Jake E. Lee

BIOGRAPHY – James Hetfield

James Hetfield was born in 1963 in Downey California. His parents were strict Christian Scientists and his early life revolved around the church of Christian Science. James Hetfield learned the piano when he was nine years old, encouraged to be musical by his mother Cynthia, a light opera singer. He then went on to learn the drums from his brother David, but took up the guitar when he was 14 years old influenced by classic rock band Aerosmith. Cynthia Hetfield died in 1979 when James was just 16; she suffered from cancer and refused medication in accordance with Christian Scientist beliefs.

In 1981, after playing in a few local bands, James Hetfield joined Metallica when he answered an advert placed in the local paper by future Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich. At first, Metallica experimented with various guitar and vocal combinations but eventually James Hetfield settled to rhythm guitarist and lead singer.

Between 1981 and 1983, lead guitarist Dave Mustaine, also recruited via the local paper, was part of Metallica but his drinking problems led to serious rows between him and James. Many incidents followed including a fight over a dog in the studio but after Mustaine nearly electrocuted the bass player by pouring beer onto live electrics, it was felt he had gone too far and he was fired and replaced by Kirk Hammett.

Metallica recorded their debut album in 1983 and have since gone on to worldwide success. They have released nine studio albums and won numerous awards, including Grammys for Best Metal Performance six times, the most recent in 2009 and in 2003, Metallica were inducted into the Kerrang Hall of Fame.

James Hetfield has been accident-prone throughout his career. He has had many onstage accidents including one famous occasion when he was caught by an on stage pyrotechnic at the Montréal Olympic stadium in 1992 and suffered 2nd and 3rd degree burns. He has also broken his arm many times after skateboarding – and is bound by his Metallica contract not to skateboard on tour.

James Hetfield has had problems with alcohol abuse but underwent rehab in 2002 and has been successful in giving up drinking. He attributes this to the influence of his wife Francesca who said his behaviour was too embarrassing.

As a guitarist James Hetfield has been rated number 8 in Joel McIver’s 2009 book “100 greatest Metal Guitarists Of All Time” and he has also ranked 24th in the Hit Paraders best metal vocalists.

James Hetfield collects vintage guitars but has endorsed ESP since the 1980s and has six signature models to his name. He also plays various Gibson guitars and is linked to Ken Lawrence guitars who custom builds guitars for him around the design of the ESP Explorer.