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Duff McKagan 101: Everything You Need to Know About Guns N’ Roses’ Founding Bassist

Theo Wargo, Getty Images
Theo Wargo, Getty Images

Duff McKagan, Guns N’ Roses bassist: June 1985 – August 1997

Guns N’ Roses Discography: Live ?!*@ Like A Suicide (1986); Appetite for Destruction (1987); G N’ R Lies (1988); Use Your Illusion I and II (1991)

Non-Guns N’ Roses Discography: Believe In Me (solo); the Fartz, You, We See You Crawling; Neurotic Outsiders (self-titled); 10 Minute Warning (self-titled); Mad for the Racket, The Racketeers; Loaded, Dark Days, Sick and The Taking; Velvet Revolver, Contraband, Libertad; Walking Papers (self-titled).

Pre-Guns N’ Roses: Duff McKagan lays claim to 35 years as a working musician, starting with the Vains’ single “School Jerks,” released in 1980 when Duff was just 16 years old. A Seattle native, Duff connected with future GNR bandmates Slash and Steven Adler shortly after arriving in Los Angeles in 1983. Their band, Road Crew, didn’t go anywhere, but when the bassist joined the fledgling Guns N’ Roses in ’85, Slash and Adler quickly followed.

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Post-Guns N’ Roses: Aside from Axl Rose, Duff was the last of the classic lineup to leave, packing up his gear in August 1997. Shortly thereafter, he made a second solo album, Beautiful Disease (his first was released in ’93), that remains unreleased due to legal issues. During this period he also worked with his pre-Gunners band, 10 Minute Warning, and formed Loaded. In 2002, McKagan and Loaded guitarist Dave Kushner co-founded Velvet Revolver, reuniting Duff with Slash and GNR 2.0 drummer Matt Sorum.

After Velvet Revolver, McKagan spent half of 2010 as a member of Jane’s Addiction, co-writing three tracks for their Great Escape Artist album but not appearing on the record. That same year he played four songs on stage with Guns N’ Roses at London’s O2 arena. He’s made special appearances with the band a handful of times since then.

Right Now: McKagan’s primary musical gig since 2013 has been the supergroup Kings of Chaos, which also counts Guns N’ Roses alums Matt Sorum and Gilby Clarke among its members. Duff is also an author and founder of Meridian Rock, a wealth management firm that focuses on musicians. He’s also a father of two daughters, one of whom is Pink Slips frontwoman Grace McKagan.

Guns N’ Roses Mini-Reunions: McKagan crops up so frequently in the working lives of his former band mates that we’ll limit ourselves to the most recent sightings. In September 2015, he and Slash played together at a fundraiser. McKagan and Sorum formed the rhythm section of the Alice Cooper-led supergroup Hollywood Vampires. As of August 2015, the bassist was also working on some new music with Stradlin.

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