Jeffrey Dean Isbell (born April 8, 1962), known by his stage name Izzy Stradlin, is an American musician and songwriter. He is best known as the co-founder and former rhythm guitarist of the hard rock band Guns N' Roses, which he left at the height of its fame in 1991. Following his departure, he led his own band Izzy Stradlin and the Ju Ju Hounds for one album and tour. Since the late 1990s, Stradlin has released ten solo albums, the last six independently. In 2012, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Guns N' Roses.
Life and career:
1962-1979: Early life:
Stradlin was born as Jeffrey Dean Isbell in Lafayette, Indiana. His father was an engraver, and his mother worked for the phone company; they divorced when he was eight. Of his hometown, Stradlin later said, "It was cool growing up there. There's a courthouse and a college, a river and railroad tracks. It's a small town, so there wasn't much to do. We rode bikes, smoked pot, got into trouble--it was pretty Beavis and Butt-head actually."
Stradlin developed an interest in music early in life; by the age of eight, his musical favorites included Bob Dylan, Pink Floyd, Alice Cooper, and Led Zeppelin. His biggest musical influence was his paternal grandmother, who played drums in a swing jazz band with her friends. Inspired, Stradlin talked his parents into buying him a drum kit.
In high school, Stradlin started a band with his friends, one of whom was singer William Bailey, later known as Axl Rose. Stradlin recalled, "We were long-haired guys in high school. You were either a jock or a stoner. We weren't jocks, so we ended up hanging out together. We'd play covers in the garage. There were no clubs to play at, so we never made it out of the garage." Despite his aversion to school, Stradlin graduated in 1979 with a D average. Set on a career in music, he subsequently moved to Los Angeles, California.
1980-1984: Early career:
Shortly after his arrival in Los Angeles, Stradlin joined punk band Naughty Women. During his ill-fated first show with the band, audience members began attacking the musicians; Stradlin recalled, "I just grabbed a cymbal stand and stood on the side trying to fend them off, yelling, 'Get the fuck away from me, man!' That was my introduction to the rock scene in L.A." His two-month tenure in Naughty Women was followed by a stint in punk band The Atoms, before his drum kit was stolen from his car and he switched to bass. Stradlin then joined the heavy metal band Shire, during which he took up rhythm guitar to aid his songwriting.
In 1983, Stradlin formed Hollywood Rose with his childhood friend Axl Rose, who had moved to Los Angeles the previous year. In January 1984, the band recorded a five-song demo featuring the tracks "Killing Time", "Anything Goes", "Rocker", "Shadow of Your Love", and "Reckless Life", which were released in 2004 as part of the compilation album The Roots of Guns N' Roses. The group disbanded in August, following which Stradlin briefly joined Sunset Strip staple London. He also formed the short-lived band Stalin with singer Eric Leach and guitarist Taz Rudd of Symbol Six. In December, he reunited with Hollywood Rose.
1985-1991: Guns N' Roses:
In March 1985, Stradlin founded Guns N' Roses with Axl Rose and several members of L.A. Guns. By June, the line-up consisted of Stradlin, Rose, guitarist Slash, bassist Duff McKagan, and drummer Steven Adler. They played nightclubs--such as the Whisky a Go Go, The Roxy, and The Troubadour--and opened for larger acts throughout 1985 and 1986. It was during this period that the band wrote most of its classic material, with Stradlin establishing himself as a key songwriter in the group.
In July 1987, Guns N' Roses released its debut album, Appetite for Destruction, which to date has sold over 28 million copies worldwide, 18 million of which in the United States, making it the best-selling debut album of all time in the US. Stradlin wrote or co-wrote most of the songs on the album, including the hits "Sweet Child o' Mine" and "Paradise City". He also wrote the hit "Patience" off the follow-up album G N' R Lies, which was released in November 1988 to US sales of five million copies, despite containing only eight tracks, four of which were included on the previously released EP Live ?!*@ Like a Suicide.
