Former L.A. GUNS and W.A.S.P. drummer Steve Riley has died at the age of 67.
Riley‘s death was confirmed to BLABBERMOUTH.NET by his son Cole, who said that Steve passed away this past Tuesday, October 24.
The Riley family has released the following statement to BLABBERMOUTH.NET: “We are devastated to share that Steve Riley has passed away at the age of 67. Steve had been battling a severe case of pneumonia for several weeks, and on Tuesday, Oct. 24, succumbed to the illness. His wife Mary Louise and son Cole were by his side in his final moments.
“Steve spent the past five decades building up a rich music legacy, touring the world countless times, selling millions of records, sharing the stage with incredible bandmates and bringing joy to fans across the globe. His style was unmatched, influenced by the greats like Buddy Rich, Ginger Baker and John Bonham, and his passion for the craft was evident until the very end. But Steve‘s greatest legacy was his role as a loving husband and caring father. At home, he was more than just a rocker — he was a Boston sports fanatic, a World War II buff and an avid reader. As much as he loved being on the road, nothing brought him more joy than coming home to his family.
“Steve is survived by his wife and son, as well as his brothers Michael and Daniel.”
The news of Riley‘s death was first reported by Metal Sludge and was confirmed by his longtime friend Jason Green, who shared a new video on his Waste Some Time With Jason Green YouTube channel in which he said that Steve had suffered from various health issues prior to his passing.
A source close to Riley told Metal Sludge that the drummer died after he had been recently hospitalized. He had also been using a cane to walk in recent months.
Riley was the drummer for W.A.S.P. on the first four albums and world tours from 1983 to 1987. After leaving W.A.S.P. in 1987, Riley joined L.A. GUNS and played on the band’s most commercially successful albums.
In 2016, singer Phil Lewis and guitarist Tracii Guns reunited in a new version of L.A. GUNS that didn’t include Riley. Steve later launched his own version of L.A. GUNS, which played its debut concert at the M3 Rock Festival in Maryland in May 2019.
In April 2021, an out-of-court resolution was reached between Riley and Guns and Lewis over the rights to the band’s name. Under the terms of the settlement agreement, Tracii and Phil continued to operate under the L.A. GUNS trademark, while Riley and his bandmates from the other version of L.A. GUNS carried on under the new name RILEY’S L.A. GUNS.
Last month, RILEY’S L.A. GUNS released a new single, “The Dark Horse”, via Golden Robot Records. The track was set to appear on the band’s upcoming sophomore album of the same name, tentatively due in early 2024.
RILEY’S L.A. GUNS featured Riley alongside Orlando, Florida-based guitarist/vocalist Kurt Frohlich, Nickels and guitarist Scott Griffin, who played bass for L.A. GUNS from 2007 until 2009, and then again from 2011 to 2014.
In a 2011 blog for Modern Drummer, Riley wrote that he was “blessed to be involved in both waves of hard rock and metal in 1980s Los Angeles.” He explained: “The first of the two was the MÖTLEY CRÜE, RATT, W.A.S.P. and DOKKEN movement. Then came the GUNS N’ ROSES, L.A. GUNS and FASTER PUSSYCAT bunch. I’m one of those rare drummers that played in two successful bands from both waves. Pretty cool stuff!”
Three years ago, Massachusetts native Riley spoke fondly about his early years on the Sunset Strip rock scene, telling Antihero Magazine: “I’ve said it in many interviews, W.A.S.P., RATT, MÖTLEY CRÜE, DOKKEN, GREAT WHITE, that first wave of metal out of Los Angeles, we were working so much, we were on the road all of us so much that we never really even noticed what was happening in Los Angeles because we’d only be back for a few weeks or a few days actually sometimes, and then back out on the road or back into the studio. So we didn’t notice the second wave of metal coming out of L.A. with GUNS N’ ROSES, L.A. GUNS, FASTER PUSSYCAT and JETBOY, we didn’t see that happening. So when Blackie [Lawless], then behaved by firing Randy Piper, then he fired me and then eventually fired Chris [Holmes]. He disbanded that great band. But when that happened with me in 1987, and he let me go, I was just fortunate. I was approached by these guys in L.A GUNS. They were big, big fans of W.A.S.P. I mean, huge fans, the guys in GUNS N’ ROSES were too. I didn’t realize that, that they were all huge fans of W.A.S.P. and they approached me, and they asked me if I wanted to join. And I kind of went right from headlining Long Beach Arena to playing a club show with L.A GUNS. So I didn’t really know about the second wave of metal and I was really fortunate to go right from W.A.S.P. into L.A GUNS.”
Photo courtesy of Golden Robot Records