Classic Mornings

Slayer guitarist dead at 49
Slayer guitarist dead at 49

Slayer announced on Thursday (May 2nd) that founding guitarist Jeff Hanneman passed away at around 11:00 a.m. that day at the age of 49 near his Southern California home. A statement from the band said, “Hanneman was in an area hospital when he suffered liver failure. He is survived by his wife Kathy, his sister Kathy and his brothers Michael and Larry, and will be sorely missed.”

Hanneman had actually not been playing with the band for more than two years since he contracted necrotizing fasciitis, also known as flesh-eating disease, from a spider bite in his backyard in January 2011. The infection ravaged the flesh and tissues of Hanneman’s arm, leading to numerous surgeries, skin grafts and intense periods of rehab that forced him into semi-retirement and left him near death at several points.

  • Hanneman’s last appearance with Slayer was in April 2011, when he played an encore with the band at the Big Four concert in Indio, California.
  • It is not clear whether the cause of his death was linked to his struggle with the flesh-eating infection.
  • Hanneman recalled in a 2011 interview with Classic Rock magazine that he initially didn’t even feel the spider bite, adding, “But an hour later, I knew that I was ill. I could see the flesh corrupting. The arm was real hot. I got to the emergency room, and thank god the nurse knew straight away what it was . . . At that point, I was an hour away from death.”
  • Slayer was founded in 1981 in Los Angeles and went on to become one of most popular bands of the speed/thrash metal movement, eventually being considered one of the “Big Four” alongside Metallica, Megadeth and Anthrax.
  • While never a band that got any substantial radio airplay, the group has long been considered a major influence on the metal genre and acclaimed as one of the best live metal acts of the past 30 years.


  • Slayer was founded in 1981 by guitarist Kerry King and drummer Dave Lombardo, with Hanneman and frontman Tom Araya joining later.
  • The group started out playing Judas Priest, Iron Maiden and Deep Purple covers around Southern California before writing original material.
  • Slayer signed to Metal Blade Records in 1983 and released its debut disc, Show No Mercy, in December of that year.
  • In 1986, they became the first rock act to sign to Russell Simmons and Rick Rubin‘s Def Jam Records, primarily a hip-hop label. The band’s first effort for the label, Reign In Blood, is still widely considered the greatest thrash metal album of all time and was Slayer’s first gold album.
  • The band has released a total of 11 studio albums

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