In Tribute: The Complete, Untold Story of Slayer's Jeff Hanneman
The complete, untold story of Jeff Hanneman, Slayer's guitariast for more than 30 years.
Lombardo remembers the first time he met Hanneman: “Kerry brought him to rehearsal in the garage one day. He had a small Fender Twin and the black Les Paul that’s on the back of Show No Mercy, and he was kinda quiet. Jeff hadn’t been playing for very long at that point, and everything he did know he basically taught himself. But something about it just felt right from the get-go. It worked.”
This fearsome foursome was now a unit, hell-bent on fusing elements of Iron Maiden, Motörhead, Dead Kennedys and Venom into an aggressive style of thrash metal that would ultimately alter the course of music. They were four youngsters with a shared vision, though Hanneman did stand apart from his cohorts in one respect: he didn’t drive.
So while everyone else was able to get to and from rehearsal via their own wheels, Hanneman—who, depending on whom you ask, either never had a driver’s license or lost it early on after various DUI infractions—needed to be shuttled back and forth whenever the band got together. “When we started the band, Kerry would pick him up from his house in Long Beach and I would drop him off after rehearsal,” Araya says. “That was the trade-off. So we spent a lot of time in the car together, usually drinking beer. I would drop him off, and sometimes I’d hang with him at his house with his parents.”
It was around this time—April-May 1983 to be exact, nine months before the release of the band’s debut album, Show No Mercy—that Hanneman met a girl named Kathryn. They hooked up as teenagers—he 19, she 15—and stuck together like glue for the remainder of Jeff’s life, up until the day he died. It’s safe to say their fate as a couple was sealed by the bizarre circumstances of their introduction.
“My girlfriend and I were getting tired of going to the movies every weekend, so we decided to go see this band called Slayer at a little club in Buena Park called the Woodstock,” says Kathryn, who is now 46, from her home in southern California. “They were playing with a band called Leatherwolf. I begged my father to let us go to the show, knowing that I would be home later than my 10 o’clock curfew, and he was okay with that. There may have been 15 or 20 people at the show, so I was able to stand up front against the stage, on Jeff’s side. And before I knew it, he kneeled down, grabbed me by the hair, and started making out with me. I was blown away, and that was how we met.”
Had Hanneman attempted this act of onstage molestation with a different girl that night, he may have found himself in the back of a squad car. Instead, he found himself getting messages from the band’s manager that Kathryn—who had reached out to management to share photos she had taken that night—wanted Jeff to call her.
“I asked the manager if he could have Jeff call me, and he told me Jeff was in Vegas visiting his grandmother,” she says. “I thought that was so sweet. About three weeks later, I was at home and my phone rang one night, and I picked it up and the voice on the other end said, ‘Hi, Kathy, this is Jeff from Slayer.’ And my heart started racing. I asked him how his grandmother was, and he said to me, ‘I wasn’t visiting my grandmother. I went to Vegas to break up with my girlfriend.’ And that was what I loved about Jeff—he was honest from the get-go.”
Jeff and Kathryn’s relationship continued to grow as Slayer gained traction within the underground metal community—that is, as long they could figure out a way to travel the 20 or so miles between her home in Buena Park and his in Long Beach.
“Since neither of us drove we either had to rely on Tom to pick me up and drive me to rehearsal to see Jeff or get my mom to drive me to Long Beach to see him,” Kathryn says. “And whenever Jeff could, he would take a bus to come see me. That’s how our relationship started, and eventually we just never separated unless he was on the road. We spent as much time together as we possibly could.
“At first my dad was a little nervous when this guy showed up at our house wearing a leather jacket with black makeup around his eyes, but it didn’t take long before they were all getting along great. My parents loved him. All my girlfriends fell in love with him too. And they were always quick to say so.”
While Kathryn has always taken careful steps to shield herself from the spotlight, she did play a key role in Slayer’s early Eighties reputation as a group parents abhorred when she agreed to pose in an early band promotional photo as a bloodied, lingerie-clad corpse.
“I was around 16 at the time,” she says. “Jeff called me one evening and said they were about to do this photo shoot and that the girl they were going to use broke her toe and had to cancel, so he asked if I would fill in. And that I needed to bring some sort of black lingerie. I told him I had to get permission from my parents but that I’d be happy to do it. And since neither of us had driver’s licenses, Tom came out and picked me up and we went to the garage at Tom’s parents’ house, which is where they would rehearse, and we did the shoot. I was very shy and conservative in those days, but it was the least I could do. I was honored that they chose me.”
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