DOKKEN: From Backstreets to Headliners

Dokken is an American heavy metal band that was formed in Los Angeles, California, in 1978. The band was founded by lead vocalist Don Dokken, and their music was heavily influenced by the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM) scene that emerged in the late 1970s.

Dokken’s music style can be described as a blend of traditional heavy metal and melodic hard rock. Their early work was characterized by heavy guitar riffs, soaring vocals, and intricate guitar solos, with a strong emphasis on melody and harmony. 

As the band progressed, their sound began to evolve and incorporate elements of glam and pop metal. This shift can be seen in their fourth album, Under Lock and Key, which features a more polished production and a greater emphasis on hooks and catchy choruses. Despite this evolution, Dokken remained true to their roots, and their music continued to be defined by Don Dokken’s powerful vocals and Lynch’s virtuosic guitar playing.

The Rise of Dokken

Don Dokken has been a mainstay in the music industry for decades. His journey began in 1976 when he co-founded Airborn with Bobby Blotzer and Juan Croucier in Los Angeles. 

However, in 1978, Bobby and Juan decided to part ways and form Firefoxx, leaving Don to hold on to the Airborn name. It wasn’t long before Don found out there was another band with the same name, which forced him to make a tough decision. In 1979, he boldly decided to christen his new venture with his own last name, Dokken, cementing his place in the annals of rock history.

During this time, Don embraced his inner rebel and took on the mantle of a solo artist. He took control of all the guitar work himself, with only Steven R. Barry on bass and talented drummer Greg Pecka to lend their invaluable support. 

But as often happens in the music industry, the band was soon shaken up once more. Greg left the band to join Quiet Riot, replacing the legendary Randy Rhoads, who had departed to become Ozzy Osbourne’s axeman. Meanwhile, Gary set off to explore new horizons with Dante Fox, which was later to become the iconic Great White.

as time goes by, Don Dokken found himself reunited with Suite 19 Members. Greg Leon and Gary Holland, along with bassist Gary Link, were once again by his side as they on aboard to Germany in 1979.

But fate has a way of throwing curveballs, and it wasn’t long before the band was shaken up once more. Greg, with his restless spirit, left the band to join Quiet Riot, replacing the legendary Randy Rhoads who departed Quiet Riot to be an axeman in Ozzy Osbourne’s band. Meanwhile, Gary set off to explore new horizons with Dante Fox, which was later to be known as the iconic Great White.

And as if by some stroke of magic, Don old friend and bandmate Juan Croucier returned to take up the bass once more.

Let’s Talk About Greg Leon

Greg Leon, this guy could play guitar and he done good! but for some reason, he just never hit the big time. He was in Suite 19 back in the day, with none other than Tommy Lee himself on drums (yeah, that Tommy Lee, before he became a legend with Mötley Crüe).

Greg also had a stint with Dokken, but even that wasn’t enough to catapult him into the stratosphere of rock stardom. He even tried going solo with the Greg Leon Invasion, featuring the mighty Joey Vera on bass, but let’s just say it wasn’t exactly a smashing success.

Meanwhile, his former bandmates Don Dokken, Tommy Lee, and Joey Vera went on to become rock legends, living it up in the limelight while Greg was left to rock out in relative obscurity. And to add insult to injury, there was even a glimmer of hope when he was offered the chance to replace Randy Rhoads in Quiet Riot. But as luck would have it, the band broke up before they could even record an album together.

Some folks are just born with a silver guitar pick in their mouths, it seems, while others are left to struggle and toil in the shadows. But hey, you can’t keep a good rocker down, and Greg Leon still knows how to shred with the best of them, even if he never quite made it to the top of the charts. 

Greg Leon site:

Don Dokken

the twists and turns of fate in the rock and roll world never cease to amaze. While tearing up the stage on tour in Germany, Don Dokken crossed paths with Michael Wagener, who was plying his trade as a live sound engineer for Accept. The two hit it off like a pair of old bluesmen and started jamming together, laying down some killer tracks on demo tapes.

Before they knew it, the end of the year 1979 had rolled around, and an EP called “Back in the Streets” was suddenly making waves under the name Dokken. The funny thing is, Don himself was completely unaware of this release. Nobody knows exactly how these demo tapes got leaked to the public, but Don swears up and down that they were stolen from him.

Regardless of how it happened, Back in the Streets, with the first four tracks on the EP being those very same demo tapes that Don and Michael had recorded together. The rest of the EP was recorded live at the Sound Music Club in Hamburg, Germany, in October of ’79, with Juan Croucier on bass and Greg Pecka on drums.

Don Dokken had had enough of people stealing his music and passing it off as their own. So, He hit ’em where it hurts: he released the album for real sales himself in the year 1989.

That’s right, he took matters into his own hands and gave those thieving scoundrels a taste of their own medicine. And just to rub salt in the wound, he later released the album as a free download, just to make sure everyone knew who the real boss was.

1981, and Don Dokken is on tour in Germany. He’s been making a name for himself, and he’s starting to get noticed by some of the heavy hitters in the industry. And then, out of nowhere, he gets an offer from none other than the Scorpions.

