The legendary Cliff Burton is often thought to be Metallica’s first bassist since he is featured on all the early recordings. It was, however, Ron McGovney who first held down the low end in the band. McGovney recently opened up about the transition to Burton as Metallica’s bassist in a new interview on Chris Jericho’s Talk is Jericho podcast.
McGovney was with James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich the first time they saw Burton perform at a club in San Francisco. “All of the sudden Cliff starts going into this solo. And they’re just like looking at him and their eyes are wide open,” McGovney recalls. “I’m looking at [James and Lars], and they’re looking at [Cliff], so I kind of knew right at that point. Like, ‘Yeah, this is the guy that they’re gonna go after. I can feel it.'”
Tension between McGovney and then guitarist Dave Mustaine led to the bassist quitting the band. He told Jericho that it wasn’t crushing to him because he was less into the band’s thrash style, plus he was interested in being a motorcycle mechanic. Even after he left the band, Burton always treated him with respect.
“He was really respectful of me for my tenure in the band, which was really nice” he shared. “I remember at that Palladium show in ’84, I had a pass but it was just like a sticker pass. And I wanted to go in the back and talk to them but [security] wouldn’t let me in. Cliff saw me, he gave me his laminate. I walked back there and their tour manager said, ‘Why did you give him that?’ And Cliff said, ‘He was the first bass player for Metallica!'”
Hat tip to iHeartRadio.