10 Great Musicians Who Should Have Been Bigger Stars


By Kevin Ross & Darryl Littleton

We recently posted our first 10 entertainers who should have been bigger stars then we realized our list was not complete. Radio Facts CEO Kevin Ross compiled this list from the time that he worked in Radio in the 80s and 90s. Here is our second list of entertainers who should have been bigger stars. Please feel free to comment and let us know what you think of our list.


Compared to the legendary Otis Redding, O’Neal had a string of 14 singles that entered the Top 40 in the 1980s and 90s.  Songs that dominated the airwaves and dance clubs: “Fake,” “If You Were Here Tonight,” “Criticize,” “What Can I Say to Make You Love Me”. 

That was just his solo work.   He also scored chart topping duets with Cherelle (“Saturday Love,” “Never Knew Love Like This”).   

Early on the Mississippi native performed with various bands before joining Flyte Tyme, which also boasted members Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis.  O’Neal was set to become the lead vocalist of the Time, but after a dispute with Prince, to whom the group would be signed under, O’Neal was replaced by Morris Day.  No matter.  

He went on to have a mammoth string of successful hits, but he also had demons and after the run was over O’Neal says he was addicted to drugs for 30 years and felt the music industry never gave him a chance to redeem himself after his downfall. 

Early on the Mississippi native performed with various bands before joining Flyte Tyme, which also boasted members Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis.  O’Neal was set to become the lead vocalist of the Time, but after a dispute with Prince, to whom the group would be signed under, O’Neal was replaced by Morris Day.  No matter.

He went on to have a mammoth string of successful hits, but he also had demons and after the run was over O’Neal says he was addicted to drugs for 30 years and felt the music industry never gave him a chance to redeem himself after his downfall. 


Donna Allen hit the pop culture ground running. Following stints as a Ta Bay buccaneer cheerleader and a backup singer for 3 prominent Florida based dance groups, Allen released her first single in 1986 and was projected to be on her way.    “Serious” rose to #21 in the US and #8 in the UK.   Her debut album, “Perfect Timing” had a couple of middling hits, but some of the singles never charted.   It was her 1989 album, “Heaven on Earth,” that put her back in the serious conversation.   

Debuting on the US charts at #28, the hits “Can We Talk” and “Joy & Pain” assured that Allen received plenty of radio airplay. However, everything must change and after opening for Gloria Esteban on the road, Donna Allen found herself having more success in the UK than the US.  

By 1999, Allen put out hits that didn’t chart at all. Her last high-profile hurrah was on the network competition TV show, “The Voice”. She had a good showing, but was beat out by the eventual winner, Tessanne Chin.


With Eugene Wilde we have a case of a 2-hit wonder. Before striking initial gold, the man from Miami Florida honed his vocal skills in his family act, LaVoyage, which later became Tight Connection and later saw Wilde as a solo artist.  

Wilde got his recording bones when he wrote and recorded, “Gotta get you Home Tonight” for Philly Records. The year was 1984 and that hit went all the way up tog #1 in the US and #18 on the UK Singles chart.   He was an international star.    

Then one year later he hit #1 again with “Don’t Say No Tonight”.   Wilde has made a lucrative living writing hits for other artists, such as Britney Spears, the Backstreet Boys and Victoria Beckham. 


It was the law that put a stop to the career of Mantronik, but not in the usual way.   The Jamaican born hip-hop and electronic music pioneer was the model of the new American Dream. 

He made his way to New York, where he met Brooklyn based, MC Tee and they formed the group, Mantronix and signed with Sleeping Bag Records.  Their debut single “Fresh is the Word” became a 1985 club sensation and got Mantronix a hoard of critical acclaim.  

Mantronik himself was dubbed a visionary and their second album only seconded the motion. He also did independent projects and further solidified his reputation. Mantronik is credited with developing the Southern hip-hop Miami bass genre.    It seemed the only thing to slow down Mantronik was the man in the mirror.   

He’d burned himself out, sometimes sleeping on the studio floor for 3-4 days at a time, so driven was he to the music.  So due to fatigue and some legal issues at the time Mantronik took a 10-year hiatus from music.   

Upon his return he struck that rare note of picking up right where he left off without a clunker.  He was right in step and still an innovator.  

He only eventually stepped back out of respect for his art form.  

New Jack and House were moving in and Mantronik left the scene on his own terms before suffering the fate of many and getting evicted. 

Mantronix, the group, also consisted of Bryce Wilson who was known as Bryce Lovah in the later years. Finally one of the best productions Kurtis Mantronix has ever done was by Rochester, New York native Joyce Sims’ 1988 hit “Come Into My Life.” 

A supremely infectious and rhythmic song that was on most urban radio stations. Kurits also produced her smash All and All


Fischer is one of those unique artists, comfortable in her own skin and career. Honing her skills at the High School of Music & Art in Manhattan, Fischer released a b-boy classic, “On the Upside” in 1983 under the name Xena.   

 Her bread and butter though were her growing reputation and a superb back up singer and recording session singer. She put her skills to good use singing for Melba Moore, Billy Ocean, Chaka Khan, Teddy Pendergrass, Roberta Flack and Luther Vandross (up until his death).  

Reliable wasn’t the word.   She was so good her record deal fell in her lap. She never sought it out.  That fluke turned into the 1991 solo hit, “How Can I Ease the Pain” from her album So Intense.

