That Time James Hetfield Broke His Wrist, So Metallica Added Another Guitar Player
When Metallica embarked on their Damage, Inc. tour in the spring of 1986, they'd lined up some of the biggest dates of their career to that point. Unfortunately, before the summer was out, frontman James Hetfield ended up taking the tour's title a little too literally.
Hetfield was skateboarding prior to the band's July 26 stop in Evansville, Ind., part of a string of dates that found the fast-rising metal upstarts opening for Ozzy Osbourne. While attempting one particular downhill run, he took a tumble and ended up breaking his wrist, putting a painful crimp in his plans to play guitar later that evening. Needless to say, the Metallica fans who'd come out to the show weren't pleased.
"When we finally made our way up to the gate and got our tickets ready, we were hearing rumors that James Hetfield was skating down the large hill beside the stage and broke his arm or wrist earlier and that Metallica was not going to play," recalled a Demolish Magazine band retrospective. "After what seemed like ages, Lars [IUlrich] and Cliff [Burton] finally came out and they announced that Metallica were in fact not going to be able to play, but Ozzy was going to play an extra long set to make up for it. Well, guess what ... of course no one told Ozzy that, or he didn’t care and they didn’t play any more than their regular set."
To its credit, the group quickly returned to the road after bowing out of the Evansville gig — albeit with a temporary lineup change. During his recovery, Hetfield continued to handle vocals, but his rhythm guitar duties were assumed by John Marshall, a longtime friend of lead guitarist Kirk Hammett and part of the band's live crew. Starting July 27 in Nashville and continuing through Sept. 25 in Norway, Marshall filled in, allowing Metallica to maintain their hard-fought early momentum.
Watch Metallica Perform on September 19, 1986
Fortunately for the band, Marshall is a more than capable guitarist in his own right. He filled in again in 1992, when Hetfield was temporarily forced out of the lineup after suffering second- and third-degree burns, and after leaving Metallica's crew, he went on to join Metal Church, with whom he's continued to play periodically even after getting a job with Mesa in 1995.
Hetfield's skateboarding woes were sadly not the end of Metallica's troubles during their 1986 tour. Shortly after he completed his recovery and returned to the lineup, the band was dealt a tragic blow on Sept. 27, 1986, when its tour bus lost control and crashed between shows, killing bassist Burton. Incredibly, they were back onstage less than two months later, with new member Jason Newsted in the fold, and managed to play out the string, finally finishing their tour obligations in February 1987. The following month, Hetfield jumped back on his skateboard — and broke his wrist yet again.