The First Time Jerry Cantrell Heard Layne Staley Sing


Image courtesy of Christine Kells-Frederick, published here with her permission.

On May 1, 1987, Alice ‘N Chains was the first act of a three-band bill at the Tacoma Little Theatre, a local community theatre in the neighboring city of Tacoma approximately thirty-five miles south of Seattle.  Though they are sometimes confused with Alice in Chains, they were two entirely different bands who had the same lead singer and different variations of the same name. (The story behind this is covered in my book) In addition to Layne Staley, this version of the band included future Second Coming members Johnny Bacolas (bass) and James Bergstrom (drums), as well as future My Sister’s Machine singer/guitarist Nick Pollock (guitar).

Thanks to the wonders of the Internet, a complete audio recording has emerged of this performance. (I have no idea who is in the photo for all of these clips, or who owns the original recording. I have confirmed the authenticity of the recording with the three surviving band members.) Here’s the setlist in order, with each song linking to a different clip:

The whole thing is well worth listening to. The significance of this recording – aside from the fact that it even exists – is that one of the people in the audience that night was a local guitar player named Jerry Cantrell. Years later, he told Greg Prato, “I have to also say about Layne, the very first time I heard him sing — at the Tacoma Little Theater — it was one of those ‘lightning bolt moments.’ I just knew, ‘I’ve got to be in a band with this guy.'”

In short, this recording is what Jerry was hearing on the night of that lightning bolt moment.


  1. Michael Brumbach on July 23, 2022 at 5:24 pm

    That is awesome They’re listening to them for the past 25 years old of my top favorite bands

  2. John Stewart on November 9, 2023 at 9:19 pm

    I was there at the Tacoma Little Theatre for that show! I was also good friends with Layne and Mike and we would party at my condo in Kent regularly!

  3. lj1982 on February 5, 2024 at 10:04 am

    i find contradictionnary sources on the web :

    The fist Alice I Chains show with the new line-up seems to happen on may 16 1987 and it is said they know each other for 1 years.
    How is it possible only 15 days between the las Alice N Chains show and the first Alice In Chains show ?

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