name, instead calling themselves by the fictitious names of Nelson Wilbury, Otis Wilbury, Lefty Wilbury, Charlie T. Wilbury jr. and Lucky Wilbury. The group’s album, ‘The Traveling Wilburys,’ was a hit , and the members talked about doing a tour, perhaps even doing some of their hits from their previous groups ,or doing each other’s hits “Wilbury- style.”

Alas, that idea never came to fruition, as Orbison died shortly after the album was released.

Two years later, the four remaining members made another album, cleverly called “The Traveling Wilburys, volume 3” (there was no vol. 2), and adapting four different aliases - this time the four members dubbed themselves “Spike”, “Clayton,” “Muddy” and “Boo” Wilbury. Tha

Unfortunately for music lovers, that was the end of the Traveling Wilburys, who recorded two albums of original material and never toured, but may just have been the best super group ever. All five members are members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (Lynne with the Electric Light Orchestra, Harrison with the Beatles and as a solo act, and Orbison, Petty and Dylan as solo acts). Harrison owned the rights to the group’s material, and he pulled the albums from circulation for several years before a new two - disc compilation was released in 2007, two years after he passed.

One more supergroup I should mention. This one consisted of four men who were each country superstars (and each a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame) - The Highwaymen. The group made a couple of records and also did a few public performances, but since two of the four members - Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings - have passed away, any regrouping of that quartet will never occur. The two remaining Highwaymen - Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson - are still performing, so maybe we’ll see a Willie-Kris album yet, but don’t count on it.

Anyway, that’s my brief, though probably incomplete, history of the so-called Super groups.