Today, April 5, 2013, marks the 11th death anniversary of the late great Layne Staley (vocalist and frontman of ALICE IN CHAINS). Staley was born on August 22, 1967 in Kirkland, Washington, U.S. and died on April 5, 2002 in Seattle, Washington, U.S.
Layne Staley was born to Phil Staley and Nancy Staley (née McCallum) in Kirkland, Washington. When he was was seven years old his parents got divorced, after which he was raised by his mother and stepfather, Jim Elmer (whose last name he took while enrolled in Meadowdale High School). He was raised Catholic.
He would describe the experience of witnessing his parents' divorce: "My world became a nightmare, there were just shadows around me. I got a call saying that my dad had died, but my family always knew he was around doing all kinds of drugs. Since that call I always was wondering, 'Where is my dad?' I felt so sad for him and I missed him. He dropped out of my life for 15 years."
Staley's musical career began when he started playing drums at the age of 12 years old. He jammed with various glam bands in his early teens, but Staley wanted to become a singer. In 1985, Staley formed a band called Sleze, which also featured Johnny Bacolas and James Bergstrom (who later started Second Coming). With the addition of guitarist Nick Pollock in 1986, Sleze morphed into Alice In Chains, a band which Staley said "dressed in drag and played speed Metal."
The inception of Alice N' Chains saw the band performing around the Seattle area playing Slayer and Armored Saint covers. This all changed when Staley met guitarist Jerry Cantrell while working at Music Bank rehearsal studios, and the two fast friends lived as roommates for over a year in the dilapidated rehearsal space they shared.
Alice N' Chains soon disbanded and Staley joined a funk band who at the time also required a guitarist. He asked Cantrell to join as a sideman. Cantrell agreed on condition that Staley join Cantrell's band, which at the time included drummer Sean Kinney and bassist Mike Starr. In 1986, Staley met Seattle underground guitarist Tim Barnes at a local Seattle bar. Barnes would later be offered a position in Alice N' Chains but declined. Eventually the funk project broke up and in 1987 Staley joined Cantrell on a full-time basis. The band eventually took the name of Alice In Chains, and quickly became a powerhouse!
On April 19, 2002, Staley's accountants contacted Staley's mother Nancy McCallum and informed her that no money had been withdrawn from the singer's bank account in two weeks. McCallum then placed a call with 911 to say "she hadn't heard from… [Staley] in about two weeks." The police went with McCallum and her husband to Staley's home, "When police kicked in the door to Layne Staley's University District apartment on April 19, there, on a couch, lit by a flickering TV, next to several spray-paint cans on the floor, not far from a small stash of cocaine, near two crack pipes on the coffee table, reposed the remains of the rock musician." The article also stated that the 6'1" Staley weighed just 86 pounds when his body was discovered. The autopsy report later concluded that Staley had died after injecting a mixture of heroin and cocaine known as a "speedball".
In an interview on VH1's Celebrity Rehab with McCallum, former Alice in Chains bass player Mike Starr said that he spent time with Staley the day before he died as Starr's birthday was April 4. Starr claimed that Staley was very sick but would not call 911.
Please put your HORNS UP for Layne Staley and crank up some ALICE IN CHAINS in his memory!