10 Things You Didn’t Know About James Hetfield

Things You Didn't Know About James Hetfield

Photo: Raph_PH, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

10 Things You Didn’t Know About James Hetfield takes a look at Metallica’s brilliant frontman James Hetfield. The Metallica star was born in California  in 1963. Along with drummer Lars Ulrich James Hetfield formed the legendary band Metallica in the fall of 1981. They would become one of the the greatest heavy metal bands of all time,

The young James grew up listening to Deep Purple and Black Sabbath rock bands during the early 1970s. At fourteen, he acquired an electric guitar from a friend’s brother, which marked the beginning of his musical career. He joined cover bands including Obsession before forming his group aptly named Leather Charm, where he gave himself the stage name ‘Ronny Hendriks’, playing hard rock numbers at small venues.

The first lineup consisted of Hendrix on vocals, Ron McGovney on bass, Mike Giles on drums, and Dave Mustaine on guitar. A switch in the lineup came after Bob Berry replaced McGovney (who had quit), then replaced by Lloyd Grant (who performed with Hetfield for almost six months). At this point, Hetfield took over as lead vocalist as well as rhythm guitarist. Shortly afterward, the lineup was changed again when Lyle Turner took over from Grant, leaving Hetfield as a one-person band playing all the instruments himself, now called ‘Metallica.’ The name is thought to have been derived from a former bandmate’s dream of a black metal band called ‘Metallica,’ later shortened to Metallica.

In 1983, the band released their debut album ‘Kill Em All.’ The lineup consisted of Hetfield lead vocals and guitar, Lars Ulrich drums, Rickard Burton bass, and Ron McGovney on the second guitar. Burton was soon replaced by Cliff Burton (no relation), another experienced bassist who would stay with the band until he died in 1986. There is a lot to talk about James Hetfield, and here are 10 things you didn’t know about James Hetfield:

# 1 – James Hetfield Is Not Allowed To Ride Skateboards

As ridiculous as that headline may sound it’s actually quite true. Skateboarding is absolutely one of the most dangerous leisure sports one can participate in. James Hetfield found that out the hard way suffering a broken arm while skateboarding. That;s a very bad injury for a gustar player. Metallica’s management company would then put a clause in James Hetfield’s contract forbidding him to skateboard while Metallica is on tour.

# 2- James Hetfield was inspired at an early age by a band from Boston

No, we are not talking about the band Boston. They don’t seem to be the type of band that would have inspired James Hetfield. We are talking about a band from Boston. That band who inspired James Hetfield at a young age as well a millions of others would be the legendary group Aerosmith.

# 3 – James has done extensive work as a spokesperson for organizations that support people with alcohol and drug addictions.

James is known for his anti-drug and anti-alcohol stance, and he has even spoken in public about the importance of taking care of your mind. He also doesn’t drink or use drugs, except for caffeine. In addition to this, James has shown support for organizations such as MusiCares, a non-profit group that assists musicians in times of need.

# 4 – James Hetfield endorses ESP Guitars but also plays another brand.

There is nothing better than for a guitar company than to have a major rockstar especially one as big as James Hetfield endorsing their brand. James Hetfield is a major endorsers of ESP guitars. He first began playing the model ESP MX220 during the And Justice For All ….tour. He has played many other ESP models throughout his career. However James Hetfield is not exclusive to ESP as he also enjoys playing Gibson guitars quite often.

# 5 – He quit alcohol because it made him violent

In 1991 Hetfield nearly died when he slipped into a 48-day coma caused by alcoholism. He came out of the coma with severe liver damage but has been sober since the incident. James is a straight edge (meaning he refrains from any drug & alcohol) and was one even before his near-fatal incident. However, in 2006 Hetfield had minor surgery to remove an accumulation of fluid in his knee which caused him to take pain medication during his recovery period. This triggered the relapse, with Hetfield developing an addiction to prescription medications which he overcame in 2007.

# 6 – Despite his bad-boy image, James has been trained in classical music and opera

One is not born with such an extensive knowledge of classical music; one has to learn it at some point. This is probably why Metallica’s frontman can often be seen singing opera on stage with orchestras. You first heard him doing this when he sang ‘Orion’ alongside the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra in 1999. James studied classical guitar and opera vocals in high school. He even appeared in a production of Carousel where he played the role of Billy Bigelow, a man who turned to robbery and murder after his girlfriend committed suicide.

# 7 – James Hetfield’s first instrument was not guitar.

In the same fashion as Eddie Van Halen, James Hetfield’s first musical instrument was piano. It was at the tender young age of nine years old when James Hetfield first began taking piano lessons as tickling the ivory keys would become his first foray into the world of music.

# 8 – He is left-handed but plays guitar right-handed

Most heavy metal guitarists are right-handed, but James is an exception to the rule. There was even a rumor that he sometimes plays left-handed songs like ‘Orion’ because it would sound better – but this isn’t true. Hetfield told Guitar World magazine in 2008 that he learned to play right-handed because his parents thought it would be easier for him.

# 9 – James Hetfield’s Parents did not believe in Medicine.

Many of the songs that James Hetfield has written over the years such as songs like “The God That Failed” stems form the issues he faced being raised by parent who were Christian Scientists and the consequences of those beliefs.Christian Scientists often believe in avoidance of medical treatment which sady can lead to many deaths that are avoidable  if conditions had been treated by 20th century medicine. James Hetfield lost his mother to Cancer.

# 10 – James Hetfield is a big sports fan

Many musicians love sports. Its’ a great alternative to what they do. Being form California, James Hetfield has let it be known that he is a big time Raiders fan even though they no longer are in Los Angeles and have since moved to Las Vegas. He is alo a fan of the San Jose Sharks and has picked San Francisco Giants over the Los Angeles Dodgers as his baseball team.


As Metallica’s frontman and rhythm guitarist, James Hetfield has been a rock legend for nearly three decades. He is also an award-winning musician and was ranked as the 24th greatest heavy metal vocalist of all time by Hit Parader magazine in 2004.

10 Things You Didn’t Know About James Hetfield article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2021

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