Jerry Cantrell is best known as one of the founding members of hard rock band Alice in Chains. Initially recruited as the band’s guitarist, his extensive musical talents soon saw him emerge as the key songwriter and co-lead vocalist. Together with the rest of the band, he’s sold 30 million records worldwide, been nominated for 11 Grammy awards, and racked up 18 Top 10 songs. This year, he’s re-embarking on his solo career, releasing his first solo output since the 2002 double album, “Degradation Trip Volumes 1 and 2.” Find out more as we look at 10 things you didn’t know about Jerry Cantrell.
1. He loves country music
Cantrell came to fame as a member of Alice In Chains, one of the most successful bands to emerge from the Seattle grunge scene. Yet despite making his name in rock. it was the country music he was raised on that was his first love. Soon enough, though, he found hard rock, with Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, and Angus Young serving as some of his biggest early influences.
2. His mother inspired him
In 1986, Cantrell’s grandmother died of cancer. Less than six months later, his mother, Gloria, lost her battle with the disease. Cantrell, who was 21 at the time, spiraled into depression, finding it difficult to cope with losing both his mother and grandmother in such quick succession. Years later, he wrote “Sunshine” in his mother’s memory. During an interview with Spin magazine after its release, he explained how his struggle to cope with her death eventually spurred him on to greater things. “When I was a little kid, I’d always tell her, “I’ll be famous and buy you a house and you’ll never have to work again. I’ll take care of you like you took care of me,'” he said. “When she passed away, it was a really tough time for me. I didn’t know how to deal with it then, and I still don’t. But it gave me the impetus to do what I’m doing.”
3. He’s not a fan of religion
Cantrell has made no secret of the fact he’s not a god-botherer, nor how little time he has for the people who are. Speaking about the dangers of certain elements of organized religion to noisecreep.com, he explained “I think there’s overwhelming evidence that things aren’t working right now. We need to start growing up as a people. When you’re teaching people that being gay is a mortal sin, yet a good portion of the people teaching this are kids, there’s a huge problem”.
4. He owns a hard rock bar
He may not touch a drop of alcohol himself these days, but Cantrell doesn’t mind if other people want to partake, particularly if they choose to do it at Dead Man’s Hand in Las Vegas, the hard rock bar Cantrell owns alongside Anthrax’s Scott Ian.
5. He featured on the soundtrack to The Cable Guy
Over the last couple of decades, Cantrell’s work has been featured in numerous movies. In 1996, his song “Leave Me Alone” turned up on the soundtrack to “The Cable Guy.” A few years later, “She Was My Girl” made it to the “Spider-Man” soundtrack. He’s also featured on the soundtracks to “The Punisher,” “John Wick: Chapter 2,” and “Dark Nights: Metal.”
6. He’s considered one of the greatest guitarists of all time
Cantrell has long been considered one of the greatest guitarists of his generation. In 2006, he beat the likes of Slash, James Hetfield, and Jimmy Page to be awarded the title of “Riff Lord” at the annual Metal Hammer Golden Gods Awards. In 2004, Guitar World ranked him 38th out of 100 Greatest Heavy Metal Guitarists of All Time. He’s also been named as one of the Top 100 Most Complete Guitar Players of All Time by Envision Radio Networks, while his solo in “Man in the Box” made it to No. 77 on Guitar World’s ‘ 100 Greatest Guitar Solos.
7. Elton John is an admirer of his work
It’s not only the music press who think Cantrell is a guitar god. Elton John is such an admirer of his work, he couldn’t say no when Cantrell asked him to play on Alice in Chains’ song “Black Gives Way to Blue.” Guns N’ Roses guitarist Slash has called him one of the most inspiring lead guitar players of the past 30 years, while Slayer guitarist Kerry King has called him “a really solid blues-rock guitarist, very tasteful and emotive.”
8. He’s donated millions to charity
Over the years, Cantrell has become as celebrated for his philanthropy as he has his music. In addition to being a long-time supporter of MusiCares MAP Fund, he’s also supported the anti-racism organization, Artists for a Hate Free America, and Road Recovery, which helps young people in recovery from addiction. For over a decade, he’s hosted the Alice in Chains & Friends Charity Fantasy Football League, which donates all proceeds of an online auction to the charity chosen by the league’s champion.
9. He’s been sober since 2003
The rock and roll lifestyle might not be conducive to sobriety, but Cantrell has been off the drink and drugs since 2003. In 2012, he was awarded the Stevie Ray Vaughan Award from MusiCares for his work in helping other recovering addicts. Speaking at the awards ceremony, he spoke of his regret at having lost so many friends to addiction, including Alice in Chains lead singer Layne Staley, who died from a speedball overdose at the age of 34, and bassist Mike Strarr, who died after a prescription drug overdose in 2011. “A lot of people stand and get up after falling. Some people don’t get that chance. My band’s been a harsh example of that – what happens when you don’t deal with it.” he said. “We really miss Layne and Mike, and we carry them with us in our hearts.”
10. He appeared in Jerry Maguire
Ever since his teens, Cantrell has had a keen interest in acting. Once fame found him through Alice in Chains, he got the opportunity to put his interest into action. His first appearance on the big screen came in the 1992 movie “Singles.” After that, he played journalist Nona Weisbaum on the Alice in Chains mockumentary “The Nona Tapes.” In 1996, he got the chance to act opposite Tom Cruise in Cameron Crowe’s “Jerry Maguire.” His character, Jesus of CopyMat, might not have got a lot of air time, but he did give us the legendary line: “That’s how you become great, man. Hang your balls out there!” By all accounts, Cantrell was Crowe’s first choice for bass player Larry Fellows in “Almost Famous,” but at the time, Cantrell was too busy making music to do it.