The Feud Between Misfits' Glenn Danzig And Jerry Only Explained

Music brings people together, but it also has the power to push others apart. In the case of horror punk legends The Misfits, original vocalist Glenn Danzig and bassist Jerry Only found themselves at loggerheads for decades over the band they shaped into a worldwide cult phenomenon. Even after the band called it a day the first time around, the two still had their differences, resulting in a few lawsuits and revelations of a fragile and strained relationship. 

No matter the issues between Danzig and Only, though, their influence was never in dispute as they inspired several generations of musicians with their infectious music and instantly recognizable iconography — especially the Crimson Ghost logo and mascot. Whether it be the likes of Blitzkid, AFI, or even Metallica, there are countless bands that cite The Misfits as one of their primary reasons for picking up instruments and wanting to hit the stage.

At one point in time, however, Misfits fans believed witnessing teenagers from Mars was a far more likely outcome than Danzig and Only ever reuniting. Yet, the two punk icons stunned the world when they put the band back together and shared the stage at 2016's Riot Fest 33 years after their initial split, as per Rolling Stone. With that being said, let's take a look at the storied and sometimes turbulent history between Danzig and Only.

After a disastrous concert, The Misfits call it quits

While The Misfits are considered a seminal punk band and the originators of the subgenre of horror punk, the group's initial run wasn't all glitz and glamor, culminating with an unceremonious breakup on October 29, 1983. The Misfits had experienced their woes with a revolving door of drummers, and even before their final performance, there had been a disagreement over who should be behind the kit for the infamous Halloween gig at the Graystone Hall in Detroit. 

According to James Greene Jr.'s "This Music Leaves Stains: The Complete Story of the Misfits," Jerry Only wanted their former drummer Arthur Googy to play the gig, but Glenn Danzig wasn't a fan of the idea and wanted Brian "Damage" Keats instead. Danzig got his wish in the end, but the performance turned into a disaster after Keats became intoxicated and botched the songs. Misfits guitarist Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein became annoyed and forcefully ejected Keats from the stage, while the Necros drummer Todd Swalla filled in for the rest of the show. 

After all that had happened that evening, plus other boiling frustrations over the band, Danzig announced on stage that it would be his final show with The Misfits, as per Exclaim. The group decided to split as a result of Danzig's decision.

Glenn Danzig overdubs and releases Misfits albums without the other band members' involvement

Despite The Misfits disbanding, there was still a wealth of previous material that had gone unreleased. In the band's early days, they had received 20 hours of studio time, so they went in and recorded the entirety of "Static Age," which was set to be their debut album, as per Louder. Unfortunately, The Misfits couldn't find a label that was willing to release the punk rock pulverizer, so the record was put on an indefinite backburner.

In 1985, two years after the group split, Glenn Danzig decided to release a Misfits compilation record titled "Legacy of Brutality." The album featured previously unreleased songs that had been recorded for "Static Age"; however, Danzig decided to re-record the instrumental tracks that had been laid down by his previous bandmates. Speaking to the now-defunct Black Market Magazine (via Exclaim), he claimed he did this because it "sounded a lot better." ("Static Age" was released in its entirety in 1996.)

Danzig's power play didn't go down well with Only, who told J. Eric Smith in 1997: "Glenn re-recorded all of my bass tracks for 'Legacy of Brutality.' I was really aggravated by that move, because 'Legacy' was probably the biggest selling Misfits item at the time and it wasn't even me on there!" Danzig went on to release several items related to The Misfits after this compilation, which resulted in tension between him and Only, as well as a legal dispute.

Jerry Only and Glenn Danzig's first legal tussle

After Glenn Danzig made the decision to release Misfits music without the involvement of Jerry Only, a long-running feud began. According to Only's interview with No Cover TV, the two of them didn't speak to each other from the time The Misfits broke up until the day they met in court.

Summing up what the main issue was, Only said, "I wanted the band. He wanted the publishing. I didn't care about the publishing. I wanted to make new music. I didn't want to get a check in the mailbox from Metallica [who covered Misfits songs to great success] — I didn't care about that."

In a statement published by Alternative Press in 2014, Only and Misfits said Only attained "the exclusive legal right to tour and record as the Misfits" in a 1995 settlement. He then proceeded to utilize a licensing program through Cyclopian Music. Reportedly, Danzig didn't want any attachment to the band or what Cyclopian Music was doing.

