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I was working for Swedish Radio at this year’s Sweden Rock Festival and someone in our team brought up the topic of member changes in classic rock bands. Deep Purple was of course accused of being worst, as they always are, even by fans of the band. To prove DP aren’t worst, and as research for a segment in a radio show we broadcast from the festival, me and a friend came up with this list of how many mbers each band has had (and THS editor Nick added a couple of entries):

Yngwie Malmsteen: 37
Whitesnake: 26
Steppenwolf: 26
Lynyrd Skynyrd: 25
Jethro Tull: 24
Uriah Heep: 24
Black Sabbath: 23
Guns ‘n’ Roses: 23
Rainbow: 22
Blue Öyster Cult: 22
Ufo: 22
Allman Brothers: 21
Anthrax: 20
King Crimson: 19
Yes: 18
Accept: 18
Scorpions: 17
Fleetwood Mac: 16
Opeth: 15
Deep Purple: 14
Kiss: 10
Rush: 4

Yes, Yngwie is a solo artist and should perhaps not be on the list but this was for a somewhat funny show on Swedish Radio so we put him in there for fun. We also included a couple of Swedish “dance bands” which beat Yngwie by far. 🙂 Some of you will also argue that Whitesnake, Rainbow and King Crimson are some sort of solo venture but our criteria was that if you have chosen a band name, you are a band.

40 Comments to “Roundabout”:

  1. 1
    jeremie says:

    Funny and instructive job! I am too lazy to look after the figures right now, but including bands like Magma, Hawkwind, Black Crowes or Jefferson Starship, just to name a few ones quite influential in their respective style, would have put DP even more small in the list…

  2. 2
    errol arias says:

    Rush with 4 ??? They only change the drummer after their debut album.. Since 1974-5 they’ve always been Peart/Lee/Lifeson.. By the way, one of the best trio in modern music history….. As far as i can see , it makes only one change in their history.. so , Why Rush appears with 4 changes in this list ????

  3. 3
    indra kusuma says:

    DP 14 ? wonder how did come to 14 ? I only have 7
    1 – paice-lord-blackmore-simper-evans
    2 – paice-lord-blackmore-gillan-glover
    3- paice-lord-blackmore-hughes-coverdale
    5 – paice – lord – satriani – gillan – glover (concert only )
    6 – paice – lord – morse – gillan – glover
    7 – paice – airey – morse – gillan – glover

  4. 4
    Douug says:

    I know it doesn’t count, yet feel that Spinal Tap should be included, as they have had at least 40+ members over the years. (Some real, and several fictional.)

  5. 5
    Reinder Dijkhuis says:

    Wot no Hawkwind? They’ve got a separate Wikipedia page for former members and there’s over 50 of them.
    Also: Fairport Convention: 25.

  6. 6
    paul anderson says:

    i would class Malmsteen as solo artist, esp when he has admitted he does everything himself now, writing and arranging material and wants the people of the time to do the music.

  7. 7
    Svante Axbacke says:

    @2, @3: This list is how many members have been in the band, not how many times a band has gone trough a change. I will update the article to clarify that. There are other bands who have remained pretty much intact but Rush played at the festival and their low number of members was pretty funny in relation to the other ones.

  8. 8
    stephen says:

    And Don Airey’s played in nearly a quarter of the bands listed….;-)

  9. 9
    Thomas Olsson says:

    Michael Schenker Group would be an interesting addition in it’s various incarnations. If we compare rock bands with jazz groups, Purple have been a stable group. Try Miles Davis’ bands through the years for a huge number of musicians passing through.

  10. 10
    Philip W says:

    How about Wishbone Ash? 20 to date! Or Asia – 22!! I feel that DP will be slipping further down this fascinating list…..!

  11. 11
    Tracy (Zero the Hero) Heyder says:

    Point of clarification:

    There seems to be some confusion as to the premise of this subject. Some folks here read it as ‘number of line-up changes’ as apposed to ‘amount of ‘players that have come and gone’. Hence #3 listing the separate Marks as 7 and not realizing the point is that their have been 14 players in Purple throughout the years….


  12. 12
    Rick Damigella (@LinerNotes) says:

    This is fantastic! I will agree with Svante that Whitesnake is a band and not a solo venture. The band name theory is spot on, but also, if a group featured Jon Lord, Ian Paice and John Sykes as prominently as Whitesnake did, the whole is made greater by the sum of its parts, therefore band, not solo endeavour. Also, major props on including Yngwie.

