Here is a list of bands. I have picked by favorite member that band. It could be I like their songwriting, or their musicianship or their persona. I picked bands usually with more than three members and where it was not one dominant personality, like the Electric Light Orchestra or Dire Straits.
10cc – Eric Stewart. 10cc was a band destined to implode. Four writers, vocalists and equally big personalities. I’m surprised they stayed together as long as they did. Stewart wrote or co-wrote the band’s most distinctive songs.
Aerosmith – Joe Perry. The American version of Keith Richards. Tough, snarling guitar licks, but tamed to create many top 40 songs.
Allman Brothers Band – Gregg Allman. How can you not pick him. He kept the band going, with frequent lineup changes and a hiatus or two, but he was the soul of the band. A kind, soft-spoken gentleman. RIP.
Ambrosia – David Pack. The voice and songwriter of most of Ambrosia’s hits. He possesses a classic pop voice that is strong, yet soothing for those ballads.
America – Gerry Beckley. The songwriter of ballads with the height voice. His solo albums have been nearly as good as the group albums. Not just a balladeer, he can rock. His solo albums are mainly one man shows and he experiments more as a solo artist.
Beach Boys – Carl Wilson. A very good guitarist, part of that great harmony and a better than average songwriter. Perhaps the most normal of the Wilson brothers. RIP
Beatles – George Harrison. I have written numerous blogs on the Quiet Beatle. His introspective and worldly writing rang true, in addition to his wicked sense of humor.
Buffalo Springfield – Neil Young. He wrote the majority of the group’s best songs. Eventually, he started singing his own songs. He wrote both uncomplicated songs and those with complex backing and engineering. He learned to use the recording studio and the power of arranging. He left before the third album was finished.
Byrds – Gene Clark. The Byrds had many personalities. Clark was the lead singer and a main songwriter in the early years of the group. The internal dynamics of the band led to Clark and David Crosby leaving. Despite his talent, he never found that level of success again.
Chicago – Terry Kath. The original guitarist, he was a main songwriter in the beginning and his choice was rock and blues. He was a legendary guitarist. The band drifted after his death and was losing their rock sound toward the end of his life.
Clash – Mick Jones. Along with Joe Strummer, the main songwriters and guitarists of the band. These guys were punk rockers whose weakness was writing melodic, danceable songs that broader audiences loved. “Train in Vain” was one of his song. Sadly, he was dismissed from the band.
Crosby, Stills & Nash – David Crosby. Three super egos, wasted time fighting. Crosby wrote soaring, introspective songs and rock anthems. He knew a lot of chords but was just an average player with an angelic voice. He was also the straw that stirred the trouble.
Deep Purple – Ritchie Blackmore. I was never a huge fan of the group, although I respect their legacy. Blackmore has a guitar sound that rivaled his colleagues, but never got the credit.
Doobie Brothers – Tom Johnston. A co-founder and main writer of the 1970s hits. Left the band in 1976 and returned after the Michael McDonald era. He and Patrick Simmons still front the band. Creator of those Doobie Brothers guitar riffs.
Doors – Ray Manzarek. The swagger and style of the Doors is greatly the result of this man. He and Robby Krieger wrote incredible music, and often the words, to Doors classics. Manzarek played the organ and bass at the same time. He was a virtuoso musician, but outside of the Doors, you did not hear much from him. His brother-in-law is a Beatle.
Eagles – Joe Walsh. Joining in 1976 for Hotel California, he gave the band more guitar muscle and instrumental versatility. He was of course in James Gang, Barnstorm and a successful solo artist. I always felt he was an odd fit in a band with two super large egos, but he’s made it work.
The Fixx – Jamie West-Oram. There are a few iconic guitar sounds. The Edge, Mark Knopfler, David Gilmour and a few others, including West-Oram. The Fixx established a unique sound in the 1980s, ringing, echoing, spacey and other cool effects. He played a lot of intricate rhythm guitar and knew when to fill, and the solos were drenched in effects, but not the type that sounded dated now. West-Oram is an artist, painting a variety of textures and blended colors.
Fleetwood Mac – Bob Welch. The band was on hard times when Welch arrived. He was the bridge between the blues version of the band and the pop version. His songwriting was strong as was his guitar playing. A same he was not enshrined in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as part of the group.
Foreigner – Ian McDonald. He brought the progressive rock to Foreigner, having played with King Crimson. McDonald could play woodwinds, guitar and keyboard. He did not get credited enough for the three albums he worked on with the band before he was fired.
Genesis – Steve Hackett. Genesis never fully recovered after Hackett left. Of course, they were incredibly successful, but their music missed having a capable guitarist. Rutherford is a functional guitarist. Hackett’s work in Genesis was amazing, except for the last album he did with them. He’s been playing Genesis music live for years, and it’s great!
Grateful Dead – Bob Weir. I never thought he was a great guitarist, until I started watch the Dead’s performances. Weir was the teenager who joined the band, and he was the glue that helped hold it together. He’s the main driver of the band’s legacy. See the documentary about him, The Other One.
Jethro Tull – Martin Barre. He was the guitarist in Tull from their second album onward until Ian Anderson fired everyone in the 2000s. The tough electric guitar and the gentle folk acoustic guitar were mainly Barre. He did not write much (or was not credited) but his contribution to the musical texture and style of that massive amount of Tull material music, especially the early 1970s on Aqualung. The man deserves a lot of credit for the success of Tull.
Jefferson Airplane – Grace Slick. What can you say. She kicked open the door for generations of female rock performers. Grace had voice with a lot range, and huge stage presence. Women wanted to be her and men wanted to sleep with. Probably a few women too.
