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The Superguide to Supergroups

by Jim Allen

The Superguide to Supergroups


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Sometime in the mid- to late '60s, when the pop audience started getting "serious" and people started turning as much attention to a band's bassist and keyboardist as they did to the lead singer, the concept of the supergroup was born. Sure, members of famous bands had teamed up before, but nobody really noticed. By the time Stephen Stills, Mike Bloomfield, Al Kooper, Barry Goldberg and others joined for the iconic Super Session album in 1968, though, the supergroup had truly arrived.

The reunion of Stills and Goldberg in The Rides 35 years after Super Session (with guitar hero Kenny Wayne Shepherd taking the late Bloomfield's place) puts a conceptual bracket on the supergroup phenomenon. It's an idea that has proven amazingly adaptable for almost every era and genre. It's easy to forget that a classic act like Crosby, Stills & Nash (with our without Young) brought together members of The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield and The Hollies, or that Emerson, Lake and Palmer represented a sonic summit of graduates of King Crimson, The Nice and The Crazy World of Arthur Brown. But even in the '80s, supergroups were thick on the ground, from The Power Station to country dream team The Highwaymen.

Hip-hop has embraced the supergroup too, with the likes of The Firm and Slaughterhouse, while LSG (Levert, Sweat, Gill) proved the idea could work just as well for R&B. More recently, we've seen everything from a Paul McCartney/Nirvana team-up to the emergence of distaff indie rock cabal Wild Flag. As long as there are musicians who stand out from the pack and aren't afraid to slug it out with some of their peers, it seems supergroups will survive.

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