  13. 13
    Ivica says:

    There are still a top rock band
    some .. just that they have more musicians from Deep Purple / 14 /

    Judas Priest 18
    Chicago 18
    Procol Harum 19
    Supertramp 20
    Roxy Music 20 + Jerry Hall 21st …. hehe
    Thin Lizzy 23
    The Doobie Brothers 32


    Iron Butterfly 70
    Santana 72

    sorry for possible mistakes

  14. 14
    micke says:

    Blackmore is on 34 then, 22 in Rainbow and 12 in Purple. How many band members have Blackmore’s Night gone through..? Maybe he beats Yngve..? 😉

  15. 15
    byron says:

    If you include Satriani you could add Randy California and Dave Mason too-both took over for a couple of gigs when Ritchie was ill!

  16. 16
    Mattia says:



  17. 17
    Martin says:

    Santana should be on this list, and maybe he will be permanently at the top. . . .
    Can’t believe that Yes just got 18, I’m sure they have more (Or maybe they just count from past century). . .
    This list only reminds me that people are Perfect Strangers

  18. 18
    MacGregor says:

    Reinder @ 5- I agree totally, no Hawkwind? What is the point of the list if Hawkwind are not mentioned! Sheeesh, sacrilege indeed!
    As long as Dave Brock ( The Captain) is there it’s Hawkwind! Personally, I am a supporter of different members in a band at times. As long as the core member(s) that are the songwriters & ‘sound’ of the band are always maintained, I am all for it big time! It brings in much more diversity, mixes it up heaps, drags the band away from being caught in a bubble! Deep Purple (Blackmore, Lord & Paice), Black Sabbath (Tony Iommi), Uriah Heep (Ken Hensley era), Hawkwind (Dave Brock) King Crimson (Robert Fripp), Yes (Jon Anderson & Chris Squire), Jethro Tull (Ian Anderson & Martin Barre), are just a few examples from my perspective. Some bands have managed to capture at certain times the source of the ‘sound’ of a previous incarnation, the latest Deep Purple album, ‘Now What’ is a good example of that! However, with a band like Rush for example, who I am a big fan of up to the mid 90’s, this can show how limiting the same musicians can be after a few decades! They now bore me to tears because of their limitations, I always hoped they were going to at least add a keyboard player back in the late 80’s! They contemplated it briefly, then decided against it. They didn’t want to ‘break’ the formula, fair enough from their perspective, but from mine, they are stuck in a rut! No new ideas from anywhere, too afraid to take the plunge, go out on a limb perhaps! Being a ‘progressive’ band, that was disappointing for me! I have moved on! An interesting topic though! Just my three cents worth, if it is worth that! Cheers!

  19. 19
    oleg says:

    To indra kusuma:
    Also J L Turner – 1991


  20. 20
    Svante Axbacke says:

    MacGregor: I can somewhat relate to your feelings about Rush lately but on their current tour they have added an 8 piece string section on stage which makes things interesting. Well, it doesn’t make the new material more interesting, but it breathes new life into the oldies.

  21. 21
    Doug says:

    No.3 – No matter how hard you wish, you can’t erase Joe Lynn Turner like that 😉

  22. 22
    MacGregor says:

    Svante @ 20 – Yes, I was excited by the string section for Rush in a live setting. Alas, here in Oz were Rush have never ventured to, I don’t get the chance to witness them in concert. Back to a ‘live’ DVD for me. I read a few early reviews of a concert somewhere, mostly from die hard fans though who loathed it, but thankfully one or two reviews really liked it & said it added another element to their older classics. They are a class band Rush & it would be great to see them experiment a little further I feel. Cheers.

  23. 23
    cyclone says:

    @21 VH1 did too…JLT did put his vocals on a very good DP album to boot.

  24. 24
    Dr. Bob says:

    How many bass players has Government Mule had?

  25. 25
    Doug says:

    Did he? I must have missed that one… 😉

  26. 26
    Louis says:

    No 21 – C’mon Doug PLEASE. He was a mistake so let’s erase him anyway possible (smile). I always get a laugh out of the (video) now DVD called “Heavy Metal Pioneers” where Turner says “I don’t sing other people’s dribble.” That is exactly what he has done since, lol.

    #8 – Great observation, Stephen!

    #13 – Iron Butterfly 70 and Santana 72! LMAO, is that for real, Ivica?

