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Lost Band Members: Ron McGovney

The vast majority of bands change their line up over the years for various reasons including tragic deaths, drug abuse, lack of talent or effort, growing egos and plain old personality clashes. Metallica are no exception to this rule and only two of the current members are from the original line up, Lars Ulrich and James Hetfield. It is tough to imagine Metallica without them but there have been a few lost members along the way and in this series we take a look at the forgotten faces that left the band. The first member of Metallica to leave was Ron McGovney and he didn’t leave by choice. McGovney was recruited as the bassist in January 1982 but less than a year later in November he was gone to be replaced by Cliff Burton. Ron was a friend of front man James Hetfield, the pair met at East Middle School in music class and even back then Hetfield could play the guitar. They continued to be friends throughout high school although their musical tastes were different back then. Hetfield persuaded McGovney to take up the bass towards the end of high school and they went on to form a band called Leather Charm. In 1981 Hetfield met Lars Ulrich and they began to jam together. At this point McGovney was pursuing other interests but as the band began to take shape he was persuaded to play bass for them. A few other members came and went but the line up eventually settled with James Hetfield, Dave Mustaine, Lars Ulrich and Ron McGovney. They recorded a few demo songs and eventually secured their first gig together in 1982. The gigs kept coming and then the four track Power Metal demo which was apparently known as the Power Metal demo because Ron had business cards printed up for Metallica and thought they looked too plain with just the band name and number so he added Power Metal underneath. He later said in an interview that Lars was furious with him for doing it. The line up continued to alter as the tempestuous nature of the band members relationships led to more than a few fights. Towards the end of 1982 they went to a show at the Whisky a Go Go and saw Cliff Burton doing an amazing bass solo. Unknown to McGovney the rest of the band began to talk to Cliff about joining them. The demos and gigs kept coming but McGovney was getting increasingly annoyed with the other band members and while he felt aggrieved about paying most of the bills they felt he didn’t contribute creatively. Burton came to see the band in San Francisco and McGovney played his last gig with them there. The story of how he finally left is disputed with the rest of the band claiming they kicked him out and McGovney saying it ended after a big argument where he threw them out of his house because Dave Mustaine had ruined his bass. Whatever the case the band moved to San Francisco and Cliff Burton joined as the new bass player. McGovney was disillusioned and gave up on music, he later had a brief stint with a punk band called Phantasm but it didn’t last. He played on several of the early Metallica demos including No Life Til Leather, Metal Up Your Ass and Power Metal which was actually recorded in his garage. McGovney was the first real casualty of Metallica’s growing fame but he certainly wouldn’t be the last.