Winger Guitarist Speaks Up on How Metallica Ruined the Band’s Reputation: ’I Sold All My Guitars’

Guitarist Reb Beach, who’s also known for his work in Whitesnake, recently discussed the issues that his band Winger faced during the 1990s. While chatting with Ryan Roxie, Reb recalled how the band’s initial success turned sour because of two reasons.

Firstly, it was the TV show “Beavis and Butt-Head” which featured a young nerdy constantly ridiculed character Stewart wearing a Winger t-shirt. And secondly, everyone saw Metallica’s Lars Ulrich throwing darts at a Kip Winger poster during the “Nothing Else Matters” video.

When asked whether the show impacted Winger negatively and helped the band’s downfall, apart from the already dwindling hair metal scene, Reb Beach replied (transcript via Ultimate Guitar):

“Absolutely, it did, hugely. As a matter of fact, we were on the road and we were selling out theaters. We were on the bus, and this kid said, ‘Hey, you guys got to see this cartoon. I brought you a VHS of it.’ And so we put this thing on the bus… In the cartoon, they hung this kid from his underwear from a tree.

Beavis and Butt Head - Stewart's a Nerd

Recalling what the show was like, Reb continued:

“He was wearing a Winger t-shirt, and he was overweight… His name was Stuart, and he was in every episode. And then they went to his house, and his parents were wearing Winger t-shirts, and the dog was wearing a winger t-shirt, and they were all nerds [laughs].”

But the show did more harm than one could expect. As Reb further explains, the band had to cancel their tour because people didn’t feel like buying tickets for Winger shows anymore. Recalling how it all went down, he said:

“And so, we actually saw a direct result of that thing. In the weeks that followed, we had to cancel the tour because people wouldn’t be caught dead buying a ticket to a Winger show.”

And, of course, there was also Metallica, which enjoyed massive success with the release of their self-titled 1991 album, also known as “The Black Album.” The record’s ballad “Nothing Else Matters” blew up and so did its music video, during which Lars Ulrich casually throws darts at a photo of Kip Winger, the frontman and leader of Winger.

Looking back at this video and how it affected them, Reb Beach said:

“And then, Metallica didn’t help with showing in their biggest video [in which] they throw darts at a poster of Kip Winger.

Metallica: Nothing Else Matters (Official Music Video)

To put salt on the wound, Metallica’s audiences widely accepted this as a running joke and enjoyed the whole thing. He continued:

“They would show it at their live show, and my friend who went to see them said the entire arena laughed at that part of the video where Lars throws darts at Kip.”

Unfortunately, it hurt the band so much that they all faced financial issues. Winger was no longer considered a good band because, crying out loud, young Stewart and his lame parents were fans of the band and Lars Ulrich thought that Kip Winger was a great target for his darts skills. Reb said:

“I sold all my guitars, 20 guitars. I just bought a house in Florida, sold that – I was only there for 10 months – moved back to Pittsburgh from Florida, which I wish I didn’t have to do. And that was a really rough time.”

WHITESNAKE: Reb Beach & Joel Hoekstra guitar solos 6/20/15

On the other hand, he would soon land a gig in Alice Cooper’s band, all thanks to Kip Winger’s recommendation. He recalled:

“Kip told me that Alice [Cooper] was auditioning people, and I didn’t have enough money to get there. So Kip loaned me 500 bucks so that I could fly out and I could buy something cool to wear. I admit that I was nervous as a cat at the audition.”

As of this moment, Reb Beach is promoting a new album “Generation Mind” by his side band Black Swan. You can check out the album’s title track in the embedded player below.

Black Swan - "Generation Mind" - Official Video (Robin McAuley, Reb Beach, Jeff Pilson, Matt Starr)

A few years ago, Kip Winger looked back on the Lars Ulrich darts thing in the “Nothing Else Matters” video, as well as the negative attention his band got in the “Beavis and Butt-Head” show. Recalling the famous animated series in an interview from 2019, Winger said:

“It was hard for all the ’80s bands when that happened because they were ushering in White Zombie and Nirvana and Pearl Jam and all of those bands. All of the ’80s bands like us were portrayed as uncool, and I was really singled out by it.”

“It didn’t help me at the time — we all lost our record deals, and all of a sudden, we couldn’t get a job — but inadvertently, it created an opening for me to really study classical music, so instead of [getting] drunk every night, I studied through that time, and I did a really hardcore 10 years of studying classical music.”

Winger - Seventeen

“For me, it turned out to be a very good thing. Now, it’s totally fine — people are like, ‘How’d you get your name on the t-shirt?’ We sell that t-shirt, so it’s completely fine with me.”

And as far as the Lars thing goes, Kip said that he never even met anyone from Metallica, claiming that the whole thing was uncalled for. He explained:

“I never met Metallica. I’ve never met them to this day. I have no idea why that was happening — none whatsoever. It’s just kind of immature to put down other musicians and stuff like that. I think they were just on a high that they were the biggest band at the time, and he had something against me. I have no idea, really — that would be a question for him.”

James Hetfield (of Metallica) Calls And Apologizes To Kip Winger

Winger disbanded in 1994 and Kip went on to start his own solo career. Eventually, they came back together in the early 2000s. After a few more uncertain years, they finally reformed in 2006 and are still together to this day. The latest album is 2014’s “Better Days Comin'” but the band has been planning to do their seventh album for a while now.

Photos: MarieLopezPhotographer (GuitaristRebBeachNewHavenConnecticut), Kreepin Deth (Lars spits London 2008-09-15)

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.

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