Kirk Lee Hammett (born November 18, 1962 in El Sobrante, California, USA) is the lead guitarist in heavy metal group Metallica. Kirk is one of the most well-known guitar students of legendary guitarist/instructor Joe Satriani.
Hammett was born in El Sobrante, California to a Filipino mother and an Irish Merchant Marine father. As a child and teenager, he showed great interest in his older brother Rick's extensive collection of hard rock records, including material by Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, and UFO. One of his biggest influences was Jimi Hendrix and he has performed parts of his songs during his guitar solos. He took up the guitar for the first time at the age of fifteen, beginning with a Montgomery Ward catalog special and little more than a shoebox with a four inch speaker for an amplifier. After picking up a 1978 Fender Stratocaster, Hammett attempted to customize his sound with various guitar parts, eventually falling for a 1974 Gibson Flying V. He even took a job at a Burger King restaurant to raise funds for a Marshall amplifier.
Hammett's musical interests eventually drew him into the fledgling thrash metal genre. In 1982, he formed the group Exodus with vocalist Paul Baloff, guitarist Gary Holt, and drummer Tom Hunting. Exodus was a crucial early player in the Bay Area thrash movement.
Hammett was invited to join Metallica after the 1983 dismissal of the band's original lead guitarist Dave Mustaine for substance abuse. At the time Hammett was taking private guitar lessons from now famous Joe Satriani. In 2002, he became the first inductee into Guitar World magazine's "Hall of Fame". He has toured with Metallica for more than twenty years and is a role model for many modern guitarists.
Though he is primarily Metallica's lead guitarist, Hammett has written and contributed riffs for Metallica songs since the mid-1980s (particularly in the 1990s during the Load era). One of these riffs, "Enter Sandman", was written in a hotel room at 3:00 am, and became one of Metallica's most popular songs. It was the first track and single on Metallica's self-titled 1991 album and was ranked 399th on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 greatest songs of all time. Kirk has often been criticized for his extensive use of the wah-wah pedal in his solos (particularly on more recent albums), but he insists, "The wah-wah is an extension of my personality". Kirk wanted to have guitar solos on Metallica's 2003 album, St. Anger, but drummer Lars Ulrich and producer Bob Rock thought that the solos didn't sound right in the songs. He later himself admitted, "We tried to put in solos but they sounded like an afterthought so we left them out."
Hammett's first marriage ended in 1990, during the recording of the Black Album, which consumed the band members' lives for almost an entire year. He now resides in San Francisco with Lani, his second wife.
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