If there’s one grunge band that’s long overdue for a proper biography, it’s Alice in Chains. Yeah, there have been a couple in the past, but they’ve been awful. (Trust me: I’ve read them.) Now, though, comes Alice in Chains: The Untold Story by David de Sola, which finally–finally–gives us a detailed journalist’s view of the group’s story.
It’s quite good. Chapter 1 is available on the publisher’s website.
You can’t freaking sing!
LAYNE RUTHERFORD STALEY was born on Tuesday, August 22, 1967, at Overlake Hospital in Bellevue, Washington. His parents, Phillip Blair Staley and Nancy Elizabeth Layne, were living in the town of Kirkland, located along the eastern shore of Lake Washington.1
Layne’s birth was announced in the “Born Yesterday” section of the next day’s edition of The Seattle Times. Under the subheading “To Mr. and Mrs.—” the section is an alphabetical listing of every child born the previous day in each hospital in the greater Seattle area. The final birth listed under Overlake Hospital reads, “Phillip B. Staley, 10146 N.E. 64th St., Kirkland, boy.”2
Phil and Nancy, who were twenty-nine and nineteen at the time, had been married by a minister nearly six months earlier in a ceremony witnessed by Paul R. Staley, the groom’s brother, and Margaret Ann Layne, the bride’s sister. The previous summer, Nancy had competed in the Miss Washington Pageant as Miss Bellevue. When Phil and Nancy’s engagement was announced in January 1967, Nancy was a student at the Cornish School of Allied Arts.3 She was the oldest of Robert L. Layne and Ann J. Becker’s three daughters. Her parents were both graduates of the University of Washington, where they were involved in the fraternity and sorority scene on campus.
Phil was the oldest of Earl R. and Audrey Staley’s four sons. He went to Denver University, where he was a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity. A car salesman by profession, Phil had the car business in his genes going back two generations.4 His father, Earl R. Staley, had been involved in trailer manufacturing and related industries since 1935, when he was just twenty-one years old. Phil’s grandfather, Earl B. Staley, was born in Kansas in 1884, from which the family relocated to Denver, according to the 1900 U.S. Census. Earl, who worked in the automobile and truck industry, began his career in Denver in 1903, working in various capacities in the field until he relocated to Seattle in 1907 after accepting a job as service manager for the Pacific Coast Automobile Sales Company.5