Jeffrey Lee Pierce is best remembered as the hard-living guitarist/singer who fronted the Gun Club, a band that fused the fury of punk with the melodic structures and lyrical obsessions of the blues. Born on June 27, 1958, and raised in El Monte, California, Pierce discovered punk rock during his teenage years while working at Bomp Records, writing for such L.A.-based punk magazines as Slash, and serving as the head of Blondie's fan club. By 1979, he was ready to front his own band. First called Creeping Ritual, the group soon changed its name to the Gun Club (supposedly at the request of Circle Jerks' frontman Keith Morris). Merging the energy of hardcore punk with the soul of country blues and adding traces of rockabilly and country, the Gun Club became a primal influence on what would come to be known as psychobilly, though the bands that followed generally ignored the blues influences and the doomstruck poetry of Pierce's lyrics. The band survived countless lineup changes (Pierce being the sole constant member throughout) and issued several standout releases during the early '80s for a variety of record labels, including their classic 1981 debut Fire of Love, 1982's Miami, and 1984's The Las Vegas Story. The Gun Club continued to issue albums off and on throughout the '80s, but Pierce's health would wane from time to time due to his overindulgence of drink and drugs. Pierce also managed to issue a pair of solo releases in addition to his Gun Club duties, 1985's Wildweed and 1992's Ramblin' Jeffrey Lee (the latter also credited to Ramblin' Jeffrey Lee), but the singer/guitarist would ultimately return to his full-time gig.
Pierce appeared to have returned to form with such strong early-'90s Gun Club releases as 1992's In Exile and 1994's Lucky Jim, while he also considered creating a new musical form, "Rapanese" (which would have combined rap with the Japanese language). But on March 31, 1996, Pierce's life was cut short at the age of 37, when he died from a brain hemorrhage. Pierce's music continued to command a cult following after his death, and more than a decade after his passing, a number of talented fans and friends gathered to record new interpretations of Pierce's songs, many never recorded by the Gun Club. The first album from the Jeffrey Lee Pierce Sessions Project, We Are Only Riders, appeared in 2009 and featured performances by Nick Cave, Deborah Harry, Mark Lanegan, Isobel Campbell, and Dave Alvin. A second volume, The Journey Is Long, was released in 2012 and included many of the same participants as well as Steve Wynn, Mick Harvey, and Tav Falco. A third Jeffrey Lee Pierce Sessions Project release, Axels & Sockets, arrived in 2014, with a cast that included Iggy Pop, Thurston Moore, Primal Scream, and Lydia Lunch. ~ Greg Prato, Rovi