10 Famous Bands Who Started In College

by Staff Writers

Besides challenging you academically, college affords students the opportunity to experiment with their own interests that may not always seem practically applicable to the real world. But sometimes, with the right mix of people, talent and ambition, college can be the perfect breeding ground for true art and even international success and fame. These ten bands started in college, but ended up playing for millions of fans all over the world.

  1. R.E.M.: American musical group R.E.M. began achieving success in the 1980s, and by the end of the decade, had established themselves as more than just a cult rock band with major hits like "The One I Love" and "Shiny Happy People." Once named "America's Best Rock & Roll Band" by Rolling Stone, R.E.M. was founded in Athens, GA, in 1980, by lead vocalist Michael Stipe and guitarist Peter Buck. Stipe and Buck quickly recruited other students from the University of Georgia, bass guitarist Mike Mills and drums and percussion player Bill Berry. Their first show was at a friend's birthday party, but they soon dropped out of college to go on tour in the South and record an album.
  2. MGMT: MGMT's "psychedelic pop" sound — coined by David Marchese of Spin — originated during low-key jam sessions at Wesleyan University. Ben Goldwasser and Andrew VanWyngarden teamed up during their freshman year and played on campus until they graduated in 2005. The now-Brooklyn-based MGMT — first known as The Management — began touring, and in 2006, they signed with Columbia Records. Their first big album Oracular Spectacular was instantly a hit on college campuses, in clubs and in Europe.
  3. Radiohead: Another 1990s-era rock band that has continued to enjoy critical and commercial success is Radiohead. The band was formed in 1985 when Thom Yorke, Colin Greenwood, Ed O'Brien and Phil Selway were attending an all-boys school in Oxfordshire, England. At the time, the band was called "On a Friday," and the members stuck together on weekends and over holidays when they returned home from university. During a show at the Jericho Tavern in Oxfordshire, Radiohead's present manager Chris Hufford heard them play and agreed to produce a demo tape for them. They signed a six-album record deal in 1991.
  4. Better Than Ezra: Although not as widely known as Radiohead or R.E.M., Better Than Ezra is a popular southern rock band among college students and New Orleans-area music lovers. Better Than Ezra was formed in 1988 at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. Kevin Griffin, Joel Rundell, Tom Drummond and Cary Bonnecaze released their first official album in 1989 called Surprise, but a year later, lead guitarist Joel Rundell committed suicide. After a break, the band reunited and eventually had a number-one hit on the Hot Modern Rock Charts in 1995.
  5. The Strokes: When The Strokes broke onto the music scene in the late 90s and early 2000s, rock fans greatly appreciated their bare-bones approach to old-fashioned rock'n'roll guitar music. Band members Julian Casablancas, Nick Valensi, Albert Hammond Jr., Nikolai Fraiture and Fabrizio Moretti released Is This It in 2001, but they had known each other in some way since their prep school days in New York and Switzerland, where Casablancas was sent because of drinking problems and where he met Hammond. The band formed when Hammond moved from Switzerland to NYU and rented an apartment with Casablancas. They began playing at bars and clubs on the Lower East Side and released the U.S. version of Is This It after recording a UK version.
  6. Styx: Some of the best cheesy party music includes Styx songs like "Mr. Roboto" and "Lady," even today. The band started when twin brothers Chuck and John Panozzo organized with neighbor Dennis DeYoung in the early 60s. Over the next few years, the band went through some changes, including changing their name from Trade Winds to TW4, and enrolling in Chicago State University. Another student, John Curulewski, and James "J.Y." Young joined the band, and by the early 1970s, the band had released several recordings and had regular gigs at local frat parties and clubs.
  7. Pink Floyd: Iconic rock group Pink Floyd is one of the few bands who wholly encompasses the rebellious but philosophical mood of the 1960s and 70s, yet is still influential and relevant today. The English band was formed by Nick Mason and Roger Waters, who were both architecture students at the Regent Street Polytechnic in London. They played with other members until 1965, when after a juggling of drop-outs, Air Force postings and new members, The Pink Floyd Sound was formed and became the resident band at the Countdown Club in London.
  8. Coldplay: British band Coldplay, led by lead vocalist Chris Martin, has one of the most unique sounds in rock music today, and is celebrated for its pop-meets-alternative-meets-New Age style. The band was first organized by Martin and lead guitarist Jonny Buckland, who met during orientation week at University College London. They called their band Pectoralz, but renamed themselves Starfish a year later, as they welcomed another UCL student, Guy Gerryman, into the band. Martin recruited Phil Harvey as manager, and Will Champion joined soon after as percussionist. The group adopted the name Coldplay after a student who'd had a band by the same name suggested the change.
  9. Queen: Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member Queen has released numerous hit albums over the last few decades, earning popularity for their upbeat sound, which features synthesizers, rock, pop, glam rock and disco elements. The band was first formulated when Imperial College student and guitarist Brian May and bass player Tim Staffell got together and recruited dental student Roger Taylor to be their drummer. They named their band Smile and welcomed new band member Farrokh "Freddie" Bulsara into the group. Staffell eventually left to join another band, and Smile became known as Queen. By 1971, Queen accepted John Deacon as their regular bass player, and the group recorded four original songs.
  10. Creed: American rock band Creed peaked in the late 1990s and early 2000s with hits like "My Sacrifice" and "One Last Breath." Lead vocalist Scott Stapp and guitarist Mark Tremonti met in high school but formed the band when they were students at Florida State University in Tallahassee, FL. Brian Marshall and Scott Phillips rounded out the group and released their first independent album in three years later, in 1997.