Biography All Music Guide
All Music Guide:
When he was still a member of Mötley Crüe, drummer Tommy Lee undoubtedly garnered the most headlines of all four bandmembers -- due in part to two separate marriages to Hollywood actresses. Tommy Lee was born in Athens, Greece, as Thomas Lee Bass on October 3, 1962, and his family moved to California a year after his birth. Lee received his first drum set at the ripe old age of four, but didn't receive his first real kit until reaching his teenage years, upon his discovery of hard rock and heavy metal (Deep Purple, Kiss, Led Zeppelin, etc.). After drumming for his high-school marching band, Lee quit high school in his senior year, as he focused entirely on following his dream of joining a rock band. His first real band was called Suite 19, and played the Sunset Strip in L.A. during the early '80s. It was at a Suite 19 show that Lee bumped into his future bandmate, Nikki Sixx.
Sixx was a bassist looking to form a theatrical band that would specialize in anthemic heavy metal, and when he saw Lee play, he knew he had found his drummer. Sixx successfully convinced Lee to leave Suite 19 and form the nucleus of what would become Mötley Crüe. The drummer changed his name to Tommy Lee (also earning the nickname "T-Bone" from Sixx), and guitarist Mick Mars joined the fledgling band shortly afterwards. Lee recommended a singer from his high-school days, Vince Neil, and after several attempts to get him to try out for the band, Neil landed the gig during the first jam session. Mötley Crüe quickly built a fanatical local following, issuing their debut album, Too Fast for Love, on their own independent Leathur label. Elektra Records decided to sign the band shortly thereafter, reissuing their debut, as the band began a string of hit releases throughout the decade -- 1983's "Shout at the Devil," 1985's "Theater of Pain," 1987's "Girls, Girls, Girls," and 1989's "Dr. Feelgood" -- establishing the quartet as one of the biggest hard rock/metal bands of the '80s. The band took rock theater to a whole new level, especially Lee, whose drum solo centered around such crowd-pleasing gimmicks as his entire kit revolving and spinning, while he continuing to bash on the skins.
Although his achievements with Mötley Crüe are extremely impressive, it was his celebrity marriages to Heather Locklear in the '80s and Pamela Anderson in the '90s that made Tommy Lee a household name. One of his most famous incidents occurred during his torrid relationship with Anderson, when they were both involved the highly publicized "sex tape scandal" (a videotape that was stolen from their house was eventually made available to the public). Lee also spent several months behind bars in 1998 after Anderson accused Lee of hitting her in front of their children. The pair divorced while the Crüe drummer was serving his prison sentence, but reconciled and then broke up again after his release. Lee also decided to leave Mötley Crüe during his stay in prison, and stuck to his promise after the completion of the Crüe's Greatest Hits tour in 1999.
With rap metal being all the rage, Lee formed a similarly styled outfit, Methods of Mayhem, issuing a self-titled album the same year and touring behind it. Although Lee had little to do with Mötley Crüe after splitting, he agreed to take part in their 2001 tell-all autobiography, The Dirt. In addition to his musical output with the Crüe and MOM, Lee has made guest appearances on albums by other artists (Stuart Hamm -- The Urge, Nine Inch Nails -- Downward Spiral, Rob Zombie -- Hellbilly Deluxe), contributed a solo song, "Welcome to Planet Boom," to the soundtrack of then-wife Pamela Anderson's 1996 movie, Barb Wire, and produced an album for the pre-Goldfinger project from John Feldmann and Simon Williams, the Electric Love Hogs. He parted ways with MOM partner Tilo and began recording with members of Incubus and the Deftones.
Through time, he eventually started recording songs featuring himself almost exclusively, and by the time it came to release the results, it was released as his first solo album. The CD, 2002's Never a Dull Moment, reflected his love of rap metal and electronica and featured little of the Mötley Crüe swagger he was famous for. Three years later, he and Mötley Crüe reconvened for the greatest-hits package Red, White & Crüe. A monumental reunion tour, The Red, White & Crüe Tour 2005: Better Live Than Dead, the band's first in six years, coincided with its release. In the midst of the band's resurgence, Lee also prepped himself for his turn in the reality TV spotlight and a new solo album. Tommy Lee Goes to College, which featured Lee taking classes and playing in the marching band at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, was slated to premiere in August 2005. The accompanying Tommyland was also scheduled to be released that month.