A few things you can easily find in classified ads: phone sex, apartment rentals, tarot card readers, telemarketing jobs and a used Toyota Camry with low mileage.
Look a little closer, and you might also find your path to rock 'n' roll glory.
OK, answering most musician classifieds won’t automatically punch your ticket to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. It’s more likely to result in an awkward jam session at some stranger’s residence with three dudes who are twice your age but only know one song all the way through.
Still, the seeds for many very successful bands were sown in the classifieds section. Here are some of them.
Guns N’ Roses
Bass player needed for band influenced by Aerosmith, Alice Cooper. Call Slash
In his 2007 autobiography, Slash recalls getting a few calls answering the ad he and drummer Steve Adler placed in The Recycler, circa 1983. But the only prospect they wanted to meet was some dude named Duff McKagan who’d recently relocated to Los Angeles from Seattle. Duff “sounded cool on the phone,” so Slash had the bassist meet him, Adler and their girlfriends at Canter’s.
When Duff showed up, neither party was exactly what the other was expecting, looks-wise. Duff skewed punk, Slash blues-metal. But Slash and Duff vibed. “The five of us went upstairs, piled into the bathroom, and broke out the vodka,” Slash wrote in his book. The trio of musicians immediately formed a band. They named it Road Crew, after the excellent Motorhead track “(We Are) The Road Crew.” Slash, Duff and Adler spent the next month or so looking for a frontman — but couldn't find the right fit and soon went their separate ways. At least for the time being.
Still, Slash’s ad connected three-fifths of what eventually formed Guns N’ Roses’ quintessential lineup, once they joined forces with Janis-Joplin-caught-in-a-meat-grinder-voiced singer Axl Rose and Keef-esque guitarist Izzy Stradlin. During the Road Crew period, Slash and co. also created the main riff for the now-classic Guns track “Rocket Queen.”
Loud, rude, and aggressive guitarist available.
Guitarist Mick Mars’s above early-'80s Recycler classified proved more fruitful than the one he’d previously posted: “Extraterrestrial guitarist available for any other aliens that want to conquer earth.” The second ad caught the attention of a skinny, young drumming badass named Tommy Lee, who’d been jamming with Nikki Sixx, a bassist/songwriter who aspired to the glitter-gutter greatness of New York Dolls and vintage Aerosmith.
Lee called and left a number for Mars. A week later there was a knock at Sixx’s front door. Seeing the guitarist sporting platform shoes and hair down to his butt, according to Motley’s 2001 autobiography The Dirt, Sixx pulled Lee aside and said, “I can’t believe it! Here’s another one like us!”
After Sixx showed Mars the changes for “Stick to Your Guns,” eventually an early Motley single, Lee said Mars, “grabbed his guitar and played the shit out of it, making the riff so distorted and insane that we couldn’t even recognize it anymore. We picked up a gallon of schnapps at the liquor store, got plastered and jammed for an hour.” That same day Mars fired the guy who’d been the group’s other guitarist. “We didn’t even need to discuss whether Mick was right for the band or not,” Lee wrote in The Dirt. “The dude was already in.”
Drummer looking for other metal musicians to jam with Tygers of Pan Tang, Diamond Head, and Iron Maiden.
For some reason, teenage Danish drummer Lars Ulrich’s Tygers of Pan Tang-referencing ad only generated two responses. Fortunately for Ulrich, living in Los Angeles at the time, one of those people was guitarist James Hetfield. Ulrich and Hetfield jammed for the first time in spring 1981. About a month later, the drummer flew to London to attend a Diamond Head concert and got to meet and hang with the metal combo extensively. Ulrich returned to L.A. re-energized. Even though he didn’t have an actual band in place, Ulrich asked metalhead pal Brian Slagel if he could contribute a song for the upcoming compilation album from Slagel’s label Metal Blade Records. Enter Hetfield. Shredder Dave Mustaine was recruited via a second classified. They recorded “Hit the Lights” for Slagel’s Metal Massacre comp.
Joan Jett & The Blackhearts
In 1980, after the dissolution of Joan Jett’s all-female rock group The Runaways, the foxy-but-tough singer/rhythm guitarist placed a classified ad in L.A. Weekly “looking for a few good men” for her next project. X bassist John Doe helped with auditions. Through the ad, auditions and recommendations, Jett found bassist Gary Ryan, guitarist Eric Ambel and eventually drummer Lee Crystal. With the Blackhearts in tow, Jett toured the U.S., promoting her (previously recorded) feisty eponymous album, which the singer and producer Kenny Laguna self-financed after more than 20 labels passed.
