McCready was born in Pensacola, Florida, but moved to San Diego as a baby and then to Seattle at the age of four. His first band was called Warrior, followed by Shadow, with which he moved to Los Angeles in an unsuccessful bid at rock stardom. Thoroughly fed up with the music business, McCready was back in Seattle working at an Italian restaurant and attending community college classes when he began jamming with middle school acquaintance Stone Gossard on the material that eventually became the first Pearl Jam album.
What was your first instrument? When and where did you start playing?
My first guitar was a Matao Les Paul from my parents. It was black and cost a hundred dollars. They said I could get a guitar if I took lessons, which I did, from Mike Wilson. He was a fantastic teacher who taught me scales and Kiss songs and also made it fun, so I wanted to go back. Later I wanted to make it a gold top, so I chiseled—yes, chiseled—the top layer of the guitar off, then I spray painted it gold. Oops. It was never the same. I wish I knew where it was today.
What was the inspiration behind why you wanted to play music?
Well, I have to say, Kiss. I was a Cub Scout, and then Kiss came along. I remember just jumping around with a tennis racket pretending I was Paul Stanley or Ace Frehley. It also felt cool and was really fun to play in a band—probably to meet girls, too. I played my first “concert” at Jenny W.’s birthday party in 1978.
What are some of the earliest/most influential concerts you attended?
The Heats at Mural Amphitheatre; Van Halen on the Van Halen II tour at the Seattle Center Arena; Cheap Trick at Hec Ed Pavilion (waited all day and skipped school); TKO at Lake Hills, the Moore Theatre, or anywhere in the early eighties; Kiss in ’79; Scorpions, Iron Maiden, Girlschool at Hec Ed Pavilion; Motörhead at the Paramount Theatre; the Girls in 1980 opening for the Ramones; and Silly Killers at Laurelhurst Club House. I watched through the window. Probably all the Warrior and Shadow concerts set in motion what I am today.
What are some of the best memories you have from playing early shows with your first bands?
Wow. Let’s see. Jenny W.’s birthday party in 1978. Warrior played a few originals. In 1979, Warrior at the Eckstein Junior High talent show. Big controversy over Danny Newcomb playing “The Star Spangled Banner” with his teeth. He did it when told he couldn’t. Right on, Danny! In 1979, a Warrior concert for Symphony Fundathon under the Monorail. I had a completely homemade tie-dye outfit. I’m sure the symphony hated us. The second Headbangers Ball with Shadow, Metal Church, and TKO. We got booed off the stage. Also, Jeff Ament came over after our singer, Rob Webber, invited him to the show. Guess who was doing a guitar solo, finger tapping his Kramer Pacer as he walked in? I gave Jeff a picture of that last year. Who knew that we would later be rockin’ side by side seven-hundred plus shows later? December 1986, Shadow’s first show at the Roxy in L.A. It only cost us seven hundred dollars to get on the bill! At least Tim Dijulio, Duff McKagan, Lauren, and about two other people were there at midnight on a Sunday. Shadow played at Fender’s, opening for Andy Taylor of Duran Duran in 1987. I met Rod Stewart there. Our final L.A. show was at Club Lingerie in 1987. I became a lead guitar player in those lean L.A. years—eating Top Ramen and payin’ those dues.