After purchasing a 1978 Fender Stratocaster copy, Hammett attempted to customize his sound with various guitar parts, eventually buying a 1974 Gibson Flying V. Hammett also took a job at Burger King as a youth before quitting once he saved enough money for his Marshall amplifier.
Hammett's musical interests eventually drew him into the fledgling thrash metal genre. In 1980, he formed the band Exodus with vocalist Paul Baloff, guitarist Gary Holt, bassist Geoff Andrews, and drummer Tom Hunting. He played on Exodus' 1982 Demo. Exodus was an influential band in the Bay Area thrash movement.
Main article: Metallica
In 1983 Hammett was invited to join Metallica following the dismissal of the band's original lead guitarist Dave Mustaine, who went on to form the band Megadeth. This was prior to the recording of Kill 'Em All. At the time Hammett was taking private lessons from guitar virtuoso Joe Satriani.
Hammett has written and contributed riffs for Metallica songs since the mid-1980s (particularly in the 1990s during the Load era). One of these riffs, used in "Enter Sandman" became one of Metallica's most popular songs. It was the first track and first single on Metallica's self-titled Black Album and was ranked 399th on Rolling Stone's list of the greatest songs of all time. The bridge for "Creeping Death" was originally an Exodus riff that Hammett took with him to Metallica.
In 1986, during the band's European leg of their tour to support "Master of Puppets", Hammett, and bassist Cliff Burton had a dispute over sleeping arrangements, and it was decided by a card draw, in which Burton won by picking the Ace of... [continues]
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