LEAD GUITARIST WANTED with Flash and Ability. Album Out Shortly. No time wasters please. Paul
In Nothin’ to Lose, the oral history of Kiss’ early years, drummer Peter Criss estimates the fledgling New York band auditioned around 60 guys after guitarist Paul Stanley placed a Village Voice classified. Auditions were held at the East 23rd Street space the group, who weren’t really about to drop an album, rehearsed at. All sizes, shapes, ages and types of guitarists answered the ad. Including a poncho-clad flamenco guitarist and a love-bead-sporting chap claiming to be “a big star in Italy.”
Page/Hendrix-influenced guitarist Ace Frehley was in such a rush to depart for auditions he put on one orange sneaker and one red by accident, before his mom drove Ace and his Marshall amp in the family Cadillac from their Bronx home to the Kiss loft. For the auditions, Criss, Stanley and bassist Gene Simmons would play the first verse and chorus of an strutting original called “Deuce,” and then the prospective lead player would do a solo. “As soon as he started playing, both Paul and I looked at each other when Ace started soloing,” Simmons said in Nothin’ to Lose. “We finally heard the sound. There was a dangerous volatility about him but also glorious playing.”
At least the ad British singer/ex-ceramics teacher Brian Ferry placed in a 1971 issue of Melody Maker for “The Perfect Guitarist” wasn’t picky. Prospective musicians were only asked to be “original, creative, adaptable, melodic, fast, slow, elegant, witty, scary, stable, tricky.” And just in case “The Perfect Guitarist” read a little vague to you, Ferry’s advert also stated. “QUALITY MUSICIANS ONLY.” Around 20 guitar players answered the call, including Phil Manzanera, who didn’t make the cut — former The Nice axe-man David O’List got the job. Manzanera accepted a roadie job with Roxy Music instead. But O’List soon quit after a confrontation with drummer Paul Thompson, and the enterprising Manzanera had learned all Roxy Music’s art-glam material on the down low. Guess who got the gig next?
Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band
Bespectacled percussionist Max Weinberg answered New Jersey singer/songwriter Bruce Springsteen’s 1974 Village Voice classified, looking for a new drummer. But “no junior Ginger Bakers.” Auditioning, Weinberg did well enough on the lone Springsteen tune he knew, “4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)” off The Wild, The Innocent and The E Street Shuffle LP, and a Fats Domino cover, to get the job. Six credits shy of graduating from Seton Hall University, Weinberg quit school to accept the $110-a-week Springsteen gig.
LEAD RHYTHM GUITARIST
(Ronson, Manzanera, Gilmour)
Sylish/powerful/inventive to join band with financially strong management
More of that Melody Maker magic. Hunky bassist John Taylor and sparkly keyboardist Nick Rhodes’ group Duran Duran was already the house band at Birmingham, England club Rum Runner when they placed a 1980 ad. The classified referenced the killer David Bowie guitarist Mick Ronson as well as Roxy's aforementioned Manzanera. Surprisingly, given Duran Duran's dance-rock sound, it also cited Pink Floyd's David Gilmour. The advert netted Newcastle guitarist Andy Taylor, which gave DD possibly the most formidable double-Taylor tandem in music history. Soon after, singer Simon LeBon (that’s actually his real name) was introduced to Duran Duran through an ex-girlfriend who worked at Rum Runner as a bartender.
Band seeks bassist in to Hüsker Dü and Peter, Paul & Mary. Please – no chops.
The good news for Kim Deal? She was the only person who responded to Boston alt-rock songsmith Black Francis’ classified. The bad? She came to her audition sans bass. And had never previously played that instrument. But according to Fool the World: An Oral History of a Band Called Pixies, Deal was in because she dug Francis’ tunes. She borrowed sister Kelley Deal’s bass to get started.
There’s an asterisk with this one. Fourteen-year-old Dublin drummer Larry Mullen, Jr. did not take out a classified ad to find bandmates. He posted a notice on a Mount Temple Comprehensive School bulletin board, which attracted interest from a sextet of fellow students, including a guitarist then known as David Evans (and later as The Edge) and a singer named Paul Hewson (who’d soon rechristen himself Bono Vox). The first rehearsal took place in the Mullen family home’s kitchen. Years later, the drummer said he initially conceived the project as The Larry Mullen Band. Two of Mullen’s pals, Ivan McCormick and Peter Martin, bowed out of the group after a couple weeks, a decision they probably never regretted.