In Los Angeles, during 1983. Guitarist Tracii Guns formed the L.A. Guns with singer Axl Rose, bassist Ole Beich, and drummer Rob Gardner. Axl later quit to form Hollywood Rose and was replaced by Michael Jagosz. The band demoed in 1984, but Tracii and Rob left to reform with Axl as Guns N' Roses (named after L.A Guns and Hollywood Rose, not Tracii Guns and Axl Rose) and L.A. Guns broke up. However, Tracii soon left Guns N' Roses because he didn't like the direction of their music and reformed his own band. Guns N' Roses replaced him with guitarist Slash.
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For the third lineup of L.A. Guns, Tracii recruited Faster Pussycat drummer Paul Mars Black (who switched to vocals) and guitarist Mick Cripps (who switched to bass) and teamed up with drummer Nickey "Beat" Alexander. They were later joined by guitarist Robert Stoddard from Dogs D'Amour. This lineup demoed and gigged in 1985 and 1986 until Paul was replaced by Phil Lewis. Mick then switched to guitar when Robert left, and another former member of Faster Pussycat, Kelly Nickels, was added on bass.
The L.A. Guns then recorded their first album, released in 1988 on Vertigo Records, L.A. Guns. The debut album spawned the singles "One More Reason" and "Sex Action" along with many other L.A. Guns classics. In 1989, they released their second album Cocked & Loaded. It contained the smash radio and video hit, "The Ballad of Jayne" which brought the album to platinum sales status (over one million sold). This was the commercial peak of their career.
In 1991, the band released their third album Hollywood Vampires on Polydor Records. The album failed to re-achieve the platinum status of Cocked & Loaded, but did spawn a few hits such as "Kiss My Love Goodbye" and "It's Over Now". Also in 1991, Tracii Guns participated in the supergroup Contraband with members of Ratt, Shark Island, the Michael Schenker Group, and Vixen.
Around 1992 Phil Lewis fired drummer Steve Riley, who was replaced by Michael "Bones" Gershima for the Cuts EP and for their 1994 album Vicious Circle, though he later returned to the band for the Vicious Circle club tour. After this, the L.A. Guns were dropped from Polygram (Vertigo/Polydor) Records. Phil Lewis and Mick Cripps then left the band.
In July of 1995, Tracii Guns and Steve Riley recruited guitarist Johnny Crypt and vocalist Chris Van Dahl after seeing them perform, twice, with their band Boneyard. Six months into recording sessions, Kelly Nickels left the band and Johnny was asked to switch to the bass to avoid having to seek out and deal with yet another member.
In 1996, the new L.A. Guns released their sixth record, titled American Hardcore. This new album built on the heavy music from Vicious Circle and projected a darker image for the band. They toured throughout 1996 and into 1997 when Tracii let Chris go in hopes of regaining Phil Lewis and the band's former glory. Phil refused, and so Chris was replaced by The Atomic Punks singer, Ralph Saenz. Tracii, Steve, Johnny, and Ralph toured for the remainder of '97 and in early '98 released the six song EP Wasted.
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Halfway through the band's 1998 Rock Never Stops tour, Ralph quit to form his own band, leaving Tracii to do another singer change. Joe Lesté from Bang Tango and Jizzy Pearl from Love/Hate were considered as candidates. Tracii and Steve picked Jizzy and quickly geared up to tour. The L.A. Guns toured clubs with Jizzy in late 1998 and early 1999 when they released Shrinking Violet, produced by former Guns N' Roses guitarist Gilby Clarke. This release was followed shortly by Johnny Crypt's departure. Tracii and Steve had been talking with their former bandmates, Phil, Mick, and Kelly about a reunion album and tour and when this became a reality, Johnny found out and on February 6, 1999, he left. The reunion album Greatest Hits & Black Beauties was released around the same time as Shrinking Violet.
