Hank, let's talk about your daddy, tell me how your mama loved that man
Well just break out a bottle hoss, I'll tell you about the driftin' cowboy band
We won't talk about the habits, just the music and the man
Of the Big 4 Seattle bands, Alice In Chains, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, and Nirvana, I always found AIC to be the most unique sounding, largely due to the voice of Layne Rutherford Staley. Throw in the angelic harmonies he and Jerry Cantrell conjured and you've got yourself a once in a lifetime sound. Staley's lifetime came to a slowly grinding halt at the age of 34, but not before he left a hall of fame worthy legacy.
Born today in Kirkland, Washington in 1967, Staley gravitated toward music as a toddler. The kid was a rocker from the get go, drawn to the sounds of Black Sabbath, Anthrax, Judas Priest, Dio, Van Halen, and Mercyful Fate, he picked up some drum sticks and never looked back. Such a fan of rock and drums he was, and hating his middle name, he legally changed it from Rutherford to Thomas in honor of Motley Crue drummer Tommy Lee.
Staley wouldn't be behind the kit for too long, as he always knew he was destined to be a singer. He played in some glam and thrash metal bands around Seattle in the mid-80s and then started a band called Alice N' Chains. That band broke up and Staley soon joined a funk band and that band needed a guitarist. He had recently met Jerry Cantrell and invited him to join the funk. Cantrell agreed on the condition that Staley also join his band.
Cantrell's band was far and away better than the clap trap Staley was kicking around with, already having in place drummer Sean Kinney and bassist Mike Starr. Staley joined as the lead singer and AIC was born. They caught the attention of Soundgarden's manager who passed along a demo to a guy at Columbia Records and Alice In Chains was signed in 1989.
AIC released their first album, "Facelift", in 1990. I still remember the first time I saw/heard AIC, in my parent's living room surreptitiously watching MTV as MTV was verboten in that house. Though the sound was way down low, so as not to alert mother to the devil's music pouring out, I was instantly captivated. A kick ass drum/bass intro gave way to Sabbathesque riff and a black and white barnyard haunted house video. I was hooked, my brothers.
AIC would go on to sporadically release two more proper albums and an EP or two as Staley spun into desolation. He formed the band Mad Season with big time Ace Frehley fan and Pearl Jam's guitaritst Mike McCready during one of AIC's breaks. Staley also appeared on a few one-offs with other bands, including Class of '99 with Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine.
I'll leave the tragedy of Staley's demise to you if you're so inclined, but today is about the music and the man.
From the incomparable Whoa Nellie, Jar of Flies EP: https://www.elevenwarriors.com/forum/anything-else/2016/01/66947/jar-of-...
Alice In Chains album: https://www.elevenwarriors.com/forum/anything-else/2015/11/62769/alice-i...
Alice In Chains album