Guitar hero Gilby Clarke played in both Guns N’ Roses and the MC5. Who else can claim membership in two of the most life-altering rock ’n’ roll outfits to ever exist on the planet?
Sure, Clarke was spotted on stage with his GN’R running buds at the 2012 Rock ’n’ Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony – he appeared on the band’s The Spaghetti Incident, Live Era ’88-’91 and Greatest Hits albums, and spent years on the massive Use Your Illusion world tour in the ’90s – but his proudest GN’R moment is, he says, the Gilby rolls mode on the GN’R pinball machine!
But none of that overshadows the fact this guitarist, singer and songwriter was a 17-year-old punk from Cleveland whose Hollywood back-alley dues were paid in full. Before joining the GN’R circus, the guitarist bounced from the Kim Fowley mentored Candy to his own, heartbreakingly ignored, big-riff quartet Kill for Thrills, where he first showcased his Lennonesque lead vocals. Clarke has, along the way, toured, and/or recorded with everyone from Nancy Sinatra to Heart to Gene Simmons to Slash’s Snakepit. In between touring & recording he was making videos with not only GN’R, but Michael Jackson & Slash when MTV was de rigueur. He also did that splendid 2002 album, Rock ’n’ Roll Music, with Col. Parker, a band he formed with Slim Jim Phantom. Perhaps you saw him starring alongside Mötley Crüe’s Tommy Lee on the CBS TV show Rockstar: Supernova or VH1 honors with Rob Zombie, Slash & Ace Frehely ?
Then there’s his solo career that earned him critical winks and sales (especially in South America and Japan) for such albums as Pawnshop Guitars (including the American hits “Cure Me … Or Kill Me,” and “Tijuana Jail”), The Hangover (two songs made Bruce Willis’ The Story of Us), Rubber, 99 Live, Swag, and his self-titled greatest hits package that dropped a couple years ago.
Clarke, who’s an old school mash-up of Keef, Johnny Thunders, and B.B. King, continues to write fist-jacking rock ’n’ roll songs with fat choruses, and appear on stages around the globe. He produces worthy bands too. He’s also one of the sweetest gents you’ll ever meet. He’s a guitar hero, certainly, but also a gentleman whose heart happens to rush at rock ’n’ roll speed.