Jeffery Dean Isbell (born April 8, 1962), more widely known by his stage name Izzy Stradlin, is an American musician, best known as one of the lead songwriters and rhythm guitarist of the hard rock band Guns N' Roses from 1985 to 1991.
Stradlin was born as Jeffery Dean Isbell in Lafayette, Indiana, of English, French and Scottish descent. Of Lafayette, Stradlin said, "It was cool growing up there. There's a courthouse (Tippecanoe County Courthouse) and a college (Purdue University), a river (the Wabash) 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 Butthead actually."
Stradlin's first musical favorites included Hanoi Rocks, Alice Cooper, Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, Scorpions, the Doors and the Rolling Stones, but the biggest influence was his grandmother, who had a band together with her friends. Stradlin talked his parents into buying him a drum kit. When he was 14 years old Stradlin started playing in a band, named Axl with some friends. One of them was William Bruce Bailey, better known as Axl Rose. "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. Axl was really shy about singing back then. But I always knew he was a singer."
Guns N' Roses (1985-1991)
After his graduation Stradlin decided that Indiana wasn't enough if he wanted to pursue a musical career. He packed his drum kit into his car and headed for Los Angeles. He tried his luck as drummer with a couple of bands, then switched to bass for a short while due to his drum kit getting stolen with his car. He eventually took up guitar because he thought it was easier to write songs on the guitar and songwriters make more money. After a few years in Los Angeles, Stradlin was joined by Axl, and they ended up playing together in a band called Shire, under the name Izzy Bell. They left Shire and later formed a band called Rose (later called Hollywood Rose), which was the first band Stradlin played guitar in. In 1984, he briefly left to join Sunset Strip staple, London (whose revolving membership included Nikki Sixx of M?tley Cr?e as well as Blackie Lawless of W.A.S.P. amongst its ranks). However, he returned to playing with Rose in time for the band to finish the year by playing a show at the 'Dancing Waters' club in Los Angeles.
In 1983, Slash formed the band Road Crew, a Mot?rhead tribute band (named for the Mot?rhead song "We Are The Road Crew") with childhood friend Steven Adler. He placed an advertisement in a newspaper for a bassist, and received a response from Duff McKagan. When Road Crew disbanded, Slash joined a local band known as Black Sheep. Headed by Willie Bass, the band shared an agent with another new group known as Hollywood Rose. In 1984, both bands opened for Christian metal band Stryper. After the show, Slash and lead singer Axl Rose were introduced to one another by a friend. The two quickly became friends, and several months later, Slash and Steven Adler were invited to join with Axl Rose, Duff McKagan and Izzy Stradlin as a new band: Guns N' Roses.
Stradlin was a key writer in the band. The guitarist wrote "Think About You" on his own for the band's debut album and co-wrote the tracks "Welcome to the Jungle", "Nightrain", "Mr. Brownstowne", "Paradise City", "Sweet Child O' Mine", "Out To Get Me", "My Michelle", "You're Crazy", "Anything Goes" and "Rocket Queen." Stradlin is also the primary writer of the hit song "Patience." When the "Appetite for Destruction" tour ended, Stradlin, along with bandmates Slash, Duff McKagan and Steven Adler, ratcheted up the heavy drinking and drug use that had become a trademark of the band. Unlike the others, Stradlin finally managed to overcome the temptation of continuous intoxication and cleaned up. He has said that touring with Aerosmith in 1988 was a big source of inspiration: "It was like, thank God we got to meet some people that weren't fucked up! I'd go out to watch and they'd sound fucking amazing! I thought, we're gonna have to really pull this shit together to keep up, 'cause they were right, you know? And with us, even then, it was like the music was already taking a back seat to all the other shit..." What finally made him make the decision to give up drugs was an infamous incident on board an airplane in which he was arrested for urinating in the galley of the plane. After that incident, Stradlin was subjected to random urine tests for drugs.
Stradlin was often seen as the silent one in the "most dangerous band in the world," and this became a lot more noticeable during the 1991 "Use Your Illusion" tour. Stradlin didn't travel with the band anymore. He, his Swedish girlfriend Annica Kreuter (whom he later married in 1991, divorced in 2000), and his dog had a private bus that took them from show to show. He commented further that this had to do with his efforts in remaining sober while being around people still drinking and using drugs. Stradlin has also mentioned that after Adler's firing, he felt that Matt Sorum's sound "didn't work" for the band, and that Adler was essential to the band's sound. Also, it has been noted by Axl and Slash that Izzy was simply not having fun with the band any more, and no longer enjoyed it.
