Why an Early Motley Crue Member Quit When Nikki Sixx Joined
While many think of Tommy Lee, Nikki Sixx, Mick Mars and Vince Neil as Motley Crue, there was one significant change before the core lineup that went on to massive fame was settled. And an early edition of the band had Greg Leon handling guitar duties, only for him to exit after one of the band's core four came on board.
In an interview with Guitar World, Leon recalls the circumstances in which he was initially part of the group and what prompted his exit. According to Leon, the origins of what would become Motley Crue dated back to a period in which he played with the pre-Motley band Suite 19 that also featured Tommy Lee.
When Randy Rhoads left Quiet Riot to join Ozzy Osbourne, Leon left Suite 19 to fill the void in Quiet Riot, and though Lee was initially upset by Leon's exit, when Tommy wanted to start up a new band a little while later, the stars aligned for he and Leon to reconnect. It was then that Lee and Leon started to put together what would become Motley Crue.
"We were looking for a bass player, and we went to the Starwood one night, and Nikki [Sixx]'s band London was doing their farewell gig," recalled Leon. "I wasn't impressed with Nikki at all; he was awful. While we were hanging out, I don't know why, but Tommy just loved how Nikki looked. He was gung-ho about him, saying, 'This is the guy we should get.' But I felt we should back off as we'd already auditioned Nikki twice. I said to Tommy, 'He looks great. He's great onstage. But he can't play bass at all.'"
"I was looking to put a great band together like Rainbow, Deep Purple or Humble Pie," Leon says of his vision of the group. "Nikki Sixx simply was not capable. So I told Tommy, 'If this is the guy you want, I'm leaving.' Nikki was incapable of musically executing what I envisioned. All he was doing was quarter and eighth notes. But Tommy liked him, and they hit it off when they talked."
Leon and Lee didn't see eye to eye on Sixx and eventually Leon says he decided to move on rather than perform with the bassist in the group. "I was gone as soon as Nikki entered the picture," says Leon. "They couldn't find a guitar player or singer initially, so they kept calling me. But I refused. And then they met Mick [Mars] and Vince [Neil], and they were off and running. The way I saw it was that my guitar playing would get me through; I didn't need a guy like Nikki dragging me down. I had seen London many times, and I knew I wanted none of it."
Leon says that despite his exit, he remained in touch with Tommy Lee over the years, even accepting an invite to the studio while the band was recording Theatre of Pain. He notes, "When I got there, it wasn't Nikki playing bass. I won't mention the guy's name who actually played bass, but it wasn't Nikki. I remember asking the guy, 'Hey, what are you doing here?' And he was like, 'Oh, I'm playing bass on the Mötley Crüe record.' It shocked me, but the producer instigated that as Nikki wasn't up to snuff."
"I didn't know about ghost players then, but it was way more common than people knew. But it would usually get squashed whenever Tommy tried to hang out with me. It was like, 'Why is he here? We don't want you playing with Greg.' I'm not sure what they were afraid of."
In addition to Suite 19, Quiet Riot and his brief stint in Motley Crue, Leon also had a brief run with Dokken, and later performed with Vyper, Wishing Well and The Greg Leon Invasion.
When asked about Motley Crue's current divide with guitarist Mick Mars, who retired from touring in 2022, Leon says, "I knew it wasn't great between Mick and the guys, but I didn't think it was that bad. Mick is a hell of a nice guy and a great player. I've only met him a few times, but I've always found him to be a total sweetheart. It sucks what happened to him. But even if they did ask me to join, I'd decline. I'm not into all the phony stuff with the tapes and shit."
He also offered up his opinion on John 5 as a replacement, commenting, "I don't think John 5 is the right guy. He's not tough enough. There's no aggression in his playing. That band needs a player with attack and fire. John 5 is not that guy."
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