They want him to help record vocals as a guideline for a demo, and Don jumps at the chance. He even gets to participate in rehearsals with the band and adds some backing vocals on their album Black Out, as Klaus Meine had to undergo laryngeal surgery.

But that’s not all. While recording vocals for the Scorpions, Accept’s manager Gaby Hauke, who happened to be using the nearby recording studio, was blown away by Don’s talent. He was so impressed, in fact, that he convinced Don to release an album in Germany and helped him get a contract with Carrere.


It was the year 1980 when Don Dokken secured a deal with Carrere, a European label. as “A solo Artist” and the plan was to record an album in Germany with the help of an up-and-coming producer named Michael Wagener. 

Juan Croucier, the bassist who had previously played with Don, handle a bass as a hire guns. Don Dokken called Mick Brown to record his album. He was known Mick since the mid of 70 when Mick still in a band call The Boyz, and Mick convinced Dokken to bring in George Lynch as the guitarist.

George Lynch and Mick Brown had already in the band called Xciter. They were making ends meet by delivering wine to liquor stores, but they agreed to make the record for a mere $2,000 each.

George Lynch, Mick Brown, and Juan Croucier also recorded with Udo Lindenberg on his album Keule, proving their musical prowess and versatility. and get back to Los Angeles after finished the album George and Mick returned to Xciter. George Lynch, that wild guitar-slinging maverick, heeded the call of the Prince of Darkness himself, Ozzy Osbourne. The task? To replace the inimitable Randy Rhoads, who had ascended to the heavens above. George, a true virtuoso of the six-string, strode into the audition with confidence in his heart, ready to claim his place in rock ‘n’ roll history. But alas, fate had other plans. The gods of rock deemed George unworthy, and the gig slipped through his fingers like grains of sand. 

The same time, Don Dokken hustled, trying to get the attention of A&R guys and pitching their record to record companies. But for a year and a half, there’re nothing happened., Don tried out other guitarists, including Warren DeMartini, who later joined Ratt.

In the year 1983, Don had landed himself a management deal with none other than the legendary Q Prime, whose clients included the mighty Def Leppard. and Q Prime support Don to signed to a major record company, Elektra, and Dokken was back in rock music again.

Don contacts George Juan and Mick, those hell-raising rockers who had helped him record his first album, and asked them to re-join Dokken. The plan is reissuing Don Dokken’s first album, But even with. They had to change the name of the band from Don Dokken to Dokken and remix their songs to try to appeal to the American market, but it still wasn’t enough. They still couldn’t quite make it in the US market. 

To make matters worse, Juan Croucier, their bassist, left the band to join Ratt, as they were about to shoot the video for “Breaking the Chains”, Elektra was on the brink of terminating their contract. The album simply wasn’t selling as well as they had hoped, and the band members were at a loss as to what to do.

Sometimes, popularity and success just don’t make sense. What makes a band or a song perfect and appealing to one audience may not work for another. It could be a combination of factors like the members’ chemistry, timing, or even the trend.

Don Dokken found himself in dire need of a new bass-player, he turned to the ever-resourceful Mike Varney, the madman behind Shrapnel Records. Mike Varney, always with an ace up his sleeve, suggested a bloke by the name of Jeff Pilson, a veritable shredder of the four-string and a member of his own band, Cinema.

Jeff Pilson marched into the audition like a knight on a mission. Don and the boys were blown away by his skills, and before they knew it, he had snatched up the coveted bass gig. And so, in 1984, Jeff Pilson became the newest member of Dokken, ready to rock the socks off anyone. 

The new line-up clicked, and the members seemed to fit together perfectly. and thank God, the band had a guardian angel in the form of Cliff Bernstein of Q Prime, the powerhouse management company that boasted Def Leppard as its flagship band, and were on the cusp of breaking out with their smash album, Pyromania. Q Prime convinced Elektra CEO Bob Krasnow to keep faith and give Dokken another shot.

For working on next album, Don Dokken had a German friend by the name of Michael Wagener in mind for the job. This guy had worked with the likes of Accept, Raven, and Great White, and he even produced and engineered Dokken’s debut album Breaking the Chains.

But as fate would have it, not everyone was on board with Don’s grand plan. George Lynch, that wild guitar god, was not digging the sound of their debut album, and he wasn’t too keen on working with Michael Wagener either. Predictably, the rest of the band followed George’s lead, and Don’s proposal was shot down in flames.

Dokken 1985

Elektra Records stepped in and selected a true master of the trade to produce the album: Tom Werman. This dude had platinum records with Cheap Trick, Molly Hatchet, and Ted Nugent under his belt, and he even produced Mötley Crüe’s second album, Shout at the Devil.

Tom Werman was present at rehearsals and helped to select and arrange the songs for the album. But as the recording process began at Cherokee Studios in Hollywood, California, trouble began to brew. Veteran sound engineer Geoff Workman clashed with Tom Werman’s direction, and tensions between the band members were rising.

