How a singer you never heard of sold 150 million records

During the early 1990s, a new musical movement swept across the United States. Dubbed “The Seattle Sound” or “Grunge,” it made superstars of bands like Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Alice in Chains, Soundgarden and many others.

Those four bands alone went on to sell a combined 150 million records (and counting), and at least two of them attribute their incredible success and impact to a guy you’ve never heard of.

His name was Andy Wood, and he died in 1990, before any of those bands made it big and before Grunge music became as popular in Peoria as it was in the Pacific Northwest.

But the reason that Andy Wood had such a massive impact on those groups (and countless others) was that he encapsulated one of the secrets to success in business (or life): You must act as if what you want to achieve is ALREADY a reality.

The Story

Long before Pearl Jam, long before Soundgarden, long before the entire “Seattle Sound,” there was Mother Love Bone. Formed by Wood in the late 1980s in Seattle, Washington, Mother Love Bone was just another local band struggling to land gigs and record an album, let alone go on world tour before millions of screaming fans.

But Wood, the group’s lead singer and frontman, did something outrageous – he acted as if he already WAS a rock star.

“I want the world to know, that Mother Love Bone is coming to take over the world,” Wood says in a clip from the documentary Pearl Jam Twenty, grinning as he sits atop of a pinball machine in a local bar. “A plethora of delights.”

Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready recalls how Wood would work the crowd – no matter what the size – as if he already was a world famous singer.

“He’d go to the Central Tavern, when there were like twenty-five people there, and play it like it was a coliseum,” McCready says in the documentary. “He’d be like, ‘To all you people in the back!’ and [the only person back there] was the guy at the door.”

Here’s a quick clip of Wood and his impact via Pearl Jam Twenty:

Tragically, Wood never made it to the big time – he died of a drug overdose just as Mother Love Bone (which featured future Pearl Jam co-founders Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament) finished its first album.

But in the aftermath of his death, what would become known as Grunge, or “the Seattle Sound” was launched. Seattle-based bands like Pearl Jam (32 million records sold), Nirvana (75 million), Alice in Chains (20 million) and Soundgarden (22.5 million) became some of the most popular rock acts of the 1990s and beyond.

“He was a rock star, he knew it,” said Soundgarden singer Chris Cornell of Wood. “And something about that … made us all believe that we were, too.”

One can argue that without the inspiration and infusion of confidence Andy Wood delivered to the future members of Pearl Jam and other local bands like Soundgarden (he and Cornell were roommates and wrote music together), the entire “Seattle Sound” might never have happened. (Or at least not on the epic scale it reached during the early-to-mid 1990s.)

Confidence, after all, is contagious. Remember: It doesn’t matter if it’s rock music or refurbishing wood windows. If you don’t act as if you’re already there, you’ll never get “there.”

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