In another interview with Citizine, Only revealed that he had ceded songwriting credits to Danzig as part of their agreement, even though he claimed he and Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein "wrote 25% or maybe 30% of the music."

Danzig admits he and Jerry Only don't get along

By 2004, fans had already seen some semblance of a Misfits reunion — albeit not the one they may have imagined initially. Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein left The Misfits in 2001 (via Phoenix New Times) and joined Glenn Danzig for the Blackest of the Black tour where the two performed special Misfits sets for the crowds in attendance, as per Blabbermouth. At the time, Danzig said: "It's the closest thing to a Misfits reunion anyone is ever going to see!" All the while, The Misfits continued, as Jerry Only set up another version of the band without Danzig or Doyle's involvement.

In a 2007 interview with Spin, Danzig said that he and Only didn't get along, but he had a good relationship with Only's brother, Doyle. Additionally, he explained how he was set to produce the debut album for Doyle's solo band Gorgeous Frankenstein.

When Only was asked his thoughts about Danzig and Doyle's reunion by Rolling Stone in 2011, he said he harbored no resentment toward it. "Glenn had some problems for awhile," he said. "There was some crazy stuff that went down, and he really needed to save face. My brother stepped in for Glenn right at the right time, and I think it really kept him from floundering. So I'm happy my brother was there for him."

Only was accused of botching the band's reunion

There are two certainties in the music industry: Bands will fight and they will make up again. While Glenn Danzig and Jerry Only's falling-out raged on for three decades, there was always the belief among fans that they would move past their various spats and reunite to reclaim their crowns as the kings of horror punk. It also didn't help that there were constant whispers about it happening every time someone opened a music mag. In fact, Only himself hinted at the possibility of it happening in 2003 when he spoke to Citizine, saying: "We're talking with Glenn Danzig; hopefully we can get things back together and do a little work with him."

In 2008, while speaking to The Cleveland Scene, Only's brother and Misfits guitarist, Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein, admitted a reunion with Danzig was set in motion years earlier — with the timeline more or less matching Only's 2003 comment about it — but blamed his sibling for scuppering the plans. "But Jerry put a f***in' monkey wrench in it," he said. "[In] 2002, we had meetings ... And [Jerry] kind of f***ed it up, him and his manager. We were going to do a record, do a tour and everything."

Jerry Only says he'll reunite with Danzig if he's baptized

One of the biggest differences between Jerry Only and Glenn Danzig is in their religious beliefs. As Danzig explained to In Music We Trust, he isn't a Satanist, but he doesn't believe in Christianity either. On the other hand, Only revealed on the "Blairing Out Show" that he is a firm believer in God, while stating he doesn't approve of the dark imagery that Danzig taps into as an artist. He stated he couldn't get behind promoting something like it, even if it was only for marketing purposes and to attract attention. Considering religion is among the topics people hope to avoid unless they want to embroil themselves in an argument, it's clear to see how such opposing views could lead to some conflict between the two musicians.

In 2011, Rolling Stone conducted an interview with Only and asked him about the possibility of a reunion. He said: "I would say that if Glenn went and got baptized again, maybe we could talk. The thing is, I know Glenn, and he's very much about what he's doing. I've seen that. And me, I'm very much about what I'm doing."

Danzig takes Only to court

In April 2014, The Misfits saga took another turn for the worse as Glenn Danzig sued Jerry Only over merchandising rights, as per Re-Tox. Danzig claimed Only deliberately excluded him from a major merchandising deal with retailers such as Hot Topic and presented himself as the exclusive holder of Misfits trademarks, such as the infamous skull logo. As such, Only had supposedly gone back on a previous agreement where they would have shared ownership of the band's trademarks for merchandising. In addition, Danzig alleged Only threatened retailers that he would withhold the rights if they involved Danzig.

Through a representative, Only issued a statement and disputed Danzig's version of events, arguing Danzig had no claims to merchandise as per their 1995 agreement. Furthermore, through Cyclopian Music's licensing program, he had used Misfits' logos for numerous years and Danzig was well aware of it, never raising the issue beforehand. He suggested that Danzig's own band's merch didn't sell as well as The Misfits' did, and this was his way of trying to get a piece of the action. Ultimately, Only labeled the lawsuit "as a sour grapes tantrum based on outrageous allegations."

