He remains one of the most talented and biggest Rock music forces since the 1990’s
Alice In Chains founder and guitarist Jerry Cantrell turns 55 today
The founder of the Grunge Rock band Alice In Chains, Jerry Cantrell, was born on March 18, 1966, in Tacoma, Washington. During the 1980’s, Cantrell played in several bands as a guitarist, including during the period he lived in Dallas. In 1987, back in Seattle, he met Layne Staley at a party. He was homeless after being kicked out of his family’s house, so Staley invited Cantrell to live with him at the 24-hour rehearsal studio “The Music Bank”. They formed Alice In Chains that quickly became one of Seattle’s Rock scene most important bands. Jerry Cantrell served as the lead guitarist, co-lyricist, co-vocalist and main composer of Alice in Chains. The band was one of the first Seattle local Grunge bands to be signed by a major label, they released their debut “Facelift” in 1990 on the major label Colombia. The album featured the Grunge Rock hits “Man In The Box”, “We Die Young”, “Love, Hate, Love”, “Bleed the Freak” and “It Ain’t Like That”. When the Grunge Rock and Alternative Rock started to rule the airwaves and music charts, Alice In Chains immediately gained worldwide success due to their unique signature sound and Staley’s distinctive vocals. The band released their most successful album, “Dirt”, in 1992 at the peak of the Grunge popularity. It provided a string of hits for them including “Them Bones”, “Rooster”, “Angry Chair”, “Down in a Hole” and “Would?”. The dark mood present on the album as well as in its lyrics gave away the fact that something was not well within the band. Most of the album speaks about drug use and addiction set in a dark tone mood. Staley’s heroin addiction eventually left to the hiatus of the band at the peak of their success. They released the EP “Jar Of Flies” in 1994 and in 1995 the third album, self-titled “Alice In Chains”. In 1996 their MTV Unplugged performance became one of the most popular together with the 1993 Nirvana one. The performance was released as an album and on video. Still, in 1996, the final live appearance of Alice In Chains with Layne Staley took place on July 3 in Kansas City, Missouri. Shortly after the show, Staley was found unresponsive after he overdosed on heroin and was hospitalized. Staley died from a heroin overdose in 2002 at age 34. Cantrell went on to re-form Alice In Chains with a new lead singer, but before that, Between 2006 and 2007, Cantrell played in a number of concerts with Alice in Chains featuring guest lead singers such as Ann Wilson, Mark Lanegan, James Hetfield, Phil Anselmo, Billy Corgan, Scott Weiland, Sebastian Bach, and William DuVall who end up becoming the band’s new lead singer. Alice In Chains still keeps up as a band despite the death of their core member and singer Staley, with DuVall on vocals, a rare situation in Rock music of a band reprising their career after the demise of such an important member. This is large part due to Cantrell’s efforts and talent as a musician, leader, and songwriter. About the pressure being put on DuVall for replacing Staley as lead vocalist, Cantrell said, “To put all that weight on Will’s shoulders is unfair. We’re just figuring out how we work as a team. Although the band has changed, we’ve lost Layne, we’ve added Will, and there was no master plan. Playing again in 2005 felt right, so we did the next thing and toured. We did it step by step. It’s more than just making music, and it always has been. We’ve been friends a long time. We’ve been more of a family than most, and it had to be okay from here”, Cantrell said pointing to his heart. The band released their fifth studio album, “The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here”, on May 28, 2013. The album debuted at #2 on the Billboard 200 (the band’s highest chart position since 1995’s “Alice in Chains”). Cantrell’s career outside Alice in Chains has consisted of two solo albums, as well as many appearances with other musicians and on film soundtracks. His first solo material came in a song entitled “Leave Me Alone.” This was released exclusively on “The Cable Guy” soundtrack in 1996, featuring Alice in Chains drummer Sean Kinney. It had a music video and reached Number 14 on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock Tracks. In the same year, Cantrell covered Willie Nelson’s “I’ve Seen All This World I Care to See” for the album “Twisted Willie: A Tribute to Willie Nelson”. His second solo album “Boggy Depot” was released in April 1998. It contains three singles including the popular “Cut You In” and “My Song”. Jerry Cantrell has also collaborated and performed with Heart, Ozzy Osbourne, Metallica, Circus of Power, Metal Church, Gov’t Mule, Damageplan, Pearl Jam, The Cult, Danzig, Glenn Hughes, Duff McKagan and Deftones. He turns 54 today.
Look back at the 1992 music video for “Would?” by Alice In Chains, a song where Jerry Cantrell splits the lead vocals with Layne Staley
Listen the compilation “The Essential Alice In Chains” on Spotify
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