The clash of egos between George Lynch and Done Dokken only added fuel to the fire. And with the abuse of cocaine and alcohol by musicians and technicians, the situation was primed to explode. Tom tried to mitigate the situation by setting a working schedule that kept George and Don apart in the studio. The former recorded with the rest of the band in the late morning and afternoon, while the latter recorded at night.

But even this arrangement could not prevent disaster. After a few weeks of work, the situation finally boiled over. George Lynch violently rejected Tom’s advice for some of his guitar solos and refused to work with the producer again. 

As the tensions between the band members continued to simmer, disaster struck. Tom Werman had had enough. He quit and left for a summer vacation with his family, leaving the recording process in shambles.

Don Dokken, desperate to salvage the album, requested the hiring of his German friend Michael Wagener to complete the recordings and mix the tracks. But despite the agreement between Tom Werman and Dokkens’ manager, Cliff Burnstein, the rest of the band refused to work with Michael Wagener. 

Their stubbornness and refusal to compromise jeopardized the release of the album, and the future of Dokken hung in the balance. As the clock ticked and the release date drew near, the pressure on Dokken and his bandmates mounted. 

Elektra Records bring on Michael Wagener, and also hired the infamous British producer Roy Thomas Baker to keep the band in line. Known for his work with Queen, Journey, and The Cars, as well as his hedonistic lifestyle Roy Thomas Baker was the perfect choice to whip the unruly Dokken into shape.

Meanwhile, Wagener worked tirelessly behind the scenes, recording lead vocals by night and mixing the album in secret, with Dokken’s help. They pushed forward despite the sudden and unexplained disappearance of George Lynch for a week, and finally, in August of 1984, the recording and mixing were complete. 

Tooth and Nail, the album that marked the turning point for Dokken. It was a wild ride from start to finish, with the band transitioning from their ordinary NWOBHM-influence sound to a more melodic and poppier sound, akin to the glam metal that was taking over the LA scene. And let me tell you, the extremes in guitar riff of George’s styles were enough to make your head spin, but smooth voice from Don make it radio-friendly! It’s a perfect combination for hair bands.

On one hand, you had the title track and “Turn On the Action”, with their lightning-fast pace and aggressive riffs that would make any metal fan proud. But on the other hand, you had “Just Got Lucky” and “Alone Again”, with their catchy hooks and radio-friendly sound that typified the pop metal of the time.

Even Don Dokken himself acknowledged the shift in style, admitting that it was more suited to his vocal limitations. But you know what? They made it work. They took the best of both worlds and created something truly unique. And with hits like “Into the Fire” and “It’s Not Love”, Tooth and Nail cemented Dokken’s place in the pantheon of ’80s metal.

Despite the internal conflicts, Dokken’s Tooth and Nail album was a hit with fans and sold like hotcakes. Dokken’s follow-up album, Under Lock And Key, and Back for the Attack also followed suit, making the band a staple in the rock scene with sold-out stadium concerts. They even had an MTV hit with the song “Dream Warriors”, which was on the soundtrack to horror film A Nightmare on Elm Street 3

The Fall of Dokken

In March 1988, Don Dokken and George Lynch, the two masterminds behind Dokken, had never seen eye to eye. The tension had been simmering for years, but it all came to a head on that fateful day in London, as they rode in the back of a limo on their way to open for AC/DC. They exchanged heated words, the insults flying back and forth like daggers. And then, in a sudden burst of violence, Lynch lunged at Dokken, putting him in a headlock and punching him.

The scuffle was broken up by their security man, but the damage had been done. As they pulled up to Wembley Arena, their tour manager greeted them with the news that they were due on stage in ten minutes. Don and George looked at each other, still fuming, but somehow managed to put their differences aside long enough to play the gig. For the time being, the fighting was over.

But the tensions between them never really went away. Don Dokken saw George Lynch as a “miserable human being”, while  George regarded Don as a control freak with a “gigantic ego”. They may have put up with each other long enough to make it big, but it was never an easy partnership. 

The conflict between Don and George turned out to be the worst and the worst, especially Monsters Of Rock Tour 1988 Dokken had to show after Metallica and let’s just say they didn’t stand a chance.

After Metallica played the Aggressive sound, Dokken sounded like the fucking Partridge Family. Don Dokken begged to switch places with Metallica, but co-manager Cliff Burnstein said no. Dokken’s humiliation was complete after a show in New York where a review in the New York Times said, “During Dokken’s set, a record number of hotdogs were sold.” Ouch.

Dokken claims that the other band members’ drug use made their performances at Monsters of Rock Tours weak. He blamed George Lynch for the mess the band was in and decided to give him an ultimatum after the final show of the tour. 

George Lynch remembers it differently, claiming that Don had planned to break up the band before Monsters of Rock Tours and that he had threatened to sue the band if they didn’t give him the name. 

It’s like a rock and roll soap opera, isn’t it?

Perhaps there is truth in both of their perspectives. But as the old saying goes, there are three sides to every story: yours, mine, and the truth. And with Don and George, it’s hard to say where the truth really lies. What is clear is that their rivalry was a defining feature of the band, and ultimately led to its demise. The drama and tension may have been entertaining for fans, but for those involved, it was a constant source of stress and conflict.

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