“Slash called and said, ‘You got the gig. We leave next week. Learn the whole catalog’”: Gilby Clarke on how he joined Guns N’ Roses in the ’90s

“I had one week to learn 50 f**king songs.”

Gilby Clarke playing guitar under purple lighting. He's wearing shades and has his mouth open as if singing.

Image: Scott Dudelson/Getty Images

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Gilby Clarke was thrown right in the deep end when he joined Guns N’ Roses as rhythm guitarist in 1991 following Izzy Stradlin’s departure.

According to the guitarist, who played with the band for three years and on their 1993 record, The Spaghetti Incident?, he was told by Slash that he’d need to know the band’s entire catalogue ready for their next gig, giving him just a week to prepare.

Speaking to Guitar World, Clarke remembers, “I was working a night gig doing sound around town at small clubs, and I had zero time because Slash wanted me to come down the next day. So, I had no time to learn the songs and was literally in my car listening to them on the way to the audition.

“Luckily, they chose three easy ones and had me return the next day. I heard nothing after that, and then a friend said he got a call from Slash to come down, so I thought, ‘Okay, I guess I’m not getting the gig.’”

Despite his doubts, Clarke landed the job. The band were amid touring for 1991’s Use Your Illusion so their schedule was pretty jammed: “Slash calls and says, ‘You got the gig. We leave next week. Learn the whole catalogue.’

“I was like, ‘What? The whole fucking catalogue? Don’t you have a set of 20 or 25 songs?’ Slash goes, ‘There’s no setlist. Axl just calls ‘em out, so you gotta know the whole catalogue.’”

He adds, “So, I had one week to learn 50 fucking songs; I was glued to my cassette player. I walked out on stage for my first show with no cheat sheets and having learned all these new songs in one fucking week.”

Gilby Clarke is playing a range of solo shows this May. Find out more over at his website.

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