Introducing Motley Crue’s Early Mystery Man, Greg Leon
Mick Mars arrives, outplays his blond adversary and is immediately hired – but says he won’t be in a band with another guitarist. Sixx challenges Mars to fire the other guy, which he does, and the rest is history.
Even though the band stated The Dirt would adhere as much as possible to the 2001 book of the same name, and that honesty was the main goal, the scene with the firing appears to be fictional (perhaps with the intention of moving the story forward rather than to mislead). If there’s any truth behind it, that would be the experience of Greg Leon, whose story is far more interesting than the movie scene might suggest.
By the early ‘80s he had established a reputation on the Los Angeles hard-rock scene as a strong singer and an adept guitarist (he also played drums and keyboards). “Back then, any night you went out, you could see a great up and coming band like Van Halen, Ratt, Quiet Riot,” he told Sleaz Roxx in 2007. “It seems to me that then the people in bands were trying to be the best musicians they could, instead of just trying to be rock stars!"
Listen to Greg Leon's 'Stay With Me Tonight'
He said "there was a lot more excitement watching a band. You knew that any of these groups could and probably would be the next big thing. And you felt that you were part of something special that was going to be great, and it did become just that.”
By 1980 Leon was fronting a trio called Suite 19, which originally featured future Great White drummer Gary Holland. “Tommy Lee was following my band around, and after every show he would come up to me and ask me to get rid of Gary,” Leon told TrueMetalFan in 2007. “It took a while, but he kept coming to my shows and we ended up playing together. He was great from the very first note we played. … I think Tommy is one of the greatest living rock drummers around.”
During the 18 months in which Lee was a member, using his real name Tom Bass, demo recording were made – but Leon didn’t know what happened to them. “I probably gave the copies of demos and rehearsals and live shows away to fans and friends,” he told Sleaz Roxx. “Somebody has got to have those tapes somewhere. … I wish I had all those hundreds of tapes. It would be great to be able to go back and listen to them again, all the joking between songs and funny shit that went on at those rehearsals.”
He described the band as sounding like “Hendrix meets Rainbow meets Van Halen meets Axis Rick Derringer meets Johnny Winter.” While Sixx hooked up with Lee during Suite 19’s run, Leon’s interests lay elsewhere. “The band split up, because I was asked to replace Randy Rhoads in Quiet Riot, and it seemed like a good career move for me,” he said. “Tommy was so mad at me for that!”
In 2017 he offered a more detailed account of his Motley Crue near miss, which suggested a story almost opposite to the scene in the movie. With Lee insisting Sixx should be asked to join their band, Leon told him, ���I’ve already auditioned him twice and he didn’t get the gig either time because he can’t play. ... I was into being a musician and not dumbing myself down because I wanted to be better. … I had to tune Nikki’s bass for him at the auditions; he didn’t know any scales, so it was just terrible. But Tommy just loved him and he loved the image.
“So I told Tommy, ‘You can do what you want but I won’t play with him.’ … I drove Tommy to meet Nikki, and they wanted me to join the band before they even had a name. And I was sick of sharing the lead-vocal thing with somebody else because I figured that I could sing as good if not better than any of these other guys, so I didn’t want to do that. Nikki was dead-set on having a frontman because that was the big thing with Van Halen and all of these bands. … I told them that I wasn’t interested and I was going to put a band together and write my own songs and do what Eric Clapton does or Jimi Hendrix. … That was more of my thing and where my heart was.”
While the fledgling Motley Crue began their climb to fame without him, Leon enjoyed his stint with Quiet Riot, and was proud to say he’d been Rhoads’ own choice to replace him. “He thought I would be perfect for the position, and I was!" he recalled. "I had seen him play so many times and been on so many of the same shows, that I knew all of the songs. I loved Randy! Everybody did.”
Rhoads’ move to join Ozzy Osbourne was to end in his death, but Leon remembered him affectionately. “We used to hang out at the Starwood club in Hollywood, and we would go over to each others’ house or meet at our rehearsal studio,” he said. “I lent him my old Marshalls when he joined Ozzy Osbourne.”
He also introduced Rhoads to Charvel Guitars boss Grover Jackson. “Randy brought his rough artwork for the polka dot flying V," he noted. "He had traced a Gibson Flying V and when Grover looked at it he said, ‘Why copy it? Let’s reshape it and make it your own signature guitar.’ A couple of weeks later, he got the call that the guitar was done and he could pick it up.”
Another call came after Don Dokken had seen him play, Leon remembered. “[Dokken] told me we should be playing together," he said. "He also told me we would go over to Europe to tour, and we did. I loved playing in Dokken. It was all guitar and great vocals and harmony vocals. We had four-part harmonies in some of the tunes. I still see Don, and it’s always just like old times.”
Listen to Dokken Featuring Greg Leon's 'We’re Going Wrong'
Leon also took over Rhoads’ guitar duties at the school run by his mother, Delores Rhoads. “I think I had about 80 students a week,” he said. He went on to develop a reputation for creating custom-modified amplifiers.
His own band, Greg Leon Invasion, featured bassist Joey Vera, later of Armored Saint and Anthrax. In the ‘90s he fronted Wishing Well, which included former Survivor drummer Marc Droubay and onetime Pretty Things bassist Stuart Brooks.
He reactivated the Invasion name in the ‘00s and toured Europe along with continuing to appear on the U.S. club scene. The band’s fourth album, Guitars, Cars and Women, was released in 2010. All those lineups were in the power trio format he said he’s always loved best.
Watch Greg Leon and George Lynch Share a Stage in 2014
Leon reported in 2007 that he’d remained in contact with Lee. “We hooked up a while ago and talked about getting together and play again," he said. "We both thought it was a great idea – and then Motley Crue got back together again and that was the last I've seen of him.”
Motley Crue Lineup Changes: A Complete Guide
A Scene-By-Scene Breakdown of 'The Dirt' Trailer