As their success grew, so did interpersonal tensions within the band. In 1989, during a show as opening act for the Rolling Stones, Axl Rose threatened to leave the band if Stradlin, Slash, and Steven Adler didn't stop "dancing with Mr. Brownstone," a reference to their song of the same name about heroin use. After being sentenced to a year probation for urinating in public aboard an airplane, Stradlin decided to attain sobriety; he returned to his mother's home in Indiana, where he detoxed from drugs and alcohol. The following year, Adler was fired from the band because of his heroin addiction; he was replaced by Matt Sorum of The Cult.
In September 1991, Guns N' Roses released the long-awaited albums Use Your Illusion I and Use Your Illusion II, which debuted at No. 2 and No. 1 respectively on the US chart, a feat unachieved by any other group. Stradlin co-wrote the hits "Don't Cry" and "You Could Be Mine", and performed lead vocals on the songs "Dust N' Bones", "You Ain't the First", "Double Talkin' Jive", and "14 Years". Like on their previous records, his preferred guitar during the recording of the albums was a Gibson ES-175.
In response to an interviewer's suggestion that replacing Adler with Sorum had turned Guns N' Roses from a rock 'n' roll band into a heavy metal one, Stradlin responded, "Yeah, a big musical difference. The first time I realized what Steve did for the band was when he broke his hand in Michigan. Tried to punch through a wall and busted his hand. So we had Fred Coury come in from Cinderella for the Houston show. Fred played technically good and steady, but the songs sounded just awful. They were written with Steve playing the drums and his sense of swing was the push and pull that give the songs their feel. When that was gone, it was just...unbelievable, weird. Nothing worked. I would have preferred to continue with Steve, but we'd had two years off and we couldn't wait any longer. It just didn't work for Slash to be telling Steve to straighten out. He wasn't ready to clean up."
By the release of the Use Your Illusion albums, Stradlin had become dissatisfied with life in Guns N' Roses. He later recalled, "Once I quit drugs, I couldn't help looking around and asking myself, 'Is this all there is?' I was just tired of it; I needed to get out." On November 7, 1991, it was announced that Stradlin had left Guns N' Roses. He had played his final show as an official member of the band on August 31 at Wembley Stadium. Of his reasons for leaving, Stradlin later said, "I didn't like the complications that became such a part of daily life in Guns N' Roses," citing the Riverport riot and Axl Rose's chronic lateness on the Use Your Illusion Tour as examples. He stated that getting sober played a part in his decision to leave, saying, "When you're fucked up, you're more likely to put up with things you wouldn't normally put up with."
1992-1994: Ju Ju Hounds and first GNR reunion:
"Izzy Stradlin and the Ju Ju Hounds" redirects here. For the album, see Izzy Stradlin and the Ju Ju Hounds (album).
Following his departure from Guns N' Roses, Stradlin returned to his hometown of Lafayette, Indiana, where he began working on new material. He formed the band Izzy Stradlin and the Ju Ju Hounds, which consisted of Stradlin on vocals and rhythm guitar, Rick Richards of Georgia Satellites on lead guitar, Jimmy Ashhurst of Broken Homes on bass, and Charlie Quintana on drums. Their self-titled debut album was released in October 1992 to critical acclaim; Rolling Stone called it "a ragged, blues-drenched, and thoroughly winning solo debut." Ju Ju Hounds played its first show in September at The Avalon in Chicago, before embarking on a tour of Europe, Australia, and North America.
In May 1993, Stradlin reunited with Guns N' Roses for five shows in Europe and the Middle East to fill in for his replacement, Gilby Clarke, who had broken his wrist in a motorcycle accident. After Stradlin returned to the Ju Ju Hounds, Axl Rose dedicated the Stradlin-penned "Double Talkin' Jive" to him during several shows. In September, the Ju Ju Hounds undertook a tour of Japan, where the band played its final show at the Shibuya Public Hall in Tokyo. Stradlin then took time off from music, during which he traveled extensively and dedicated much of his time to his other passion--motor racing, even building a track close to his Indiana home.
