Original bassist of the almighty Metallica, Ron McGovney – who was briefly a member of the fold back in 1982 – recently talked about how the iconic metal act came to be. Chatting with Chris Jericho, Ron started the story with Leather Charm, a short-lived band he played in with James Hetfield back in 1981, saying (transcribed by UG):[metalwani_content_ad]
“We had one original song, a song called ‘Hit the Lights.’ The other songs were all copies. That band just kind of folded.”
Did you play gigs at all?
“We never played. We never got out of the garage with Leather Charm. James said, ‘I want to just be a singer… I want to find a band.’ So I just kind of backed out and did my own thing, and he started auditioning people.
“One day, he brings over Lars [Ulrich]. I had met him before one time at a Judas Priest concert. James brought him out of the crowd – they had no shirts on, sweating their asses off… they stunk like crap. He was like, ‘This is Lars.’ And I’m like, ‘Oh… Okay.’ James knew him apparently, but I didn’t know him.
“He brought him over and said, ‘He’s a drummer.’ And I’m like, ‘Okay, cool.’ So he brought over his drum set eventually, he started playing and I was like, ‘Ehhh… I don’t know about that. I don’t think he’s too good.’
“It seemed to me that he decided to be a drummer on the spur of the moment. But this kid, he was from Europe, and he knew all these bands. And he hung out with all these bands in Europe and stuff.
“I’m like, ‘Wow, that’s cool… but I don’t think he’s that good on drums.’ So I just kind of backed out of it. And they tried out other bass players and guitar players to get this band going.[metalwani_content_ad]
“And one time we got a call at my house. I answered the phone and it was a guitar player. He says, *nasal, squeaky voice* ‘I’ve got four Marshall stacks, I’ve got 17 guitars…’ I’m like, ‘Woah. James and Lars, you guys take this call because this guy’s head is not gonna fit through the door.’
“That was Dave Mustaine. Dave Mustaine came in, plugged in… He was just warming up and everybody’s like, ‘Holy crap, this guy’s good! This guy’s really good!’
“They had another bass player there for about a week or two, but this guy couldn’t keep up. I was just sitting there with nothing to do, they’re playing ‘Hit the Lights’ and they said, ‘Why don’t you show him how to play ‘Hit the Lights’?’ So I took his bass and we played ‘Hit the Lights’ and they kind of [told the bassist], ‘Why don’t you go home?’ And, ‘Hey, will you be in the band’ to me. I said, ‘Okay, I guess I’ve got nothing else to do.’
“But like I said, I never really tried out to be in the band, it was just something that… I was there and it was available and was never gonna be a long-term thing until they found somebody.”
Ron also said about the general state of things back then:
“I was the only one that had a full-time job. My parents had a truck repair company. As a matter of fact, James’ father had a trucking company across the street, so they knew each other from the business.
“So I was the only one with a full-time job, and they would sit there all day and create music. Then I’d get home from work and they’d say, ‘Here’s how it goes. Play this.’ And then I’d play the song and we’d practice for a few hours. Then the next couple of days, they’d add another song and that’s the way it kind of worked.”[metalwani_content_ad]
Which band names did you use at first?
“I remember other names going around like Thunderfuck and Red Vette… Lars stole the [Metallica] name from Ron Quintana from San Francisco. He was doing that fanzine and he was trying to think of a name for the fanzine.
“He told Lars he wanted to call the fanzine Metallica. And Lars said, ‘No, that’s a bad name. Call it Heavy Metal Mania.’ And then Lars steals Metallica.”
Tell us about Metallica’s 2009 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction…
“They called, they said, ‘Look, we’re being inducted in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, we want you to be part of it, we want you to be there.’ So I said, ‘Heck yeah!’
“They flew me out to Cleveland, they had a party the night before at the House of Blues I think it was. And Jimmy Page was there, Joe Perry was there… I was like… I took James aside and said, ‘Dude, you’ve gotta understand – these are guys that we had on our own walls. And they’re standing right here!’ And he’s like, ‘Isn’t it crazy?’ It’s just wild.
“I mean, I had this huge Jimmy Page poster in my room when I was 16. And there he is, standing right there between James and Joe Perry. And I took this picture – James is standing in the middle, Jimmy Page is on one side, Joe Perry is on the other side. How awesome is this? It’s like, you would have never thought. Ever.”
Did you get to speak to them?
“James told me, ‘Look, I know the things didn’t go well in the band and stuff, but you were a big part of our success. And I want you to be there.’ And James, to this day, keeps this picture from when we were in high school in 1980.[metalwani_content_ad]
“We went to the Magic Mountain and we went to this photo booth. And you could pick a cover of a magazine [to be added to the photo you snap] and there was a Hit Parader. I said, ‘I’ll put us on Hit Parader.’ So there’s this picture, you can find it on the internet, of me and James with this Hit Parader background when we were in high school.
“He keeps that and he has that in Metallica headquarters in San Francisco. They have a couch in front of it. They’ll do interviews and you can see that picture right there in the background. Kind of a thumbs up to the old days, you know.
“When I saw him in Atlanta – he was talking about the 40th anniversary. I’m like, ‘There’s no way I would ever want to get on stage with you guys again, I’m never doing that again!’ Because I did that on that 30th. And he said, ‘Whatever you want man. Just let me know – whatever you want.'”
Why don’t you want to go on stage with them again?
“That’s just not my thing. I’ve put that all behind me. I will absolutely be there to raise my fist and be out there with the fans, just like when we were in the pit – that’s where I wanna be, seeing my friends up there on stage, where they belong.
“That’s not where I belong. It is cool having a plaque with my name on it in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. There’s a plaque in there, it had mine and Dave’s [Mustaine] name on it. It’s talking about ‘No Life ‘Till Leather’ or whatever. And I was like, ‘Wow, that’s enough for me. I don’t need anymore.'”