John 5’s Rock Credentials: From David Lee Roth to Motley Crue
For the first time in more than 40 years, Motley Crue has a new guitarist. Just a day after Mick Mars announced he was retiring from touring, the band revealed his replacement: John 5.
The name is likely familiar to ardent rock fans, while more passive listeners may be left scratching their heads. Still, there’s no question 5’s resume is impressive, as the guitarist has played with some of the biggest names in rock.
John 5 – real name John Lowery – began his career in 1987 when he was still just a teen. Early on, he connected with Rudy Sarzo, the famed bassist whose career includes stints in Whitesnake, Quiet Riot and Ozzy Osbourne’s band. Sarzo recruited 5 for his short-lived band Sun King, though the group never released an album. Still, 5 had his first entry into the rock world, and his career would progress steadily from there.
The guitarist would become part of Lita Ford’s band in the ‘90s, a gig which helped 5 meet his idols, Kiss. To be fair, 5 had actually come face-to-face with Gene Simmons before: when the future rocker was 13, he followed the Kiss bassist into a hotel elevator, but was too starstruck to ask for an autograph.
Following his stint with Ford, 5 joined forces with Rob Halford, who at the time was no longer a member of Judas Priest. The famed frontman formed an industrial-metal project called 2wo, with 5 serving as the group’s guitarist. 2wo’s first and only album was produced by Trent Reznor, but despite the star power involved, the LP failed to garner much attention. By 1998, the group had disbanded, but 5’s next big gig was just around the corner.
Watch John 5 Perfomring With Rob Halford in 1998
After reading David Lee Roth’s memoir, 5 decided to cold-call the former Van Halen singer’s management.
"I said, 'Are you guys accepting any [music] right now or anything like that?'" 5 later recalled. "And they said, 'Well, not really. But you can send a CD, and we'll see what we've got.' And I was, like, 'Oh my God!' Just that little bit, I was shocked. I was, like, 'This is insane.'"
The guitarist’s demos impressed Roth’s team so much that he was invited to Diamond Dave’s home.
"And there's Dave in his overalls," 5 remembered. "And he's, like, 'John, great to see ya. We're gonna make a record. I really like what you're doing.' And I was, like, 'Oh my God.' I couldn't believe it." 5 would end up playing lead guitar and co-writing half the songs on 1998’s DLR Band.
Listen to 'Slam Dunk' by David Lee Roth, Featuring John 5
Also in ‘98, 5 joined Marilyn Manson’s band (it was Manson who gave him the John 5 moniker). He’d remain a member of the group for six years, contributing to the albums Holy Wood (In the Shadow of the Valley of Death) (2000) and The Golden Age of Grotesque (2003) before departing in 2004.
The guitarist’s next endeavor would prove to be the longest of his career. In 2005, 5 joined Rob Zombie’s band, initially just as a temporary gig. However, the two musicians hit it off so well that 5 became a permanent member. He co-wrote eight of the 11 tracks on 2006’s Educated Horses, and contributed to a total of five of Zombie’s studio albums during his tenure, which ended in 2022.
Watch John 5 Performing With Rob Zombie in 2005
Parallel to his career with Zombie, 5 began releasing solo material, delivering 13 albums from 2004 to 2021. The releases boasted some impressive guests, with Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Billy Sherwood, Dave Mustaine, Jim Root, Tommy Clufetos and Billy Sheehan among the contributing musicians.
Over the years, 5 has also collaborated on various material with a long list of icons, including Paul Stanley, Ace Frehley, Alice Cooper, Sebastian Bach, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Rod Stewart, Scorpions, Steve Perry and Steven Adler.
Watch John 5 Performing Motley Crue's 'Kickstart My Heart'
Even before his recent addition to the Motley Crue lineup, 5 had a well established relationship with the band. The guitarist co-wrote three of the songs for the soundtrack to The Dirt: "Crash and Burn,” "Ride With the Devil" and "The Dirt (Est. 1981)." He also shared a writing credit on the 2011 Sixx:A.M. single "Lies of the Beautiful People.” 5 regularly mixed covers of Motley Crue into his solo performances, including renditions of “Shout at the Devil,” Kickstart My Heart” and “Home Sweet Home.” In 2021, the guitarist joined Nikki Sixx, Zombie and Clufetos in the supergroup L.A. Rats.
Now, 5 is poised for the next chapter in his career, becoming just the second guitarist in Motley Crue’s history. In a statement announcing his addition to the group, the rocker was concise but earnest: "I'm honored to carry on Mick's legacy and am looking forward to playing these songs.”