Personalities | Kirk Hammett | Metallica’s Master of Guitar | Guitar Heroes

When singer-guitarist Dave Mustaine was dismissed from the original Metallica line-up, it opened the door for a young Bay Area-based guitarist named Kirk Hammett (b. 1962) to come in and lead the thrash-metal charge. What Hammett and his mates in Metallica would accomplish from that point, no one could have predicted.

Born in San Francisco, California, Hammett benefited from his older brother’s extensive hard-rock record collection, which included albums by Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and UFO. Inspired, Hammett picked up a Montgomery Ward catalogue guitar at the age of 15. He soon upgraded to a 1978 Fender Stratocaster, and then a 1974 Gibson Flying V, matching it to a Marshall amp. With his powerful new rig, the guitarist soon hooked up with vocalist Paul Baloff and formed Exodus. The pioneering thrash band would later support Metallica twice, in late 1982 and early 1983.

In the spring of 1983, after giving guitarist Mustaine the boot, Metallica called Hammett and invited him to audition in New York. He hopped on a flight, nailed the gig and before long was in the studio recording the band’s debut, Kill ’Em All (1983). After the ensuing tour, Hammett began taking lessons from virtuoso Joe Satriani. His hard work paid off, and Hammett began to make a name for himself in the guitar community via his incendiary scalar lines in solos such as ‘Fade To Black’ from 1984’s Ride The Lightning. Two years later, in 1986, the band released what many believe to be their magnum opus, Master Of Puppets.

In 1987, Hammett began an association with ESP guitars, becoming their biggest endorser. With his signature guitar in hand, Hammett laid down some of his scariest lines to date on Metallica’s 1988 release, ... And Justice For All. But it was the band’s 1991 self-titled release, the ‘Black Album’, that enshrined them as the reigning kings of metal. Ironically, while the band had achieved mass commercial success, Hammett’s bluesier, wah-drenched soloing approach on this and later releases saw his stock among some in the guitar community drop. But as evident in his 2007 endorsement deal with Randall amplifiers and ESP’s limited-run twentieth anniversary Kirk Hammett model guitar, the Metallica guitarist maintains his relevance. In 2009, Metallica was inducted into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.

Essential Recordings

Metallica: Ride The Lightning

Metallica: Master Of Puppets

Metallica: ... And Justice For All

Metallica: Metallica

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