On the Use Your Illusion albums, Stradlin took lead vocals on "Dust N' Bones," "14 Years," "Double Talkin' Jive" and "You Ain't The First." He also wrote or co-wrote 12 of the songs on the albums, including many fan favourites like "You Could Be Mine" (with Rose), "Don't Cry" (also with Rose), and "Pretty Tied Up." However, despite the long friendship, tension between Rose and Stradlin would eventually boil over. Fed up with Rose's late appearances at gigs and the Guns N' Roses circus in general, Stradlin finally decided to leave the band after a show in Mannheim, Germany, on August 24, 1991. Fairly early on in the set (which started rather late to begin with), Rose walked off the stage for no apparent reason. The band tried to convince him to return onstage (including a heated encounter between Sorum and Rose), but he refused. Fearing another incident like the riot at St. Louis, the management locked the gates around the venue so that Rose could not leave. Once Rose realized he was not going anywhere, he returned onstage and finished the set.
The next day, Stradlin informed the band through their manager Alan that he was quitting. According to Stephen Davis' Watch You Bleed: The Saga of Guns N' Roses, the final straw for Izzy came when Axl attempted to put him on salary. Davis quotes Robert John, the band's photographer: "We were in Germany, and I knew something was wrong. The band wasn't going onstage, and nobody knew why. Duff came out of the band meeting, really upset, and then went back in again...Then word filtered down to the crew that what happened was something about Izzy getting demoted...I couldn't believe this, because I thought Izzy wrote all their best songs. He was Axl's writing partner."
He finally left the band on November 7, 1991, at the end of the European leg of the band's tour. His last show as an official member was at Wembley Stadium, London, in front of a crowd of 72,000 people. He was eventually replaced by rhythm guitarist Gilby Clarke. Slash stated in his autobiography that the shows that took place with Stradlin after he announced his set departure were the only shows Axl Rose showed up to on time.
Initially, Rose explained Izzy's departure on nationally-syndicated US radio show Rockline "My personal belief is that Izzy never wanted something this big...He didn't want to do videos. He just wasn't into it." On the same program Rose stated "I talked to Izzy for four and a half hours on the phone. At some points I was crying, and I was begging." In the months that followed Stradlin's departure, however, Rose's feelings turned bitter, with the singer often dedicating "Double Talkin' Jive" to the guitarist in concerts and telling an interviewer "I feel like he shit all over me...Izzy was very unsupportive of me in general." Slash also threw daggers in Stradlin's direction. In the January, 1994 issue of Guitar Player, he told Chris Gill "I never liked playing with Izzy the whole time I've been in this band...I always used to get bummed out about certain songs on Appetite For Destruction that Izzy didn't play right." In his autobiography, Slash would largely disown such statements, claiming that Izzy's departure was a big reason why he decided to leave the band himself.
After Guns N' Roses and beyond (1992-2005)
After Guns N' Roses Stradlin went back to Indiana and started recording the songs that ended up on his first solo album with his band Izzy Stradlin & the Ju Ju Hounds. Their self-titled album was released in 1992. The music was more laid back and simpler than Use Your Illusion I and II They received fair reviews and went out on a world tour.
In 1993 Stradlin's replacement in GN'R, Gilby Clarke, hurt his wrist in a motorcycle accident and the band's upcoming European tour was in jeopardy. A quick solution was needed, and Stradlin was able to fill the gap. However, after his tour obligations were met, he promptly returned to Indiana to take time away from the music industry. Stradlin was promised to receive royalties he felt he was owed by the band in return for this.
During the years off, Stradlin traveled a lot and dedicated much time to two strong interests: motors and racing. He even built a track close to his house. In 1998 Stradlin returned to the music scene with his second solo album, 117°. As before, he had little interest in promoting the album ? he agreed only to do a few interviews ? and played few live performances. It turned out that it would be Stradlin's last release on the Geffen label. In the big merge of the label into Dreamworks, Stradlin and many others were dropped (along with Duff McKagan).
In 1999 his third solo album Ride On, a Japan-only album, was released on the Universal Victor label. This time Stradlin actually did a small tour in Japan as promotion. A fourth album called River came out in 2001 released by Sanctuary then re-released in the United States by Canoga Park California-based indie label Bilawn Records, followed by On Down The Road in 2002.
Several of his former bandmates asked him to join Velvet Revolver when it was in its formative stage, but he declined due to his unwillingness to work with a lead singer and his aversion to the life on the road, although he offered to split vocal duties with Duff.
