James Hetfield’s 1985 Jackson King V “Kill Bon Jovi”

This guitar was used by James for recording the “Master of Puppets” album in 1985 and was also occasionally played during the subsequent Metallica Damage, Inc. Tour in 1986/87.

James with his Jackson King V during the
James with his Jackson King V during the “Master of Puppets” studio session.

Specs

James’ King V predates Dave Mustaine’s first Jackson – who is probably the first association with this model for many people. Dave was, of course, largely responsible for promoting Jackson guitars in the early years and making them relatively popular.

James’ King V was finished sometime in mid-1985 and featured a white body finish, Tune-o-matic bridge, Grover Tuners, and two Seymour Duncan Invader pickups (presumably requested by James himself). In 1987, he removed the original pickups and had them replaced with EMGs 81/60.

A few months after that, the headstock on the guitar snapped and James didn’t bother to repair it and moved on to other guitars. The reason behind this, as he explained in his book “Messengers”, was that he simply didn’t like the guitar that much.

It plays okay, and I liked having a headstock the same color as the guitar, but it never felt completely right. I’m not sure why. Maybe it was just a little too pointy. It’s pretty strange when you think about it, because Master Of Puppets is obviously one of the more highly regarded albums of our Cliff days, and a lot of it was recorded using KBJ, so it’s interesting to arrive at that conclusion.

Messengers: The Guitars of James Hetfield

However, he was seen using it during the “Hardwired… to Self-Destruct” behind-the-scenes video, which means that he did in fact repair it at some point, and more importantly – he still uses it – at least in the studio.

James Hetfield with his Jackson King V, 2016.
James with his Jackson King V, 2016.

Also important to note, if we look at the photo above, we can see that the guitar doesn’t have EMG pickups anymore. This makes sense because it’s definitely possible that James had them removed from the guitar when it broke, and re-used them in another guitar.

Kill Bon Jovi

Regarding the “Kill Bon Jovi” sticker on the headstock, it originates from the 1987 Donington Monsters of Rock festival. During Metallica’s set, Bon Jovi decided to hover over the audience in his helicopter for some reason, disrupting the concert, which was already not going well due to poor sound both on and off stage.

This obviously annoyed Hetfield, which resulted in the iconic sticker being added to the guitar. [Guitar Player magazine, April 1989]

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