|Cliff Burton Quick Info|
|Height||6 ft 1¼ in|
|Date of Birth||February 10, 1962|
Cliff Burton was an American musician, singer, and songwriter best known as one of the bass guitarists of the thrash/heavy metal band, Metallica. He joined the band in December 1982 after the previous bassist, Ron McGovney left of his own volition. With that, he became the 4th member of the band alongside Lars Ulrich, James Hetfield, and Dave Mustaine. Cliff was scouted at an event playing for his previous band, Trauma by Lars, Ron, and James, who heard him getting into an amazing solo and immediately knew he would be hired. One of the tracks he recorded with Trauma titled Such a Shame, also ended up on the Metal Massacre Vol. 2 album compilation of songs by underground bands at the time released in 1982. After a debut demo, Megaforce, and the band’s relocation to Old Bridge, New Jersey to record a debut album, Cliff, as part of Metallica, released his debut studio album, Kill ‘Em All in 1983.
The track that James, Ron, and Lars heard him “shredding” in 1982 became a solo instrumental song on the album under the name (Anesthesia) – Pulling Teeth and was the one Cliff became widely recognized for. In 1983, Dave was replaced by Kirk Hammett, who became a lead guitarist and helped with songwriting. Cliff’s skills as a songwriter also grew and shone through on the band’s 2nd studio album, Ride the Lightning, released in July 1984, where he was credited for writing 6 out 8 songs on the album. Cliff’s bass guitar skills and those of the entire band didn’t go unnoticed and Metallica signed a record deal with Elektra Records, which was considered a major record label. Their 3rd studio album, Master of Puppets, released in March 1986, became regarded as a “landmark album in heavy metal”. It also contained Cliff’s favorite track, which was the title song, Master of Puppets, but would, unfortunately, be his last album. After his death in September 1986, he was replaced by Jason Newsted.
Clifford Lee Burton
Cliff Burton was born on February 10, 1962.
Cliff Burton passed away on September 27, 1986, in a traffic accident in Dörarp, Ljungby Municipality, Sweden. After the band wrapped up a performance at the Solnahallen Arena in Stockholm, Sweden, on September 26, 1986, they hit the road the next morning. At around 7:00 A.M., the driver of the tour bus lost control and the vehicle flipped onto the grass. Since Cliff was sleeping on the seat in the front, he was thrown through the window and the bus fell on top of him, which led to his unfortunate death.
Castro Valley, California, United States
Cliff attended Castro Valley High School in Castro Valley, Alameda, California, United States and graduated in 1980.
After graduation, he enrolled in Chabot College in Hayward, California, United States.
Musician, Songwriter, Singer
- Father – Ray Herbert Burton
- Mother – Janet “Jan” (Morgen) Burton
- Siblings – Scott Burton (Older Brother) (He died in May 1975 from a brain aneurysm), Connie Burton (Older Sister)
- Others – Paul Oliver Burton (Paternal Grandfather), Mary Sallie Lenoir (Paternal Grandmother), Irwin Morgenstern/Morgen (Maternal Grandfather), Marion Rosenthal (Maternal Grandmother), Oliver Philmore “Arby/Obby” Burton (Paternal Great-Grandfather), Sarah L. “Sallie” (Paternal Great-Grandmother), Peyton R. “Pate” Lenoir (Paternal Great-Grandfather), Mattie J. Ward (Paternal Great-Grandmother), Millard Morgenstern (Maternal Great-Grandfather), Matilda Lewis (Maternal Great-Grandmother), Sigmund Rosenthal (Maternal Great-Grandfather), Idella Lang (Maternal Great-Grandmother)
Thrash Metal, Heavy Metal
Bass Guitar, Guitar, Piano, Vocals
- Megaforce Records
- Elektra Records
6 ft 1¼ in or 186 cm
80 kg or 176.5 lbs
Girlfriend / Spouse
Cliff Burton has dated –
- Audrey Kimball – Many of his fans connected him with Audrey, who was a close friend of his and was a bassist for the Bay Area band named Elysium. She spoke of their time together after his death and only had good words about his personality and work ethic.
- Corinne Lynn (1984-1986) – Corinne was his girlfriend at the time of his untimely death. She later remembered him as someone that enjoyed weed and was pretty relaxed but wouldn’t let anyone walk over him. Cliff used to flip off people that pissed him off, even if it was in a grocery store, in front of people. He also had a habit of sleeping late, which drove her crazy as she couldn’t wake him up before the afternoon. Corinne also remembers how he would display behavior that was on the different ends of a spectrum. He would listen to punk and metal music while working on his car and then he would start writing poems or playing chess while listening to Bach and classical music.
Race / Ethnicity
He had English and some Welsh ancestry on his paternal side and Ashkenazi Jewish (Czech Jewish, German Jewish) ancestry on his maternal side.
