The 15 Most Elusive Figures in Music History

Q Lazzarus, Orville Peck, SAULT and more who have made influential music while keeping their identities hidden

Photo: still from Q Lazzarus's "Goodbye Horses" video

BY Daniel SylvesterPublished Oct 22, 2022

Diane Luckey's obituary was unspectacular. Appearing in the Asbury Park Press on July 30 of this year, readers were notified of the 61-year-old bus driver's passing, alongside funeral arrangements. 

However, when news outlets picked up on Luckey's death, it became a notable news story. Major entertainment outlets around the world would go on to extend this single paragraph into 600-word think pieces about Diane's brief foray into music. But above all, virtually every narrative focused on her reclusiveness.

Under her Q Lazzarus moniker, Luckey didn't start her career with the intent of becoming an enigma. Rather, she spent her early years lobbying record labels to release her music, remaining commercially unsuccessful even after her track "Goodbye Horses" was included in The Silence of the Lambs

Luckey completely abandoned music in 1996 and returned to driving public transit in New York City. But the fascination surrounding her identity only began to grow, leading to a 2019 feature in British magazine, Dazed, where her name and current location were revealed. 

When Q Lazzarus's death made the news cycle, it was a stark reminder of our obsession with artists who choose to keep their identities private. 

Whether they remain shrouded to this day or have been uncovered (due to internet sleuthing or their need to make money and tour), these are the most elusive musicians of all time.

The Armed
Not only have Detroit hardcore band the Armed managed to conceal their identity, they've made a game of it. Featuring a rotating lineup comprised of metalcore royalty, possible contributor Ben Koller (of Converge) has referred to them as "mysterious and total weirdos." Considering they've lied about members, switched identities and toured in secret, it's a crapshoot to know if any of these clues are just red herrings.

While William Emmanuel Bevan has revealed a great deal about himself to the press over the past 15 years, there was a time when his identity was major tabloid fodder in the UK. In fact, when the South London dubstep producer was nominated for the 2008 Mercury Music Prize for his sophomore LP, Untrue, rumours wildly circulated that he was a shrouded avatar for Aphex Twin or Fatboy Slim. 

Daft Punk
No elusive artist has pushed themselves into worldwide fame like Daft Punk. Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo built an electro empire while originally refusing to appear in music videos, do interviews, or even speak in public. Obscuring themselves behind their iconic helmets, Paul Williams accepted their 2014 Grammy for Album of the Year with a "message from the robots" that was as beautiful and bizarre as the duo themselves.

While it's no secret that Indio is Gordon Peterson, the Dundas, ON, musician cemented himself in legend by disappearing after releasing his 1989 debut, Big Harvest. Nearly two decades after "Hard Sun" hit the Top 10 in Canada, Eddie Vedder covered it, spurring Peterson to sue for changed lyrics. More recently, Peterson has shown interest in having his music heard, releasing a 2007 single and putting Big Harvest on streaming services earlier this year.       

Described by AllMusic as "the most enigmatic figure in American music," Jandek recorded 10 albums before granting a single interview. Over 110 LPs later, he's become a cult figure in the lo-fi community, and Kurt Cobain famously said, "He's not pretentious, but only pretentious people like his music." After 26 years of obscurity, Jandek made his live debut at a Scottish festival in 2004, and has made a handful of unannounced performances since.  

This mysterious group of musicians didn't just sound like the Beatles, they were the Beatles. Well, that was the rumour fuelled by a journalist after the release of their 1976 debut. Withholding album credits, biographical information and photos from 3:47 EST, many independent sleuths gathered hamstrung clues to support the Beatles theory. By the time they released their third album, Endangered Species, Klaatu unveiled themselves as three regular Torontonians. 

Much like Haitian rapper Mach-Hommy, Leikeli47 has decided to conceal both her face and identity, telling Cultured Magazine, "Being Black, we gotta learn how to wear a mask early." While she's spoken about the "freedom" that comes from obscurity, her bold and playful style of hip-hop reflects this confidence, as she delivers a strong message of independence and confidence within the Black community through her lyrics. 

Although Randall A. Wulff never officially tried to hide his identity, his actions since releasing his debut have contributed considerably to his legend. At times recording under pseudonyms Lewis Baloue and Randy Duke, this former Calgary stockbroker put out four hard-to-find LPs in the 1980s. Due to his reluctance to speak about his older material, the 2010's rediscovery of Lewis' time-capsule music only increased his elusiveness. 

Nash the Slash
Undoubtedly influenced by the Residents, the electric violinist and mandolinist was best known for his tuxedo, top hat, sunglasses, and surgical bandages — although he didn't obscure his face until after leaving Toronto prog-rock greats FM in 1978. Even after the Toronto Star revealed his name that same year, Nash kept the mystery alive, revealing very little about his life aside from coming out as gay in 1998, 16 years before his 2014 death.

William Onyeabor
By the time the Western world got hip to William Onyeabor, he was already a star in Nigeria, retired from music and enjoying a resurgence. When David Byrne's Luaka Bop released a 2013 compilation of his 1970s pop-funk songs, a proper biography was barely stitched togetherdue to Onyebor's reclusiveness. Even after tracking him down, the aforementioned record was given the apropos title Who Is William Onyeabor?

Orville Peck
Orville Peck hasn't disclosed much about himself, but he has gone on record to clarify that everyone's favourite masked Canadian cowboy is, in fact, South African. Connections to the Great White North stem from internet sleuths identifying him as a certain Vancouver musician known for playing in local punk and alt-rock projects. His tattoos and the last name from his ASCAP songwriting credits confirm these rumours.

While metal is swarming with masked musicians, from GWAR to Ghost, no group has obscured their identities better than Portal. Although the Australian death metal underground legends often take part in interviews, they've managed to survive 19 years without revealing who is under those executioner masks and veils. Lead guitarist Horror Illogium to describe their ambiguity as "vessels for our escape."

The Residents
Perhaps the granddaddies of all elusive musicians, speculation about the identities of this musical art collective remains 48 years later. Best known for cloaking themselves in tuxedos, top hats and their iconic eyeball masks, the Residents have amassed a fanbase of weirdos over their 45 LPs. Although there's been numerous rumours around members, the only known Resident is Hardy Fox, who outed himself shortly before his 2018 passing.

One of the most acclaimed acts of the new decade is also the most enigmatic. Helmed by producer Inflo, journalists and fans can only make assumptions about his collaborators, the most cited being British singer-songwriter Cleo Sol and American rapper Kid Sister. Inflo's Mercury Prize- and Ivor Novello Award-winning work with Michael Kiwanuka and Little Simz only adds to the mystery about who makes up this groundbreaking R&B collective.

Sun Ra
"Any name that I use other than Ra is a pseudonym." This is how committed free jazz innovator Sun Ra was to his celestial backstory. In the late 1950s, a time when jazz was still regional, Sun Ra gave the press little to no information about his beginnings. By the time basic info emerged, including birthplace and musical foundation, this "extraterrestrial from Saturn" was well accepted as an Afrofuturist trailblazer.

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