(Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)

Let’s crack a Jerry Cantrell birthday 6 pack with a half-dozen of the grunge guitar god’s greatest musical moments.

 

Jerry Cantrell was born in Tacoma, WA on March 18, 1966. He grew up in nearby Spanaway where, at Spanaway Lake High School, he developed his nascent love for music as a member of the school choir. The choir performed a lot of Gregorian chants, which Cantrell says laid some of the groundwork for the dark melodies he would develop later on in Alice In Chains.

 

Cantrell formed Alice In Chains in Seattle in 1987, putting those dark melodies at the forefront straightaway with the band’s 1990 debut album Facelift. But what’s a dark melody without a dark harmony? AIC lead singer Layne Staley provided the perfect counterpart to what Cantrell was able to do both vocally and with his guitar.

 

Jerry Cantrell Birthday 6 Pack: Alice In Chains and Beyond

I like celebrating rock star birthdays with a sixer. And for this Jerry Cantrell birthday celebration, I’ll go heavy on the Alice In Chains, naturally. But I’ll work some of Jerry’s solo work into the mix as well. But first, a story about Jerry that dates back to his solo era.

 

In May of 2002, Nickelback kicked off their summer tour at the Albuquerque Convention Center. I was living in the city at the time, and I pulled that classic Adam 12 move of going to see the opening act and leaving before the headliner. Jerry Cantrell was the opening act. He was touring in support of his second solo album, Degradation Trip. And that timing made for a pretty memorable moment.

Birthday boy Jerry Cantrell shares a drink with Damageplan drummer Vinnie Paul and Nickelback frontman Chad Kroeger

(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

 

The set started with some well-received solo work. But the vibe changed when he stopped the music and said (I’m paraphrasing): “As you probably know, I lost a good friend recently…” That’s as far as Jerry got before the crowd erupted. Layne Staley, of course, was found dead only a month earlier. And here was Jerry Cantrell, about to pay tribute to Layne with an Alice In Chains song.

 

That song was “Down In A Hole,” sung by William DuVall of Comes with the Fall. You see, Comes with the Fall were Jerry’s backing band on that tour. I remember being dumbstruck by how close DuVall was able to get to Staley’s vocal style. Flash forward a few years, and he’d be taking Staley’s place in a reformed Alice In Chains. Happiness from sadness. A Happy Jerry Cantrell Birthday.

  • "Sea Of Sorrow"

    One of the first songs of Cantrell’s making that rock fans ever heard. The interplay between his guitar and the piano riffs during those opening moments? Just incredible. And memorable.

  • "Angry Chair"

    How does an AIC fan choose just one song from Dirt? Well, this fan is choosing this song because I think it’s one of Jerry’s best guitar intros on the entire album. The simple, chromatic riff. Followed immediately by a crushing power chord. Tone set.

  • "Don't Follow"

    The simple acoustics. The relatable lyrics. Jerry’s no-nonsense vocal delivery. Jar of Flies (and this cut in particular) did so much to establish Cantrell as one of the great talents of his rock era.

  • "Cut You In"

    From Jerry’s first solo effort, Boggy Depot. The man can write. The man can sing. The man can play. And the man can write a horn arrangement!

  • "Anger Rising"

    Sure, a one-off solo album is fine. But it’s that second solo album that tells the world that you can do it without the band you made your name with. That’s what Jerry did with Degradation Trip. And he’s still doing it years later.

  • "A Looking In View"

    Who says you can’t go home again? Jerry did exactly that in 2009 with a reformed Alice In Chains. This was the first taste fans got. And it tasted great.

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