Jerry Cantrell is best known for being the driving force behind the grunge metal band; Alice in Chains, where he is the guitarist, co-lead singer and the songwriter for the band. He has a distinctive guitar sound which comes from his use of 1 and ½ steps down tuning and use of a Wah pedal.
Jerry Cantrell was born in 1966 in Tacoma Washington, where he grew up listening to country music. However, as a teenager he started listening to rock music and was soon influenced by bands such as Black Sabbath, Jimi Hendrix Queensrysche and Heart. He started playing the guitar seriously aged 17.
While at High school Jerry Cantrell was a member of the school choir, winning state competitions and singing the National anthem at basketball games. Jerry Cantrell later sent his choir teacher a gold record after Alice in Chains’ first album went gold.
Jerry Cantrell formed his first band Diamond Lie in the mid 1980s which included Layne Staley, Cantrell’s college roommate as lead singer, Sean Kinney on drums and Mike Starr on bass. The band started gaining success in the Seattle area, eventually changing their name to Alice in Chains.
Jerry Cantrell’s early heavy rock influences and song writing ability made Alice in Chains stand out from other bands on the Seattle grunge scene and they released their debut album “Facelift” in 1990 selling over three million copies in the USA alone. Although they are known as a grunge band, Alice in Chains sound was always much closer to metal, than that of Pearl Jam or Nirvana. The band went on to further success and released albums throughout the 1990s but came to a halt at the end of the decade when singer Layne died.
After Layne Staley’s death from a speedball overdose in 2002, the surviving members reformed the band. Jerry Cantrell joined Alice in Chains in 2005 for a number of performances and the album “Black gives Way to Blue” was released in September 2009 This is the first album since Staley’s death and features Jerry Cantrell as vocalist alongside new singer William Duvall.
Jerry Cantrell has released two albums as a solo artist but has not reached the same success as with Alice in Chains. In 2006, he was named Riff Lord at the Golden Gods Award show hosted by rock magazine Metal Hammer.