Childhood friends Billie Joe Armstrong (guitar, vocals) and Mike Dirnt (bass; born Michael Pritchard) formed their first band 'Sweet Children' when they were 14 years old in Rodeo, California. By 1989, the group had added drummer John Kiftmeyer (aka: Al Sobrante) and changed their name to Green Day after one of their songs. That year, the band independently released their first EP, 1,000 Hours, which was well received in the punk scene. The band soon signed to local independent label, Lookout! Records (run by Larry Livermore) and their debut album "39/Smooth" was also released that year. Shortly after its release, Kiftmeyer announced that he was going to college and suggested his former drum tutor Tre Cool (born Frank Edwin Wright, III) to take over as the band's permanent drummer. Throughout the early '90s, Green Day continued to cultivate a cult following, which only gained strength with the release of their sophomore album, 1992's 'Kerplunk'.
The underground success of 'Kerplunk' led to a wave of interest from the major record labels. Eventually the band decided to sign with Reprise Records and their major label debut 'Dookie' was released in the spring of 1994. Thanks to relentless touring and somewhat surprising MTV support for initial single "Longview," Dookie became a mainstream hit. The album continued to gain momentum throughout the summer, with the second single "Basket Case" spending five weeks on the top of the American modern rock charts. At the end of the summer, the band stole the show at Woodstock '94, which helped the sales of Dookie increase. By the time the fourth single "When I Come Around" began its seven-week stay at number one in the modern rock charts in early 1995, Dookie had sold over five million copies in the US alone. Eventually this figure would top eight million records sold in America, and selling over eleven million copies internationally. Along with Dookie's commercial success, the band also received critical acclaim when they won the 1994 Grammy for Best Alternative Music Performance. Green Day quickly followed Dookie with 'Insomniac' in the fall of 1995. Prior to the album's release they again hit number one again on the U.S. modern rock charts with "J.A.R.," (a tribute to their friend Jason Andrew Relva, which appears on the soundtrack to the film 'Angus'). 'Insomniac' performed well initially, entering the US charts at number two and selling over two million copies by the spring of 1996. However, none of the subsequent singles -- including the radio favourite 'Brain Stew/Jaded' -- were as popular as those from Dookie. In the spring of 1996, Green Day abruptly cancelled a European tour, claiming exhaustion. Following the cancellation, the band spent the rest of the year resting and writing new material. The end result is what many call the best album of their career: 'Nimrod'.
'Nimrod' was well received by fans and critics alike, managing to land at #10 on the Billboard charts having sold 80,000 copies in it's first week. However, Green Day's comeback single "Hitchin' A Ride" only made it to #5 on the modern rock charts despite being placed in heavy rotation on MuchMusic and MTV. In response to this the band released what is arguably their most successful single ever. Although it would not make it to number one in the mainstream charts (it's highest position was #2), "Time of Your Life" is now probably the most well known song Green Day have ever written. Featuring Billie Joe on acoustic guitar & vocals, and Petra Hayden (of That Dog) on violin, "Time Of Your Life" became the song to play in any remotely sad situation.