 It went to Number One and she won a Grammy for Best R&B Female Vocal Performance.    An attempt at a follow up 2nd solo album stalled mainly because Fischer decided she liked back up more than solo and returned to being the “tuning fork” for artists such as Tina Turner, The Rolling Stones (a fan favorite), Sting, Nine Inch Nails, Chris Botti . . .  


It doesn’t matter that she’s been nominated for a Grammy 10 times and never won.  It doesn’t matter that the expectations of others got derailed by the prolific output of a true artist. When your sound is credited with being the catalyst for the Neo-Soul sound, that’s more than any statue or wish list.  

Primed in the 1980s Go-Go circuit, by the time Ndegeocello left whatever group she was in at the time to go solo, she made it stick.  Ndegeocello’s music has been omnipresent since 1993 when she debuted the album, “Plantation Lullabies” with an insert showing how to properly pronounce her name).  

Her biggest commercial hit came in a collaboration with John Mellenc, “Wild Nights’, which made it to #3 on the Billboard charts. The rest of her musical career consists of either writing seminal hits for other artists (or playing bass of historic sessions (Bill Withers, Chaka Khan) or scoring films (How Stella Got Her Groove Back, Higher Learning, Love & basketball, Soul Men and many more) or being a true artistic activist, Ndegeocello has blazed a trail worth following.


In 2008, Patterson won the award that might most typify his career, Underground Artist of the year. Breaking onto the scene as a juvenile on “Kids Incorporated,” Patterson got loads of exposure next to stablemates, Mario Lopez and Fergie.   

Once that gig wrapped, he proved he could do more than sing and act – he wrote songs for Brandy, Tevin Cbell and more. It was his own efforts that didn’t translate.  His MCA label collaboration with Keith Crouch and Jamey Jaz only made it to #48 on the Billboard charts.  The critics liked him, but it failed to grab a mass audience, even though Patterson drew in a strong smaller following in the US and overseas.   

His 2nd album did just slightly better, but still missed the mainstream target and even though he toured, MCA and Patterson parted ways. He’s done a half dozen albums and tours constantly. 


Saadiq got his musical masters at the university of Prince. He toured with the Purple One as a bass player and lived in his world for over 2 years, absorbing all there was to learn. Once it was over, he joined the new group Tony, Toni, Tone with his cousin Timothy Christian and his brother Dwayne Wiggins.  

 That was around the time he changed his own last name to Saadiq. Not because he converted to Muslim, but because he liked the way it sounded.   The unit were chartbusters up until the failure of their 1996 album.  In 1997 they split up.  

Raphael went onto release solo albums and become the preeminent producer of the era, working with Tupac, Mary J Blige, John Legend, Ludacris, Jill Scott, Erykah Badu, The Isley Brothers, A Tribe Called Quest and so many more. He’s been nominated for a Grammy Award a total of 15 times and won for Best R&B Song in 2003.


The London base collective formed in 1988, spearheaded by founder, Jazzie B.  They would do weekly shows and gained a reputation as a first-class sound system. By the time they did their first single the collective had grown to include Jazzie B, Caron Wheeler, Nellie Hooper, Simon Law, Doreen Waddell, Rose Windross, Daddae, Aitch B and Jazzie Q. That single was “Fairplay,” which hit # 63 on the UK charts, followed up by “Feel Free” which peaked at #64.  

The group had a weekly residency (on one night in 1988 they introduced NWA to the stage giving the surprised audience a rare and historic treat), where they would try out new material and are credited with providing the template for the rave movement.  

In 1989 Soul II Soul released “Keep on Movin” and then “Back to Life” and cemented their place as hitmakers in their era. They won 2 Grammys and had a slew of award nominations. Naturally, success bred hubris.  

They went into the 90s with a hit album that made it up to #1 on the UK charts, but with a unit that large there were bound to be defections.   One by one members peeled off to go solo, so by 1998 the remaining members disbanded altogether.   


One reason Terrance Trent D’Arby isn’t bigger is because there is no Terrance Trent D’Arby. The artist who in 1987 was mentioned in the same breath as Michael Jackson and Prince, ceased to exist in 2001. This was after the smash hit album, Introducing the Hardline According to Terrance Trent D’Arby.  

That out-of-nowhere phenomenon produced 4 bonafide hits (Dance Little Sister, If You Let Me Stay, Sign Your Name, Wishing Well) with the latter making it all the way to #1. Two years later his sophomore offering, Neither Fish nor Flesh which had no breaks between songs on the album per D’arby. Frustrated radio stations who didn’t have a mark to start the songs were not happy with this problem.

It’s not that the album was bad but many stations simply stopped playing it and it failed to live up to his audacious debut. The critics thought it self-indulgent and Trent D’Arby attributed its brief 4 week run on the UK charts as a lack of push by his record company and the entire experience left him soured on the Terrance Trent D’Arby experience.    

He took off for four years, relocated to Los Angeles and began morphing into a different direction.   His 3rd album Symphony of Damn returned him to hit making posture.  

Two years later he released Vibrator and mounted a world tour. Then in 2001 after a series of dreams dating back to 1995, Trent D’Arby up and changed his name to Sananda Maitreya. That new artist has released 8 albums, but due to a career journey plagued with stops in the world of film and TV and an inconsistent musical output, Trent D’Arby pretty much got as good as he gave.      


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