John Sykes

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For other people named John Sykes, see John Sykes (disambiguation).
John Sykes
John Sykes 1984.jpg
Sykes performing with Whitesnake in 1984
Background information
Birth name John James Sykes
Born (1959-07-29) 29 July 1959 (age 57)
Reading, Berkshire, England
Genres Hard rock, heavy metal
Occupation(s) Musician, songwriter
Instruments Guitar, vocals
Years active 1980–present
Associated acts Streetfighter, John Sloman's Badlands, Tygers of Pan Tang, Thin Lizzy, Phil Lynott, Whitesnake, Blue Murder
Website Official website
Notable instruments
Gibson Les Paul

John James Sykes (born 29 July 1959) is an English rock guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter who has played with Streetfighter, Tygers of Pan Tang, John Sloman's Badlands, Thin Lizzy, Whitesnake, and Blue Murder. Sykes co-wrote the majority of the songs on Whitesnake's 1987 self-titled album with David Coverdale.[1] Sykes is also a successful solo artist.


Tygers of Pan Tang and John Sloman's Badlands (1980–1982)[edit]

Sykes joined Tygers of Pan Tang in 1980, and played guitar on the albums Spellbound (1981) and Crazy Nights (1982), as well as participating on two tracks for their 1983 release, The Cage.

In 1982, John Sykes was recruited by former Uriah Heep frontman John Sloman, for his new band Badlands, alongside his future Whitesnake bandmate Neil Murray. This was to be short-lived however, as Badlands broke up shortly after formation. No music has ever been officially released, although bootlegs of rehearsals do exist. Sykes also auditioned, unsuccessfully, for Ozzy Osbourne's band following the death of Randy Rhoads.[2] Sykes also auditioned for Ronnie James Dio's new band, Dio, to record on 1983's Holy Diver album but was unsuccessful, as Dio instead chose Sweet Savage guitarist, Vivian Campbell.

Thin Lizzy (1982–1983)[edit]

At the age of 23, Sykes was asked by Phil Lynott to join Thin Lizzy, filling the spot left by previous guitarist Snowy White. He participated in the recording of the band's final studio album Thunder and Lightning, and contributed the track "Cold Sweat".

Sykes toured with the band until the autumn of 1983 to promote Thunder and Lightning, from which the live album Life was recorded. Following the tour, Thin Lizzy disbanded.

Sykes joined Phil Lynott for Lynott’s solo tour of Europe in a band dubbed The Three Musketeers featuring Lynott, Brian Downey, Scott Gorham, Darren Wharton, and Sykes.

Whitesnake (1983–1987)[edit]

David Coverdale hired Sykes to join Whitesnake following the release of Slide It In in 1984. He re-recorded some guitar tracks for the US release, and toured in support of the album, culminating with the 1985 Rock in Rio festival.

Sykes co-wrote the majority of the songs on Whitesnake's 1987 self-titled album with David Coverdale, and recorded the guitar as well as some backing vocal tracks.[1] Near the end of the 1987 sessions Coverdale fired the entire band (allegedly because of personality clashes and matters of ego) and brought in Adrian Vandenberg to record the solo on "Here I Go Again".

This was Whitesnake's most successful album, peaking at #2 on the Billboard 200 chart[3] and selling over eight million copies in the United States alone. It contained the hit singles "Still of the Night", "Is This Love", "Give Me All Your Love", and "Here I Go Again" (the last was not a Sykes composition).

Blue Murder (1988–1994)[edit]

After Coverdale fired the 1987-era band, Sykes went on to form Blue Murder with Vanilla Fudge drummer Carmine Appice and The Firm bassist Tony Franklin.

After a demo was recorded with Ray Gillen on vocals, A&R executive John Kalodner encouraged Sykes to handle the vocal duties himself.[4]

Their self-titled debut album was a moderate success, but the 1993 follow-up Nothin' but Trouble did not fare as well. After two studio albums and a live recording, Blue Murder was put to bed and Sykes began recording and touring under his own name.

Solo career (1994–present)[edit]

In the years following Blue Murder, Sykes recorded several solo albums: Out of My Tree (1995), Loveland (1997), 20th Century (1997) and Nuclear Cowboy (2000). A song from 20th Century, "Cautionary Warning", was used in the anime series Black Heaven. The footage accompanying the song was rotoscoped from one of Sykes' concerts. Sykes' involvement in the series was the a feature of Pioneer USA's marketing.[citation needed][clarification needed]

Sykes performing in 2007

In 2004, the live album Bad Boy Live! was released, covering a number of "greatest hits" from Thin Lizzy, Whitesnake, Blue Murder, and his solo work.

Sykes has made rare guest appearances on the Hughes Turner Project debut album on the track "Heaven's Missing an Angel", and later on keyboardist Derek Sherinian's 2004 solo album "Mythology", playing alongside Zakk Wylde on the track "God of War".