In 2003 Stradlin recorded his sixth album, Like A Dog. Several promo copies were made, but it was not released. Two years later, a petition was formed by a Stradlin fan to have the promo copies sold to Stradlin's fans. The petition was very successful, with over 1,000 signatures. The maker of the petition, who also hosts a large Izzy Stradlin fansite, was contacted by Stradlin. He'd decided to release Like A Dog, selling them for $20 to his fans.
In 2004, Izzy Stradlin and Duff McKagan, his former Guns N' Roses bandmate, appeared on the Mark Lanegan album, Bubblegum. Stradlin announced in early 2006 that he was considering releasing some tracks excluded from his albums among other things hidden away in his basement.
As with fellow former member of Guns N' Roses, Matt Sorum, it appears that Stradlin and Axl Rose have repaired their fractured friendship, as it was reported that Rose attended a birthday party held for Stradlin in New York. Stradlin also went on tour with the new Guns N' Roses in 2006 appearing on and off stage and performing songs with them.
Back on the road with Guns N' Roses (2006)
On May 17, 2006, Stradlin appeared on stage with the new Guns N' Roses to perform the songs "Nightrain", "Think About You" and "Patience". Stradlin also performed six songs with the band at the UK's Download Festival on June 11, 2006, in Prague on June 13, 2006 and in Nijmegen, The Netherlands on July 2, 2006. The songs were "Patience", "Nightrain", "Used to Love Her", "Think About You", "Paradise City" and "You Could Be Mine". He also appeared on stage in Oslo Spektrum, Norway during the concert on July 8, 2006 and on Legia Stadium in Poland on June 15.
Stradlin also has made an appearance with Guns N' Roses during numerous UK performances. He appeared at Sheffield's Hallam_FM_Arena on July 17 2006, Newcastle's Metro Radio Arena on July 19, 2006, Glasgow's SECC on July 22, 2006, Manchester's Manchester Evening News Arena on July 23, 2006, in Birmingham at the National Exhibition Centre on July 25, 2006, at Nottingham's Nottingham Arena on the July 27, 2006. Also on July 29 at Wembley Arena, London and July 30 at the same venue.
Izzy Stradlin made his first appearance with GN'R on their 2006 North American tour at the first show of three at Gibson Amphitheatre in Universal City, California (December 17, 2006). He guested on Think About You, Used to Love Her, Patience, Nightrain and Paradise City. He also appeared on December 19/December 20 at the Gibson Amphitheater to play the same songs. It is known that Axl Rose said in an interview that he wouldn't mind having Izzy come along on their tours every once in a while, he also thanked Izzy in the list of names the band thanks in Chinese Democracy.
Stradlin also made some appearances with Velvet Revolver.
Recently, Stradlin has been in contact with the four other original Gunners, and was approached by Steven Adler about a possible reunion tour, which Adler said would be "the biggest reunion in history." Stradlin is supposedly in favor of the idea.
On May 3, 2007, Izzy announced on www.Chopaway.com that a new album would be released on iTunes sometime in May-June 2007, and on May 30, the record was released. The album is an exclusive 'iTunes only' release, available in the United States, Canada, Japan, Australia and Europe simultaneously. No physical CD release has been planned. The album features 11 tracks recorded at Criteria Studios in Miami, including "Buildings In The Sky," "Let Go," "TJ" and "FSO Ragga." The new album is described by guitarist Rick Richards as being "a bit of a departure from "Like A Dog" but still quite a rocker."
On July 24, 2007, Stradlin announced that "Miami" had been remixed and re-released on iTunes. All tracks were remixed except "FSO Ragga". The original mix of "Miami" is no longer available on iTunes.
Izzy's Statement: "JT Longoria and I have just remixed 10 tracks of the "Miami" recordings and its much louder and more powerful sounding now. It was done in Dallas at Nomad Studios. Gary Long did the mastering. Big thanks to those guys. It has just gone live on I-Tunes today. You will hear the difference...... Cheers! Izzy."
Stradlin released another iTunes-only album in November, 2007, entitled "Fire", the Acoustic Album.
On July 18, 2008, it was announced via chopaway.com that Izzy had released another solo album through itunes, entitled "Concrete". Former Guns N' Roses band mate Duff McKagan made a guest appearance on bass for the title track.
Slash & Friends
During the summer of 2009, Izzy Stradlin recorded a song with Slash for Slash & Friends, Slash's first solo album which will be released in February 2010.