Sunday, 16th February 2020
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Original DEF LEPPARD Guitarist PETE WILLIS Celebrates 60th Birthday

Def Leppard 2002. Screenshot

Def Leppard's original guitarist Pete Willis is celebrating his 60th birthday today in Sheffield, England.

Pete formed local Sheffield band Atomic Mass with Rick Savage and drummer Tony Kenning which went on to become Def Leppard in 1977.

He was forced out of the band during the making of the 'Pyromania' album in July 1982 when his heavy drinking affected the recording sessions.

The above photo is taken from the March 2002 VH1 special 'Ultimate Albums Pyromania' where he talked about the issues surrounding his sacking from the band.

Around the same time as this show an article appeared in Classic Rock Magazine where he explained he had left the music industry and was working in property management in Sheffield with his wife.

On 29th March 2019 Pete will be inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame alongside Steve Clark, Joe Elliott, Rick Savage, Rick Allen, Phil Collen and Vivian Campbell.

View a few photos of the band when Pete was still a member courtesy of Gettyimages.

Classic Rock 2002 - Pete Willis Interview Quote

"Things were going too fast for me." he now admits. "I was still enjoying it, but I was using drink as a crutch. It wasn't nice to go that way, but it was something that needed to happen for them and the best thing to happen health-wise for me. If I'd stayed, there was a good chance that I'd have ended up going the same way as Steve Clark."

Def Leppard 2002. Screenshot

Ultimate Albums Pyromania 2002 - Pete Willis Interview Quotes

"Steve was probably drinking more if not the same as I was but he was a different type of guy. He wouldn't say boo to a ghost basically."

"Obviously I tried to you know play the guitar and that wasn't happening at all. And that's when Mutt exploded at me. So because of that I turned around and I you know give Mutt a mouthful back and it just went downhill from there really. If Mutt's listening I'm sorry for giving you a mouthful."

"Once something's been decided like that between a group of friends it can't be the same again really. Just for my health and maybe sanity it (was) probably the best thing that could have happened to me. Which is a hard thing to say."

Def Leppard 2019. Screenshot

2019 Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame - Joe Elliott Speech Quotes

"Another significant moment in this band's birth was the simple act of missing a bus. Which is something that I did on one August night in 1977. I decided to walk home instead of waiting for the next one. Fate would have it that I would bump into a young kid who I knew to be a pretty good guitar player. That kid was a guy called Pete Willis. Pete was the co founder of this band and one of the best right hands in the business. Now sadly Pete couldn't be with us tonight. But I want to emphasise how very important Pete's role was in this band in the early days."

"He was a terrific player. He had a very mischievous sense of humour. But he brought plenty of great musical ideas to this band. And it was Pete after a chance meeting in a college canteen. Both reaching for the same guitar magazine. Introduced us to the late great Steve Clark. Over the following ten years Steve made a massive musical contribution to this band. His incredible and unique riffs helped shape some of the most important songs that we will ever write. And it really does go without saying that we love him. And we miss him every day."

Def Leppard 2019.

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