  27. 27
    robert says:

    Nice listing!
    But as you can see from the irritation in the first few posts there is more to member changes than just the “total number of different members”. But when you fokus just on different line ups, then there’s again two ways to count them. Because when it cames to “worst” one should have a look on the number of changes, too.
    Let’s take Deep Purple as an example:
    number of line-ups: 8
    1 – paice-lord-blackmore-simper-evans
    2 – paice-lord-blackmore-gillan-glover
    3 – paice-lord-blackmore-hughes-coverdale
    4 – paice-lord-bolin-hughes-coverdale
    5 – paice – lord – blackmore – turner – glover
    6 – paice – lord – satriani – gillan – glover (concert only )
    7 – paice – lord – morse – gillan – glover
    8 – paice – airey – morse – gillan – glover

    number of line-up changes: 10
    1 – paice-lord-blackmore-simper-evans (if we take the formation of the band as a change!)
    2 – paice-lord-blackmore-gillan-glover
    3 – paice-lord-blackmore-hughes-coverdale
    4 – paice-lord-bolin-hughes-coverdale
    5 – paice-lord-blackmore-gillan-glover
    6 – paice – lord – blackmore – turner – glover
    7 – paice-lord-blackmore-gillan-glover
    8 – paice – lord – satriani – gillan – glover (concert only )
    9 – paice – lord – morse – gillan – glover
    10 – paice – airey – morse – gillan – glover

    And: No. I don’t count Randy California or Dave Mason.
    And: No. I don’t like to count JLT – but the truth can’t be changed by concealing the facts.

  28. 28
    Brad DeMoranville says:

    Did somebody say Uriah Heep?

  29. 29
    metaljim says:

    Savoy Brown has had somewhere around 60+ members throughout their 48+ year history. Check out their Wikipedia page. I don’t know of any other band (except Hawkwind) that’s remained active for that length of time and had that many personnel changes.

  30. 30
    Scott says:

    I refuse to acknowledge the 89-92 period as a Deep Purple Line-up. I don’t even own that album. I refuse to have it in my collection.

  31. 31
    Tracy (Zero the Hero) Heyder says:

    byron @15:

    Sitting in for somebody due to an illness isn’t the same as replacing somebody who has quit. Ritchie officially left Purple and Satriani came to the rescue so Purple could finish the tour. He was actually offered the job but prior commitment prevented his joining….


  32. 32
    MacGregor says:

    Tracy @ 31 – Satriani opened up about his ‘stint’ in Purple only a couple of years ago. He had prior commitments, but he also stated in that interview, that he wasn’t really interested because of the Blackmore legacy thing. He said something along the lines, that he had too much respect for that side of it & he couldn’t relax in the guitar replacement position. Something like that anyway. He was humbled by the offer though! Cheers.

  33. 33
    Tracy (Zero the Hero) Heyder says:

    Yes, that is true MacGregor. Sometimes I’m not as long winded as other times and I leave out details. My main point to the factor was regarding an actual line-up change and temporarily, Satch was an official member of Deep Purple whereas Randy California and Dave Mason were only subs due to illness and were never offered the job.

    “The Ghost of Ritchie” was what he called it. See the interview:



  34. 34
    MacGregor says:

    I was more in favour of Morse joining Purple than Satriani. Not because I don’t think Satriani wouldn’t be up to the job at all, he is a mind blowing guitarist. But I just cannot get into his music that much, I own ‘Surfing’ but other things he has done leave me cold. I have seen a few dvd concerts, he always has a great band behind him cranking crazy instrumentals, they are interesting to watch at times. Because I was into Steve Morse with the Dregs & his own trio band, I enjoyed him being there, also because he is more melodic to me, mixes it up more with different styles etc! Also, Morse deserved a break, as both Satrian & Vai have a fair bit of recognition, I always felt Morse wasn’t being paid his due recognition & joining Purple gives him that in many ways! A good interview with Satch, he, like Morse also, is a very modest down to earth guy! Cheers.

  35. 35
    Hornoxe says:

    ZZ Top: 3

  36. 36
    Lippy4246 says:

    Rush has had 5 members. Geddy Lee was not the original bass player and vocalist. Jeff Jones of Red Rider was the first back in 1968 and he was later replaced by Lee and of course the rest is history.

  37. 37
    Lippy4246 says:

    Sorry ZZ Top has had 6 total members

  38. 38
    roger says:

    the brazilian band Made in Brazil: had at least 200+ members over the years

  39. 39
    Marcus Streets says:

    The passing of George Duke reminds me we ought to add the Mothers to the list with 33 members not counting Frank between ’66 and ’75.

    There best known concert is of course captured on the Swiss Cheese/Fire! official bootleg.

    Frank used other sidemen on his later projects, but they were not billed as the Mothers.

  40. 40
    Svante Axbacke says:

    Check. Out. Blood, Sweat and Tears…


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