- Long curly light brown haircut
- Always wore ripped jeans and a T-shirt
Best Known For
- Being the bassist for the heavy/thrash metal band Metallica between December 1982, when he replaced Ron McGovney, and September 1986, due to his unfortunate death in a tour bus accident
- Releasing 3 studio albums with Metallica titled Kill ‘Em All (1983), Ride The Lightning (1984), and Master of Puppets (1986)
Cliff Burton, as part of Metallica, released his debut studio album, Kill ‘Em All on July 25, 1983, through Megaforce Records. The name of the album was supposed to be Metal Up Your Ass but the record label insisted the band change it. When Cliff heard of the news, he said: “We should just kill ’em all, man,” which they liked and adopted. It consisted of 10 tracks on 2 sides with Side 1 containing songs such as Hit the Lights, Motorbreath, Jump in the Fire, (Anesthesia)-Pulling Teeth, The Four Horsemen, and Whiplash, while the Side 2 contained tracks Metal Militia, Seek & Destroy, No Remorse, and Phantom Lord. The album didn’t enter the Billboard 200 chart initially but peaked at number 155 in 1986, after the commercial success of their 3rd studio album, Master of Puppets.
Cliff Burton Favorite Things
- Bass Guitar Influences – Stanley Clarke, Lemmy Kilmister, Phil Lynott, Geddy Lee, Geezer Butler
- Band – Misfits
Cliff Burton Facts
- His dad introduced him to the piano and classical music. He was also interested in rock in his youth before moving onto heavy metal.
- Cliff began playing the bass guitar at the age of 13, following the death of his brother. He practiced up to 6 hours a day from the very beginning and continued doing so even as a member of Metallica.
- While in high school, he formed his 1st band, EZ-Street, a name taken from the name of a topless bar in the Bay Area.
- Some of the sound effects he used such as a wah-wah pedal weren’t commonly used by bassists. It was revolutionary at the time but later became popularized in heavy metal and thrash metal genres.
- Cliff also formed a band named Agents of Misfortune with his best friend, Mike Bordin, who later became a member of Faith No More and a drummer for Ozzy Osbourne, husband of Sharon Osbourne, and father of Jack Osbourne and Kelly Osbourne.
- Metallica credited him in the song To Live Is to Die which ended up on their 4th studio album, …And Justice for All (1988), 2 years after his death. The band members wrote the lyrics and Jason Newsted re-recorded bass parts that Cliff himself recorded in the past.
- Dave Mustaine, who split from Metallica and founded Megadeth, wrote a song titled In My Darkest Hour in connection to Cliff and released it in 1988. The lyrics weren’t related to his death directly but the event inspired Dave to write the song in one sitting.
- The driver of the tour bus that ultimately caused Cliff’s death in September 1986 blamed the accident on a patch of black ice on the road. James Hetfield was sure that the driver was drunk. A local photographer also confirmed that the weather conditions made the occurrence of black ice impossible. After a 2nd driver confirmed that the other driver was rested and not under the influence, no charges were brought by the police.
- The night before the tour bus crashed, on September 26, 1986, Kirk Hammett and Cliff drew cards about who would slip in the bunk in the back. Kirk won with an ace of spades, to which Cliff replied with: “Fine, take my bunk, I’ll sleep up front, it’s probably better up there anyway.”
- After the crash, he was motionless and pinned underneath the bus. When emergency services arrived to lift the bus, his band members still held hope for him. Unfortunately, the cable snapped during the lift and the bus fell over Cliff once again, rendering all chances of survival impossible.
- His body was cremated and ashes scattered at the Maxwell Ranch, while Metallica‘s song Orion from the 1986 album Master of Puppets played. The song was also the 3rd instrumental released on Metallica’s studio albums up to that point and played by Cliff entirely.
- In 1987, Metallica released a home video in tribute to him titled Cliff ‘Em All.
- He never played the bass guitar using a pick, only his fingers.
- It was Cliff who was typically in charge of the tape-deck during long bus rides on tour. He had mixtapes prepared, which had selected songs by R.E.M., Stanley Clarke, ZZ Top, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Bach, Kate Bush, Simon & Garfunkel, Peter Gabriel, The Police, Velvet Underground, and many others.
- A memorial stone was unveiled in October 2006 near the place of the fatal crash. It had lyrics “…cannot the Kingdom of Salvation take me home” inscribed on it, which were from the song To Live is to Die.
- On April 4, 2009, he was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with Metallica.
- In an online reader poll conducted by the Rolling Stone magazine in 2011, Cliff Burton was named the 9th greatest bassist of all time.
- A deluxe version of the Metallica’s studio album Hardwired… to Self-Destruct (2016) contained a series of live recordings from that year. During one of the songs, Fade to Black, James Hetfield yells “‘Can you hear us, Cliff?”
- The Board of Supervisors for Alameda County in California, his home state, issued a 2018 proclamation to make February 10 a “Cliff Burton Day” after a fan petitioned them.
Featured Image by Gene Ambo / Wikimedia / CC BY-SA 2.5