What Bands Started Grunge Music?

Seattle-based grunge bands Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, and Alice in Chains rose to prominence in the early 1990s, with Nirvana’s Nevermind becoming the best-selling album of the decade.


Nirvana was a grunge band that was formed in Aberdeen, Washington in 1987. The band consisted of Kurt Cobain (vocals, guitar), Krist Novoselic (bass), and Dave Grohl (drums). Nirvana’s first album Bleach was released in 1989 on the independent label Sub Pop. The album was not a commercial success, but it did gain the band a small following. In 1991, Nirvana released their second album Nevermind, which became a huge commercial success. The album’s lead single “Smells Like Teen Spirit” became an anthem for the teenage generation. Nirvana went on to release two more albums, In Utero in 1993 and MTV Unplugged in New York in 1994. Kurt Cobain committed suicide in April 1994 at the age of 27.

Pearl Jam

Pearl Jam is an American rock band, formed in Seattle, Washington in 1990. The band’s lineup consists of founder Eddie Vedder (lead vocals, guitar), Mike McCready (lead guitar), Jeff Ament (bass), and Stone Gossard (rhythm guitar). Since its inception, the band’s line-up has comprised Vedder, Gossard, Ament, and McCready. Drummers have included Matt Cameron (who has played on all of the band’s studio albums to date), Dave Krusen, Matt Chamberlin, and Jack Irons.

The band released its debut album, Ten, in 1991. It was one of the most popular debut albums ever released on a major label; in 2003, Rolling Stone ranked it as the ninth-greatest debut album of all time. Ten initially sold 900 copies locally in Seattle but once word spread about the album and the band playing local clubs—especially after a show opening for Alice in Chains at the Off Ramp Cafe in August 1991—the album had sold over three million copies by 1992 with little to no radio or television exposure. The success of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” brought Nevermind to the top of Billboard 200 chart for five weeks; it was also responsible for bringing alternative rock music into mainstream culture. Nevermind was widely acclaimed upon release and has been ranked highly on many publications’ best albums lists; In 2012 it was ranked number 4 on Pitchfork Media’s “Top 100 Albums of the 1990s”,[1] number 30 on Blender magazine’s “The 500 Greatest Albums Since You Were Born”,[2] number 15 on Rolling Stone magazine’s “The 500 Greatest Albums Of All Time”,[3] and placed higher than Nirvana’s follow-up album In Utero on numerous audience polls.

Nirvana was an American rock band formed by singer-songwriter Kurt Cobain and bassist Krist Novoselic in Aberdeen, Washington, in 1987.[5][6] Nirvana went through a succession of drummers,[7][8] the longest-lasting being Dave Grohl, who joined in 1990.”

Alice in Chains

Alice in Chains is an American rock band formed in Seattle, Washington, in 1987 by guitarist and songwriter Jerry Cantrell and original lead vocalist Layne Staley. The initial lineup was rounded out by drummer Sean Kinney and bassist Mike Starr, who was replaced in 1993 by Mike Inez. Although widely associated with grunge music, the band’s sound incorporates heavy metal elements. Since its formation, Alice in Chains has released six studio albums, three EPs, two live albums, four compilations, and one box set.


Soundgarden is an American rock band formed in Seattle, Washington, in 1984 by singer and rhythm guitarist Chris Cornell, lead guitarist Kim Thayil, and bassist Hiro Yamamoto. Matt Cameron became the band’s full-time drummer in 1986, while bassist Ben Shepherd became a permanent replacement for Yamamoto in 1990. The band was one of the seminal bands of the grunge movement of the early 1990s.


Mudhoney was an American grunge band formed in Seattle, Washington in 1988. Original members include singer and rhythm guitarist Mark Arm, lead guitarist Steve Turner, bassist Matt Lukin and drummer Dan Peters. The group gained popularity after the release of their debut album, Superfuzz Bigmuff, in 1988. Although they were not the first grunge band, Mudhoney helped to define the sound and style of the genre with their feedback-drenched hard rock. They have been credited as a major influence on subsequent grunge bands such as Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden.

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