Cliff Burton’s Back-Up Plan For A Metallica Failure Scenario

It is something almost everyone, who is interested in music, would agree that late Metallica bassist Cliff Burton revolutionized bass playing despite his short life, ending with a tragic bus accident on September 27, 1986. His older brother, Scott’s death, became a turning point in Burton’s life, encouraging him to take up the bass and set his mind on being the best bassist. He devoted his life to this cause to make his late brother proud and began practicing tirelessly for hours and hours per day.

Cliff Burton started performing with the bands he formed in high school and college, yet his first professional experience came with the band Trauma he joined in 1982. Upon hearing one of his performances with Trauma, James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich decided to recruit him for Metallica, which would raise the bassist to incredible fame and a remarkable career. Yet, Burton also had a backup plan in case things didn’t go well with Metallica at the time.

What Other Plans Did Cliff Burton Have In His Mind?

Metallica’s bass guitarist Ron McGovney had just departed from the band, so the group members were already searching for a new bassist. Cliff Burton was the only name on their mind, and they were ready to do their best to make him a band member. Burton was unhappy in Trauma after some point because he thought the band was beginning to move in a commercial direction.

Thus, he agreed to join Metallica, but he had one condition. Burton wanted to stay in San Fransisco Bay Area rather than move to Los Angeles. The remaining Metallica members were so eager to have the bassist in the band that they accepted his request by making a home in El Cerrito. Of course, Metallica then was an unknown heavy metal band that didn’t release any records yet. It was risky for Burton since he didn’t know if they would ever succeed.

In an appearance on the Alphabetallica Podcast, the late bassist’s father, Ray Burton, recalled his son’s first words about joining Metallica. Cliff Burton came to him and his mother to get their support on that new journey. Ray Burton said they were ready to do their best to give him the help he needed at the time. The bassist also told them he had a backup plan to become a studio musician if things didn’t go well with Metallica.

Here is how Burton’s father recalled his late son’s words:

“We didn’t have all that much, but we could certainly support him. He said, ‘If I don’t make it, I feel that I can become a studio musician.’ That’s what he proposed to us, and of course, we said, ‘You bet! Go out there and give it a try, and we’ll support you the best we can.’ It worked out pretty well.”

Thanks to his tremendous success with Metallica, the bassist didn’t have to become a studio musician. He also proved himself as one of the impressive bass players, and his legacy lives in the incredible work he did on the band’s first three albums.