Phil Lewis had kept busy over his five year hiatus from L.A. Guns. In 1995, he had participated in the release of a Japan-only hits compilation called Hollywood-A-Go-Go and in 1996, he reunited with Mick and Kelly to record another Japan-only L.A. Guns album, Hollywood Rehearsals with drummer Rod Alman. In 1997, he and Michael "Bones" Gershima (now calling himself MC Bones) formed Filthy Lucre along with guitarist Steve Dior and released the album Popsmear on Pulse Records. A short tour that followed. In 1997, Phil released El Niňo in Japan and then released it in 1998 as More Purple Than Black on Standback Records in the U.S. (It was re-released by Deadline Records in 1999.) Phil and his band, The Liberators (which included guitarist Brent Muscat and bassist Eric Stacy of Faster Pussycat) toured a little in the U.S. and Japan. The Liberators recorded an album in September and October of 1999, done live in the studio, which they released in Japan, called Access Denied, and was later released in 2001 by Deadline Records under Phil's name.
Tracii Guns also released a solo album in 1998 called Killing Machine on Standback Records with singer Riley Baxter. This was re-released in 1999 by Deadline Records. Tracii was also featured on Gilby Clarke's album 99 Live in 2000 on Mafia Radio Records (which was reissued in 2002 by Spitfire Records). L.A. Guns set out on the reunion tour in October of 1999 and recorded a live album in their hometown of Hollywood, the album called Live: A Night On The Strip was released the following year.
After the reunion, it came to light that for the summer 2000 tour, Mick and Kelly couldn't commit to the plans, so they were replaced by The Liberators guitarist Brent Muscat and bassist Muddy, respectively. Johnny Crypt was asked to return, but declined because he joined Jizzy Pearl's latest incarnation of Love/Hate, which also included former L.A. Guns frontman Chris Van Dahl on bass. However, this was short-lived as Love/Hate was axed in July, as Jizzy joined Ratt. Ratt and L.A. Guns teamed up with Warrant for a remainder-of-the-summer tour, which L.A. Guns dropped off in August due to booking problems. Johnny Crypt didn't let his lack of a band get him down, however, and in late 2000 he wrote and recorded an album called Plazmaholix Virus, which was released independently on his own website.
After the reunion, it came to light that for the summer 2000 tour, Mick and Kelly couldn't commit to the plans, so they were replaced by The Liberators guitarist Brent Muscat and bassist Muddy, respectively. Johnny Crypt was asked to return, but declined because he joined Jizzy Pearl's latest incarnation of Love/Hate, which also included former L.A. Guns frontman Chris Van Dahl on bass. However, this was short-lived as Love/Hate was axed in July, as Jizzy joined Ratt. Ratt and L.A. Guns teamed up with Warrant for a remainder-of-the-summer tour, which L.A. Guns dropped off in August due to booking problems. Johnny Crypt didn't let his lack of a band get him down, however, and in late 2000 he wrote and recorded an album called Plazmaholix Virus, which was released independently on his own website. In August 2000, The L.A. Guns re-recorded and re-released Cocked & Loaded retitled Cocked & Re-Loaded on Deadline Records. Mick Cripps again rejoined the band briefly (Brent left) in late 2000 to record an album with the band, entitled Man In The Moon, which was released on Spitfire Records in April of 2001. Mick played keyboards on the album, but did not tour to support it. Muddy later left the band after a short promo tour for Man In The Moon to join Gilby Clarke's band, Col. Parker. He was replaced by Adam Hamilton for the winter of 2002 Man In The Moon club tour. In 2002, Andy Johns was hired to produce the next release, Waking the Dead. This album features Adam Hamilton as the new bass player. Hailed by fans as one of the strongest and heaviest material LA Guns has ever recorded, the album features "OK, Let's roll" - dedicated to Todd Beamer and the brave tragic souls who rushed the cockpit of Flight 93 during the events of September 11, 2001 attacks.
In November 2003, founding guitarist Tracii Guns became very interested in a new project, entitled Brides of Destruction, with Motley Crue bassist Nikki Sixx. Guns saw the project as an opportunity to recapture the mainstream credibility he had held in the late '80s and therefore became lead guitarist for the outfit. In 2004, Brides of Destruction embarked on a World Tour, and the future of L.A. Guns was in doubt until both Steve Riley and Phil Lewis told the "Hairball John Radio Show" that the band would continue despite Guns' involvement in Brides of Destruction.
In 2004, L.A. Guns released the album Rips the Covers Off, an album composed entirely of cover versions and two bonus live tracks, with guitarist Stacey Blades. They had gone through several guitarists since Tracii Guns departed in mid-2003.
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