Thin Lizzy reformed (1996–2009)[edit]

In 1996, he reformed Thin Lizzy with Scott Gorham, Brian Downey, and Darren Wharton. Sykes, as well as taking on the role of lead guitarist, handled the lead vocals due to the death of Phil Lynott years earlier.

Touring occasionally with Thin Lizzy, a live recording One Night Only was released in 2000.

On 7 July 2009, Sykes announced that he had parted ways with Thin Lizzy, stating that "I feel it's time to get back to playing my own music".[5]


On 7 May 2011 episode of That Metal Show, when asked about a Blue Murder reunion, Carmine Appice said they were "talking." No further details were given.[6] On 26 July, during his taping of "That Metal Show," Sykes announced that he was forming a new band with drummer Mike Portnoy.[7]

On 24 January 2012, Eddie Trunk confirmed that the Sykes/Portnoy project had dissolved, saying "When I first talked about Portnoy and Sykes working together I joked with them that I had never met two guys with such different work ethics. Mike wants to do everything yesterday and John really takes his time and is much more conservative. That truly is the only reason why what could have been a killer band has dissolved. Obviously bands are like any relationship, some click, some do not. This was simply a case of two different people not only getting to know each other musically but also personally, and the schedule and timing for making this work just fell apart. Mike and the band's bass player, Billy Sheehan, were ready to go, and John simply was not on the same timetable.".[8] The next day, Richie Kotzen was announced to have replaced Sykes. On 29 January, John posted on his website: "The project I was putting together with Mike Portnoy didn't work out, and I wish him all the best for the future. I'm continuing to work on my new album, and I look forward to putting out some great new music in 2012." [9]

In February 2013, announced that he is working on his fifth solo album, and he has written over 30 new tracks. The album title and track list is currently undisclosed.[10] New track samples were released in late 2014.[11]

Personal life[edit]

Sykes was married to Jennifer Brooks Sykes for more than 16 years. Together they had three sons, and one son from Jennifer's previous marriage to Rainbow bassist, Craig Gruber. They were divorced in 1999.[citation needed]

John Sykes signature Les Paul[edit]

In 2006 Gibson Guitars began producing an "Inspired By" Gibson Les Paul which was modeled after Sykes' 1970s-era Les Paul Custom.[12] There were two versions available; an "aged" look (recreating the exact looks of John's Les Paul) and a "standard" or "VOS" model. This was a limited edition run, with 66 aged look models created, and just over 100 VOS models created.[13]

Other equipment[edit]

His amplifiers include several modified Marshall JCM800s he's used since the early 1980s. He took a break from Marshall in the late 1980s when he started using Mesa/Boogie amplifiers. He used the Mesa/Boogie Mark IIC+, Mark III Coliseum, and Dual Rectifier amplifiers during his tenures with Whitesnake and Blue Murder. He once again started using his JCM800s when he began touring solo and for the Thin Lizzy "reunion" tours.

Although rarely, he can also be seen using Roland JC-120 Jazz Chorus combos for his clean tones.


With Tygers Of Pan Tang[edit]

With Badlands (U.K.)[edit]

  • Badlands demo tape (1982), with Neil Murray & John Sloman

With Streetfighter[edit]

  • Crazy Dream EP (1982), with Merv Goldsworthy & Gary Taylor

With Thin Lizzy[edit]

With Phil Lynott[edit]

With Whitesnake[edit]

With Blue Murder[edit]


Live albums


  • Crossfire: A Salute To Stevie Ray Vaughan, (1996), Blues Bureau International
  • HTP, Hughes Turner Project (2002), MTM Music
  • Mythology, Derek Sherinian, (2004), InsideOut Music
  • Merry Axemas 2 - More Guitars for Christmas, (2005), Sony Special Product


  1. ^ a b Wall, Mick (2010). "Appetite for Destruction: The Mick Wall Interviews". Hachette UK, Retrieved 15 June 2012
  2. ^ "Rudy Sarzo biography (The Musicians' Olympus)". Retrieved 2012-01-02. 
  3. ^ Billboard 200, 13 June 1987
  4. ^ 2001 Interview with Troy Wells of
  5. ^ John Sykes Official Website
  6. ^ 5/10/11. ""Carmine Appice, Dave Meniketti" ( Ep. 708 ) from That Metal Show | Full Episode". Retrieved 2012-01-02. 
  7. ^ "Sykes News". Retrieved 2012-01-02. 
  8. ^ "Sykes/Portnoy band ends, the story". Retrieved 2012-01-24. 
  9. ^ "Sykes News". Retrieved 2012-01-30. 
  10. ^ "The New Site". John Sykes. Retrieved 2014-07-23. 
  11. ^ "New Track Samples". John Sykes. Retrieved 2014-07-23. 
  12. ^ Gibson Custom Shop Inspired By John Sykes Les Paul Custom (Modern Guitars Magazine).
  13. ^ John Sykes Les Paul Custom VOS (Gibson Forums).

External links[edit]