Jason Newsted Recalls Getting Blessing From Cliff Burton’s Mother to Join Metallica
As Metallica this year celebrate their 40th anniversary, stories from the band's history keep cropping up. Many of them underscore the human connections behind the music — especially the time Cliff Burton's mother gave Jason Newsted her blessing to join Metallica.
Newsted recently recalled the exchange, a tender moment amid his 1986 auditions for the band that followed early Metallica bassist Burton's death in a tour bus crash. At one point in the try-out, Jan Burton, Cliff's mom, arrived with Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich's father and others to see the candidate in action.
Newsted called the group the "the elders."
That's how he put it to Metal Hammer in part of a new interview that emerged this week. Jan died of breast cancer in 1993. Cliff's father, Ray Burton, died last year.
Newsted remembered, "It was the third day that I played with the boys, I think I stayed overnight in San Francisco for the first time. That third night, they had the elders come in for their blessing. So Torben Ulrich, the Burtons, a couple of the crew guys, people that had been there from the get-go. We got through about six tunes: 'Master,' 'Fade to Black,' 'Bell Tolls,' the masterpieces!"
He continued, "So I am just composing myself for a second, putting my bass down, turning off Cliff's amp — I'm playing fucking Cliff's amp, dude!"
Right then, "Jan comes walking in the room by herself, and she grabs me and gets my attention," Newsted said. "She says, 'Great job, son,' and I'm like, 'Oh fuck!' She embraced me, and it seemed like it was quite a while, and she said, 'You're the one, you must be the one. Please be safe, we love you.' And she gave me a kiss."
At the time, Newsted was in the Phoenix-based Flotsam and Jetsam and had to travel to the Bay Area for auditions. "That was 35 years ago, and I'll never, ever forget it," he said. Of course, he ended up getting the Metallica gig, and he stayed in the band until 2001.
"Just to be amongst them was very special," Newsted added of the elders present for his Metallica induction. But he was no slouch when it came to playing the bass. "I went in totally prepared and confident," he said.
Lars recently remembered Newsted as the unsung hero of Metallica's 1991 "Black Album," also saying it made "complete sense" why he ultimately left the band. In September, Metallica remastered and reissued the effort, with Newsted appearing in an unboxing video.
Newsted no longer plays much metal himself, but he currently fronts Jason Newsted and the Chophouse Band for several benefit shows per year, the combo doling out covers of Johnny Cash and other classics.