Journey – Steve Perry. Many folks might not recall the Perry was not an original member of Journey. He joined for the Infinity album that featured “Wheel in the Sky” and “Lights.” Perry took them in a pop direction and wrote some of their classic songs.
Kansas – Kerry Livgren. Most of the big hits were written or co-written by him. He did not seek the limelight and eventually left the band for a quieter life writing Christian-oriented music.. He fused progressive rock with arena rock for a big, popular sound.
Led Zeppelin – John Paul Jones. He was the backbone of Zeppelin, filling various roles as bassist, keyboard player, mandolin, arranger and often composed-writer. Listen to Physical Graffiti and Houses of the Holy, those albums are thick with keyboards. In the years before Zeppelin, he was an in-demand session player and arranger. Ask like about the fish incident.
Little Feat – Bill Payne. This band had a unique place in rock. Keyboards were a part of the band, but I always felt the emphasis was on the guitars and rhythm section. Payne was not very showy. After the band reformed in the 1980s, I though his role expanded. Payne has written some of Little Feat’s most enduring songs. He has been a member of the Doobie Brothers for a few years.
Lovin’ Spoonful – John Sebastian. He was very much the leader of the band, the main songwriter, voice and face. He wrote almost all of their best songs. A folky, pop sort of guy who represented upbeat, cheery songs during a dark time in America.
The Mamas and the Papas – Cass Elliott. Mama Cass had such an enchanting voice. It was grand and could also be small. It blended well in the harmonies, but she had a solo voice too. She would have had a very successful career beyond pop music.
The Monkees – Mickey Dolenz. One of the best rock and roll voices of the 1960s. Not as silky as Davey Jones, but more range. He could handle the ballads or the more aggressive songs like “Goin’ Down.” He learned to play the drums.
Moody Blues – Mike Pinder. An original member of the group. One of the first Mellotron users, he gave the Moodies that spacey, ethereal sound. A damn fine keyboard player and songwriter, with a deeper and darker vocal quality.
Ozark Mountain Daredevils – Larry Lee. The voice of “Jackie Blue” and the drummer. He had a smooth Beach Boys voice, perfect for that angelic harmony. He wrote and sang most of the hits, more pop and less country. He left the band and settled in Nashville where he mostly wrote songs for others.
Pink Floyd – Richard Wright. The quiet member of the Floyd. In the early days, he was a major songwriter, but he got muscled out. He wrote soulful, haunting pieces of music. Eventually, he found his way back to the band.
Police – Andy Summers. He was the quiet Police member. The guitarist who did not write many of the group’s songs. I don’t think he missed the rockstar life, or even the rock-pop they were playing. The Police were adventurous in their early days. After the band, he made a couple of albums with Robert Fripp and some solo albums of jazz and world music. A fine, underrated guitarist.
Poco – Paul Cotton. He joined the in the early 1970s after original members Meisener, Messina and soon Furay left. Cotton’s songwriting, strong voice and White Falcon guitar aptly filled the void. For more than 30 years, he and Rusty Young put the life in Poco. Cotton wrote more of Poco’s best songs.
The Pretenders – James Honeyman-Scott. The original lead guitarist for the band. Listen to the first album, there is some amazing guitar work on that album. “Private Life” and “Mystery Achievement” have exceptional guitar work. He described his work on the album as adding melodic fills and runs to better connect song parts. The album also has jingle-jangle guitar work recalling the mid-1960s, but a little more aggressiveness.
Queen – Brian May. He is the one and only guitarist of Queen. Ever. Queen was never a guitar-riffy band. May’s playing is very strategic. He’s not showy in his style or stage presence. He’s an astrophysicist in his spare time.
Renaissance – Annie Haslam. The singer of Renaissance for about 40 years. She has a five octave voice and is an amazing vocalist. She has fronted the band after it reformed and has kept the legacy of this progressive rock band alive.
Rolling Stones – Mick Taylor. The five years he was lead guitarist aligns with the Stones’ classic period. He never got the credit he deserved for what he contributed to the songs and the Stones’ tough, but melodic sound.
Talking Heads – Jerry Harrison. The Talking Heads often seemed like David Byrne and his sidemen, but they were talented musicians including Harrison. Byrne wrote most of the songs, but in the middle years, when the albums were more complex and textured, the band was credited with the writing. Harrison was the main keyboard player and helped give the band their quirky and third world sound.
U2 – The Edge. Never has there been a guitar that sounds like his. From their first album, you took quick notice of the guitar. It’s not just the style but the uniqueness of the sounds he invents. It might seem showy, it often dominate the song. How he can reproduce those complex sounds live without losing the layers on recorded sound is amazing.
Who – Roger Daltrey. Hard to think of a better rock voice in his prime. Live or on record, he was always great. His voice is a bit lower these days but the man is pushing 80. Daltrey never wrote much and only in recent years plays a guitar on stage.
XTC – Colin Moulding. An original member of this offbeat, English band known for writing Syd Barrett-type pop songs. The songs are quite eclectic. Moulding was not the main songwriter in the band, but contributed 3-4 songs per album. “King for a Day” is probably the best song released by the group and written by Moulding.
Yardbirds – Jeff Beck. Like Neil Young, not a band-guy. His bands never stayed together long. Back joined the Yardbirds after Clapton. While he was there, he pushed the band’s sound. Beck does not like to repeat himself.
Yes – Chris Squire. Certainly in the conversation about the best bass player ever. Wrote or co-wrote some of the best progressive rock songs. Contributed backing vocals and wasn’t one to steal the limelight, it was his virtuoso playing that drew the attention. A huge loss when he passed away.