Mick Mars’ Tour Bus Was ’Like a Hospital Room’: ’He Had a Private Nurse,’ Says Don Dokken

“I really love him, and I feel terrible,” said singer Don Dokken in a recent appearance on the “Artists on Record” show while reflecting on Mötley Crüe guitarist Mick Mars and his current health. “Because my brother, who’s 18 months younger than me, has ankylosing spondylitis.”

Mars parted ways with the band, initially leaving the live lineup due to his issues with ankylosing spondylitis in 2022. However, his relationship with other band members went sour after a massive legal battle ensued between Mars and Crüe.

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“So your spine fuses together, it’s very painful,” Dokken frontman, who’s also dealing with his own health struggles, added. Going more into the matter, the musician actually recalled seeing Mick Mars during his final days with Mötley Crüe last year. The guitar legend wasn’t in the best shape and required a lot of help. Don offered (transcript via Blabbermouth):

“And I don’t know how he got through that farewell Mötley tour. I saw him four times. He had his own bus, but they got morphine bags. He had a private nurse. It was like a hospital room in his bus.”

Being close to Mick in some way, Don admits that he can’t hold his emotions back. He continued:

“Even when I think about it now, I started getting teary-eyed. It choked me up, ’cause I loved Mick, and I was, like, ‘Man, this sucks. This just sucks.'”

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Ankylosing spondylitis is a tough condition, a form of arthritis, which can lead to vertebrae fusing together to a certain extent, and it also affects the pelvis. To make things worse, Mars was diagnosed with the condition at a young age, reportedly at 17.

Despite the hardships, the Dokken frontman recalled how Mars was soldiering on and kept his positive attitude throughout the tour. Don continued, remembering what the Crüe guitarist told him:

“He would go on stage, and he’d say, ‘Well, the good thing about my ankylosing spondylitis is sometimes your neck’s like this frozen [looks up], or [to the left], or [to the right], or down.”

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“And he goes, ‘Luckily, my head turns down, so I can see the [guitar] neck.’ And that’s how he got through the tour, ’cause he could see his neck. And that’s the truth. He said, ‘My neck was frozen down, so I could still play guitar.'”

Going more into the matter, Don also praised Mick’s guitar skills, adding that he wrote plenty of Mötley Crüe songs despite other band members getting most of the credit:

“Forget about chops. Forget about f***ing hammer-ons and Eddie Van Halen copies. His rhythm playing, man, it’s the shit. Mick Mars wrote a ton of Mötley Crüe songs. He is an amazing rhythm guitar player, and he wrote all those great rhythms in Mötley Crüe.”

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“Anybody ever says Nikki Sixx wrote all the songs, and Tommy Lee… F*** you. Mick Mars was a huge factor in Mötley Crüe’s cool, groovin’ cool riff uptempo songs. It was Mick.”

Not long after leaving the touring lineup, rumors and speculations started circulating online that former Rob Zombie and Marylin Manson guitarist John 5 would be replacing him. These rumors proved to be true and Mars was finally replaced by John, about a month and a half after his final performance with the band.

However, things went south. There were some rumors about things going on behind the scenes, which also proved true. After drummer Carmine Appice, who’s a close friend of Mick’s, was interviewed by Ultimate Guitar earlier this year, all hell broke loose. Not only did he mention that Mars was not on best terms with Nikki Sixx, Tommy Lee, and Vince Neil, but that the band was supposedly using a lot of backing tracks. Not too long after that, John 5 was declared the official member of the band.

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“Basically, everything was on tape,” said Appice about what Mars told him. “It was all planned out and ultimately a lot of crap. And Mick is a pretty good player. And so, to now let him loose and play the way he wants, that was never going to work for him.”

Appice also added:

“The truth is that everything has been weird for a while with Motley Crue, and Mick didn’t like that everything was on tape. Mick told me that people that came to see it could tell that it was all pre-recorded and that everything was on tape.”

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“When you play in a stadium like that, you can hear a lot of things come to the monitors or what doesn’t. And with Vince’s vocals, bass, drums, guitars, and all the other stuff, it was obvious that it was all on tape.”

“And Mick was pissed off and said, ‘I can play these things. I want to play them. I don’t want to make believe I’m playing them.’ So, I think that’s one of the reasons why he said, ‘I’m done.’ Sure, the disease that he has doesn’t help, and it doesn’t make life easy on tour, but Mick can play all the licks, and he was allowed to.”

There was plenty of back and forth between the Crüe and Mars. The legal war is still ongoing and, as of this writing, it’s not entirely sure where things stand.

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Photo: Shadowgate (Motley Crue 19 (3689109499))


  • David Slavkovic

    David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at Ultimate-Guitar.com, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor.