Known for his Stevie Ray Vaughan/Jimi Hendrix-esque guitar leads, Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready helped shift the majority of rock fans' attention away from technically demanding shredders to more feel-oriented and rootsy players. Born on April 5, 1966, in Pensacola, FL, McCready and his family relocated to Seattle, WA, shortly after his birth. Intrigued by Kiss' Ace Frehley and Aerosmith's Joe Perry at an early age, McCready received his first guitar at the age of 11, and was in his first band by the time he reached the eighth grade -- Shadow. The group's sound reflected the burgeoning pop-metal of the day (Van Halen, Def Leppard), and after an attempt to land a record deal in Los Angeles didn't pan out, Shadow returned to Seattle with their tails between their legs, and promptly called it a day. The experience had soured McCready's passion for music, as he all but gave up on guitar. He cut his hair, attended college, and didn't touch his instrument for months. He eventually did get back into guitar, immersing himself in the blues-based sounds of Vaughan and joining a similarly styled local outfit, Love Chile. But the group proved to be short-lived -- only playing a handful of live shows.
Through a mutual friend, McCready met Mother Love Bone guitarist Stone Gossard, who was impressed by McCready's talents after hearing him jamming away at a party. Shortly thereafter, Gossard found himself without a band when MLB's singer, Andrew Wood, died tragically on the eve of their debut album's release. A few months after, McCready received a call from Gossard inquiring if he'd like to jam together. The pair immediately hit it off, and with another former MLB member on board, bassist Jeff Ament, as well as San Diego native Eddie Vedder on vocals (and various drummers), Pearl Jam was born in late 1990. McCready also took part alongside his new bandmembers in the Chris Cornell-led tribute to Wood, Temple of the Dog, whose debut album was issued in the summer of 1991, just a few months before the release of Pearl Jam's debut, Ten. A year later, Pearl Jam exploded and became one of rock's top bands, as their debut camped out at the top of the charts and they toured as part of Lollapalooza II. Pearl Jam's success would continue throughout the '90s on the strength of such releases as 1993's Vs., 1994's Vitalogy, 1996's No Code, and 1998's Yield, plus their first release of the new millennium, 2000's Binaural.
McCready also lent his guitar-playing talents to several side projects, plus finding time to guest on other artists' recordings. In 1995 (just after he completed rehab for a drinking problem), McCready formed Mad Season with Alice in Chains singer Layne Staley, releasing their lone album the same year, Above, and 2000 saw another McCready-led side project, the Rockfords (which included former members of Shadow), and the release of their self-titled debut. McCready's bluesy playing can also be spotted on releases by Brad (Interiors), Mark Eitzel (West), Screaming Trees (Dust), Tuatara (Breaking the Ethers), Neil Young (Mirror Ball), as well as a must-hear cover of the uncommon Jimi Hendrix track "Hey Baby" (for the Hendrix tribute album Stone Free). ~ Greg Prato