Steve Clark

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Steve Clark
Background information
Birth name Stephen Maynard Clark
Born (1960-04-23)23 April 1960
Hillsborough, Sheffield, England
Died 8 January 1991(1991-01-08) (aged 30)
London, England
Genres Heavy metal, hard rock
Occupation(s) Musician, songwriter, recording artist, performer
Instruments Guitar, vocals
Years active 1978–1991
Labels Island, Mercury
Associated acts Def Leppard
Notable instruments
Gibson Les Paul XR-1
Gibson Les Paul[1]
Gibson Firebird[1]
Gibson EDS-1275[1]

Stephen Maynard "Steve" Clark (23 April 1960 – 8 January 1991) was an English musician best known as the co-lead guitarist and a principal songwriter for the British hard rock band, Def Leppard, until his 1991 death from an overdose brought on by a combination of multiple prescription drugs and alcohol. In 2007, Clark was ranked No. 11 on Classic Rock Magazine's "100 Wildest Guitar Heroes".[2]


Childhood and adolescence

Stephen Maynard Clark was born and raised in Hillsborough, South Yorkshire, the northwestern suburb of Sheffield, England. From a very early age, he showed an interest in music with one such example being his attendance at a concert held by Cliff Richard and the Shadows aged 6. At 11, he received his first guitar which was purchased by his father on the condition that he learned to play. Clark studied classical guitar for a year before one day he discovered Jimmy Page and Led Zeppelin at a friend's house.

When Clark left school his first employer was an engineering firm called GEC Traction where he worked as a lathe operator. He was 3 years into a 4-year apprenticeship with the firm by the time his band Def Leppard decided to sign a professional record deal with Phonogram Records.

Career with Def Leppard

Before joining Def Leppard in 1978, Clark played cover songs with his small band, Electric Chicken, in Sheffield. Around that time, he met Pete Willis (Def Leppard's original guitarist/co-founder). Clark asked for a spot in the band and joined Def Leppard in January 1978. According to Joe Elliott in Behind the Music, Clark auditioned for Def Leppard by playing all of Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Freebird" without accompaniment.[3]

While a guitarist for Def Leppard, he contributed to the band's music and lyrics. Clark and Pete Willis shared lead guitar duties, and Clark was nicknamed as "The Riffmaster" according to Joe Elliott in VH1's Classic Albums series featuring Def Leppard's Hysteria. When Willis was asked to leave, guitarist Phil Collen was recruited into the band.

Clark and Collen quickly bonded, becoming close friends and leading to the trademark dual-guitar sound of Def Leppard. He and Clark became known as the "Terror Twins," in recognition of their talents and friendship.

Part of their success as a duo was attributed by Collen (on the BBC's Classic Albums show) to their ability to swap between rhythm and lead guitar, often both playing lead or both doing rhythm within the same song. Lead singer Joe Elliott told the same programme that Clark was not a technician, he was a guitarist who wore his instrument a few notches too low, and his style was a key part of the band's chemistry. Elliott referred to Clark as the "creative one" and Collen as a "total utter technician".

Whereas Collen quit drinking alcohol during the 1980s in pursuit of a healthier lifestyle, Clark never managed to escape his addiction to alcohol.

Clark primarily played Gibson guitars during his career and signed an endorsement with Gibson sometime before the commencement of the Hysteria World Tour. Gibson made some custom specification guitars for Clark. He was occasionally seen playing other guitars, including a Fender Stratocaster for the song and video "Love Bites". Clark would also use Fenders in the studio occasionally due to their unique sound. In the early days of Def Leppard's career Clark would often be seen on stage playing a Hamer Standard and a Hamer Special.

Clark always stated that he was more of a traditionalist when it came to guitars. This can be seen in his selection of gear. At the time of his death, it was estimated that he owned approximately 75 guitars.

Prior to his death, Clark contributed to the recording of half of the band's 1992 album, Adrenalize. In 2011, Collen revealed in an online series of web videos that both he and Clark began working on what would become the song, "White Lightning", during the recording sessions for the 1992 album, Adrenalize. Completed after Clark's death, the song ironically described in great detail the effects of Clark's alcohol and drug addictions.[4]

Def Leppard enjoyed their most successful years commercially during the Clark-era.

Personal life

Clark was engaged to American model Lorelei Shellist, during a long relationship that began in 1984. However, the two separated some time before his passing. Shellist cites that Clark's alcoholism played a major role in their breakup. Clark was living with his fiance Janie Dean at the time of his death in 1991. They were weeks away from being married.


Steve Clark during the Hysteria World Tour

At the time of his death, Clark was on a 6-month leave of absence from Def Leppard.

On Tuesday 8 January 1991, Clark was found dead on his couch by Dean.[3] He was 30 years old. The autopsy revealed that he had died from an unintentional overdose of codeine. The autopsy also found that Clark had a blood alcohol level of .30 as well as the presence of the prescription drugs, Diazepam (marketed as "Valium") and morphine.[3] No evidence of suicidal intent was discovered during the autopsy. Daniel Van Alphen, Clark's drinking companion the night before, testified that the two went to a local pub and returned to the guitarist's home at midnight to watch a video.

He was buried at Wisewood Cemetery located in Loxley, Sheffield, near the Clark family estate.[3]

Tesla, who opened for Def Leppard on the Hysteria tour, recorded a tribute to Steve Clark entitled "Song & Emotion (To Our Friend, Steve 'Steamin' Clark)" for their album, Psychotic Supper.[5]


Studio albums

Compilation albums

Live albums

  • Viva! Hysteria Tribute (Intro to Gods of War taken from Live: In the Round, in Your Face)

Extended plays



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "Mutt Tracks: What Do AC/DC, Def Leppard, Foreigner, The Cars, Bryan Adams and Nickelback Have in Common?". Retrieved 15 July 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "Jimi Hendrix, Dimebag, Tony Iommi, Eddie Van Halen Are Among 'Wildest Guitar Heroes' -". 6 March 2007. Retrieved 15 July 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 The Tombstone Tourist: Musicians – Scott Stanton – Google Books. 2 September 2003. p. 303. Retrieved 15 July 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "All About Steve Clark Pt. 1". YouTube. Retrieved 15 July 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "Top 5". The Cairns Post. Cairns, Australia: News Limited. 11 March 2010. p. 14. Inspired by the death of producer and C+C Music Factory founding member David Cole, as well as Def Leppard guitarist Steve Clark, 90s R'n'B doesn't get much sweeter than this.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

Preceded by
Def Leppard Lead Guitarist
Succeeded by
Vivian Campbell