Details You Didn't Know About Guns N' Roses Bassist Duff McKagan

The '80s heavy metal band Guns N' Roses had a good run at the peak of their popularity. They scored with timeless hits like "Welcome to the Jungle" and "Sweet Child O' Mine" and cemented their place in the music world as one of the best hard rock bands of our time. The Los Angeles-based band was formed in 1985 and made up of frontman Axl Rose, drummer Steven Adler, guitarists Izzy Stradlin and Slash, and bassist Duff McKagan. Keyboardist Dizzy Reed and drummer Matt Sorum would join later. 

The band was inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012, and there was a little controversy over it mostly due to an objection by Axl Rose, per The Guardian. Like a lot of rock bands, Guns N' Roses had members that left and new ones that joined. And of course, the band went through some inevitable band drama. McKagan would be one of the departing members in later years, before rejoining again.

Duff McKagan was the last to join Guns N' Roses

Guns N' Roses made their debut with five members, but the band didn't get famous with the members they originally formed with. Initially, it started out with Rose and Stradlin, who had joined guitarist Tracii Guns — one of the band's founding members — bass guitarist Ole Beich, and drummer Rob Gardner to form Guns N' Roses. This band name was a combination of two groups: L.A. Guns and Hollywood Rose, per Biography. Slash and Steven Adler were both previously part of Hollywood Rose before the split, and the two went on to form Road Crew. McKagan would try playing with them for a short while but left.

In 1985, Beich was no longer with the band, and Guns N' Roses were looking for another bass player (via Talkhouse). Stradlin would invite McKagan to play with the group for a tour, but by the end of it, they were two members short when Guns and Gardner left. The Road Crew joined the band and reunited with their old Hollywood Rose bandmates. McKagan, who hadn't been in any band around this time, finally had a band to play with.

Duff McKagan played in a lot of bands

Even though he was not in a band when he joined Guns N' Roses, he was previously part of several. According to Talkhouse, Duff McKagan "played in dozens of rock bands around Los Angeles." He is mostly credited for playing with Fastbacks, The Fartz, and Ten Minute Warning — all bands he played in as a teenager in the early '80s.

McKagan left Guns N' Roses in 1997. He reappeared in music again around 2002 with the formation of a new band called Velvet Revolver, which consisted of his longtime bandmates Slash, who had left Guns N' Roses a year before McKagan, and Sorum, who was fired in 1997 (via Alternative Nation). The new five-member rock band was completed by vocalist Scott Weiland and guitarist Dave Kushner. The band put out two albums before Weiland abruptly left in 2008. The group stopped making music after a failed replacement for Weiland didn't work out. 

McKagan continued to play in reunion shows with the band, as well as reuniting with Guns N' Roses in 2014 for a South American tour (via The Guardian). In 2016, McKagan and Slash both officially rejoined the band, according to New Musical Express.

Duff McKagan had life-threatening health issues

Duff McKagan had some health issues that came as a result of excessive alcohol use. The bassist found himself in a near-death experience in 1994 when his pancreas burst. He had picked up a habit of heavy drinking that once included guzzling a half gallon of vodka a day as well as several bottles of wine. The lifestyle came with serious consequences when at 30 years old, he had to immediately seek medical attention because his swollen pancreas. On top of the voracious drinking, he was doing hard drugs like cocaine, reports USA Today. McKagan said the habit eventually took its toll on his health and appearance. "My hair started to fall out ... my body was starting to show it, like huge boils ... and my pancreas burst from drinking too much," said McKagan.

The health of his pancreas was so bad that McKagan apparently wanted to die due to the pain. Not even strong painkillers gave him relief, reported BBC News. "When they gave me morphine and the pain didn't go away, that's when I knew I was in real trouble. They did an ultrasound — my pancreas was huge. The surgeon said they would have to cut out part of my pancreas, and that's when I said 'Just kill me.'" He changed his life around after the ordeal because it could've been fatal.