Thursday (April 19th) marks the 10th anniversary of the day that the body of Alice In Chains vocalist Layne Staley was found in his Seattle apartment. Police and medical authorities estimated that Staley had died on or around April 5th -- the same date on which Nirvana's Kurt Cobain took his own life in 1994. Staley, whose long and tragic descent into heroin addiction ultimately sidelined his career and that of his band , had all but disappeared from public view during the last few years of his life. It was only after his accountants notified his mother, Nancy McCallum, than no money had been withdrawn from his bank account for two weeks that she and the police went to her son's apartment, where they found his remains on the living room couch.
Staley was born in Kirkland, Washington on August 22nd, 1967 to McCallum and Phil Staley. His parents divorced when he was seven, and Layne was raised by his mother and stepfather. He began playing drums at the age of 12, but soon switched to singing and met guitarist Jerry Cantrell in 1987. After rooming together for a while, Cantrell invited Staley to join his band Diamond Lie, which eventually evolved into Alice In Chains. The band, also featuring drummer Sean Kinney and original bassist Mike Starr, eventually became one of Seattle's biggest "grunge" exports.
Alice In Chains released its debut album, Facelift, in 1990 and became an immediate success, thanks to the single "Man In The Box." 1992's Dirt was an even bigger success, spawning hits such as "Rooster," "Would?" and "Angry Chair." Yet the album was also a harrowing portrait of drug addiction and foreshadowed the problems that would haunt Staley for the rest of his life.
After several acoustic EPs and a self-titled third studio album in 1995, Alice In Chains virtually dropped out of sight, playing live less and less. Staley did form a side project called Mad Season with other Seattle musicians, which released one album in 1994 called Above. His last live performance with Alice In Chains took place on July 3rd, 1996, when the band opened for Kiss in Kansas City.
- The singer's last recording sessions with Alice In Chains took place in September 1998, when he laid down vocals on two new songs for the 1999 Music Bank box set. Reports of his deteriorating physical condition arose from the sessions.
- Little is known of Staley's life from 1999 to 2002. The last known photo of him, taken in November 2001, is owned by his mother and has never been made public. In his last interview, done in early 2002, Staley admitted, "I never wanted to end my life this way."
- Jerry Cantrell told us that he thinks it's sad that the story of Staley's life and career is always associated with drugs: "It's unfortunate that that seems to be the only headline that gets equated with him, because there was so much more to him than that. Not taking away the fact of the reality of what that is, and how it ended, everybody knows that too. But there's a whole lot more to the story."
- Alice In Chains remained inactive until 2005, when Cantrell, Kinney and bassist Mike Inez, who replaced Starr in 1993, performed together at a benefit for tsunami victims. Recruiting singer/guitarist William DuVall, the band officially returned to touring in 2006 and 2007, and released its first new album in 14 years, Black Gives Way To Blue, in September 2009.
- Kinney told us when the band first reunited that they felt Staley's presence onstage all the time: "He's there every night. That's one of the main reasons we're doing it. I have no doubt that he'd be totally, 'Well, what took you guys so long?' It took me a long time for me personally to come to terms with even wanting to put myself in that situation, you know. This is the best way. We were all kind of in the same place, that felt like it was the right thing to do, you know. We bring him along in all our ways, you know, he's around us all the time."
- Alice In Chains is currently working on a new album for release later this year.
DID YOU KNOW?
In 2002, Staley's mother Nancy and drug counselor Jamie Richards formed the Layne Staley Fund, a non-profit organization that raised funds for drug treatment and worked with the Seattle music community. The non-profit dissolved in October 2010, but money that was raised over the years is held in the Layne Staley Memorial Fund at Therapeutic Health Services, a drug and alcohol treatment center with several locations in the greater Seattle area. The fund helps to provide hope and support for those who suffer from addiction and to assist others with resources for recovery and treatment.
CHECK IT OUT: This is the Layne Staley tribute video that played during intermission on Alice In Chains' 2006 comeback tour:
Alice In Chains' Sean Kinney Says Layne Staley Is With Them All The Time
Alice In Chains' Jerry Cantrell Says There Was More To Layne Staley Than Drugs