1995-2002: Solo career and Velvet Revolver:
In 1995, Stradlin began recording material for his second solo album, 117°. Released in March 1998, the album was recorded in fits and starts over a period of two years and featured his former band mates Duff McKagan and Rick Richards, as well as former Reverend Horton Heat drummer Taz Bentley, whose work Stradlin admired. As before, Stradlin had little interest in promoting his music; he did few interviews and played no live performances. The album turned out to be his last release on his long-time label Geffen; as a result of the merge between Geffen and Interscope, Stradlin was dropped from the label's roster.
In December 1999, Stradlin's third solo album, Ride On, was released on the Universal Victor label in Japan. It featured the same line-up as his previous release. To promote the album, Stradlin--with McKagan, Richards, and Bentley--played four shows in Japan the following April. With the addition of keyboardist Ian McLagan, the group recorded two more albums: River, which was released in May 2001 on Sanctuary, and a second Japan-only release, On Down the Road, which followed in August 2002 on JVC Victor.
Stradlin was then asked by his former Guns N' Roses band mates Duff McKagan, Slash, and Matt Sorum to join the supergroup Velvet Revolver. Although he contributed to the songwriting process while the band was in its formative stage, Stradlin ultimately declined to join due to his aversion to life on the road and his unwillingness to work with a lead singer, although he offered to share vocal duties with McKagan.
2003-present: Independent solo career, second and third GNR reunion:
In 2003, Stradlin recorded his sixth album, Like a Dog, with guitarist Rick Richards, drummer Taz Bentley, and bassist JT Longoria. It was originally scheduled for a late 2003 release, with just under one thousand promo copies made. However, the album was not released until October 2005, when Stradlin--prompted by a fan petition--made it available through internet order. The following year, Stradlin re-released Ride On, River, On Down the Road, and Like a Dog through iTunes.
In May 2006, thirteen years after his last performance with Guns N' Roses, Stradlin made a guest appearance at the band's show at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York; he played on "Patience", "Think About You", and "Nightrain". He then performed with Guns N' Roses for 13 shows during the band's summer European tour. Stradlin said, "Axl Rose and I connected via cell phone this year, I stopped by...It was nice to reconnect with an old friend/war buddy/fellow musician. I told him later I'd like to join the fun in some way and he said I was welcome to come and play something, so I did! Took me about three weeks to recover from the six weeks of touring!" In December, he played three shows with the group at the Gibson Amphitheatre in Universal City, California.
Stradlin released his seventh album, Miami, through iTunes in May 2007. It again featured Rick Richards, Taz Bentley, and JT Longoria, as well as keyboardist Joey Huffman. Guitarist Richards described the album as being "a bit of a departure from Like a Dog but still quite a rocker." In July, a remixed version of Miami was released through iTunes; Stradlin called the new mix "much louder and more powerful sounding." In November of that year, he released a second iTunes-only album, Fire, the Acoustic Album, which also featured Richards, Bentley, and Longoria.
Stradlin's next iTunes release, Concrete, came out in July 2008. In addition to his regular collaborators, Stradlin also invited his former Guns N' Roses band mate Duff McKagan to play bass on three songs, including the title track. Stradlin then released two more albums through iTunes: Smoke, which came out in December 2009, and Wave of Heat, which followed in July 2010 and again featured McKagan, who appears on seven tracks. Also in 2010, Stradlin appeared as a guest on his former bandmate Slash's first solo album, Slash; he performs rhythm guitar on the first track, "Ghost".
In April 2012, Stradlin was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the classic lineup of Guns N' Roses. In a statement released through McKagan's blog for Seattle Weekly, he thanked the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame "for the acknowledgement of our works over the years," his former band mates, and his fans for their continuing support. Known to avoid public attention, Stradlin did not attend the induction ceremony. The following month, he joined Guns N' Roses on stage during two shows at London's O2 Arena, where they performed a range of songs including "14 Years," which had not been performed live since his departure in 1991. He also performed with Guns N' Roses in July, at a private show in Saint-Tropez and a concert in Palma de Mallorca, and again in November, during the last two shows of the band's twelve-date "Appetite for Democracy" residency in Las Vegas. Also in November, Stradlin released the iTunes-only single "Baby-Rann"--his first release in over two years; an accompanying video was made available via YouTube.