The lawsuit is thrown out

Fortunately, the merchandising lawsuit didn't drag on for too long or become too convoluted. In August 2014, a U.S. judge dismissed Glenn Danzig's claims of a breach of contract, as per Re-Tox. The judge cited Danzig and Only's previous agreement, specifically the part where each of them had the "non-exclusive right to conduct merchandising and to exploit other rights relating to the use and exploitation of the name Misfits." In simple terms, whoever released the respective merch would be entitled to the full earnings, and there was no provision listed otherwise.

The judge also dismissed a litany of Danzig's other complaints, such as Only's alleged threats of withholding rights from retailers that involved Danzig. While Danzig may have lost the lawsuit and a slice of the juicy Hot Topic pie, it did open the door for further discussions regarding the future of The Misfits. It was something that changed the trajectory of the band forever.

They reconcile and reunite as The Original Misfits

After the 2014 lawsuit, it appeared any chances of a Misfits reunion would only happen if Hell froze over, reheated itself, and went ice-cold again. Yet, the unthinkable happened: Jerry Only and Glenn Danzig reunited, being the first band announced for Denver's Riot Fest in 2016, as per The Denver Post. Finally, the original Misfits were getting back together after three decades apart.

Speaking to The New York Times, Danzig said the reunion happened because he and Only straightened out their issues once and for all. However, he explained there was something else weighing on his mind that made him consider the possibility. "I've seen a lot of musicians dying too young recently, like Bowie and Prince," he said. "That just got in my head. People had been trying to get us to reunite for a long time, anyway. I said that if we're going to do it, we might as well do it now while we're all in really good shape."

Jerry Only says he and Danzig's issues were never personal

After all the legal issues and bickering about The Misfits over the decades, one might believe there was bad blood and serious animosity between Glenn Danzig and Jerry Only; however, the latter disagreed with that sentiment. When discussing the reunion with Rolling Stone, Only explained that it shouldn't have been too shocking to believe they could get back on stage together. "We were never not friends," he said. "We were just adversaries. Larry Bird might not have liked Michael Jordan on the court, but when they go out to a bar they're cool."

Only added that a meeting held between himself, Danzig, and Misfits management proved to be the catalyst for their reunion. He admitted there was a desire to "cut each other's throats" when they first met to discuss their legal issues, but they managed to turn it around and decided to get back together as The Original Misfits. According to a MetalSucks report that disclosed the legalities of the reunion agreement, this was the way in which Only and Danzig managed to settle their previous dispute over the band's merchandise rights.

Danzig insults Only's version of The Misfits

There have been different iterations of Misfits over the years. Apart from the version that featured Glenn Danzig as the lead vocalist, another notable era was when Michale Graves fronted the band beginning in 1995 (via MTV). The Misfits released two albums with Graves as the voice of the Halloween party: 1997's "American Psycho" and 1999's "Famous Monsters."

Even though Danzig had agreed to allow Jerry Only to continue the band, he wasn't a fan of what The Misfits was doing without him. In 2001's "American Hardcore: A Tribal History" by Steven Blush, Danzig is quoted as saying: "The band you see now as The Misfits is not The Misfits. It's one guy [Jerry Only] trying to relive something and make some money because Punk is fashionable again."

Even after Danzig and Only had put aside their differences to perform as The Original Misfits, the singer remained steadfast, perhaps even more brutal, in his assessment of Only's version of The Misfits, telling Revolver in 2018: "So there was no Misfits until '95 or '96. Then they came back with that abomination, whatever it was, and it was really sad."

Danzig doesn't regret his lawsuits against Only

Glenn Danzig is renowned for not sugar coating his true feelings about a multitude of topics, including cancel culture. He says what's on his mind, seemingly remaining unworried about whom he offends with his comments, or if he is seen as abrasive by the interviewer. After his reunion with Jerry Only and the reformation of The Original Misfits in 2016, he didn't shy away from addressing their previous challenges in interviews. Most musicians might have brushed it off as incidents of the past, choosing to only focus on the future, but not Danzig.

When asked by Kerrang if he regretted the years of lawsuits where he and Only battled over all things related to The Misfits, Danzig said, "Things have to be worked out, and if someone is being difficult, you have to do what you have to do." In typical Danzig style, he told the interviewer that he found the question to be "weird."