Dave Mustaine and David Ellefson pay tribute to late Megadeth drummer Lee Rauch

Former Megadeth drummer, Lee Rauch
(Image credit: Chris Rauch/Facebook)

Megadeth frontman Dave Mustaine and former bassist David Ellefson have both paid tribute to Lee Rauch, who passed away on June 23 aged 58.

Lee Rauch played drums in Megadeth during the band’s early days, performing at Megadeth’s first live shows as well as being credited as the drummer on Megadeth’s first recording, the Last Rites demo.

A cause of death has not yet been announced, but Lee Rauch’s passing was confirmed via social media by his brother, Chris Rauch.

“Today is a very sad day, we lost my brother William Lee Rauch. Lee was a very strong man of faith so I know he is with God now. He was an awesome drummer, who helped launch one of the biggest metal names in history by being the first drummer for MEGADETH, playing alongside Dave Mustaine, Kerry King and David Ellefson. His heart was set on making it big and came very close numerous times. 

"Lee was a very loving and giving individual who was extremely hard working, he continued to play drums later in his life for the church which made him happy. He was a loving son and a very honorable man. 

“Most of all, he was my brother and though I didn't always keep in touch the way I should have, I loved him very much and he will be greatly missed to my core.”

Dave Mustaine took to social media for a shorter tribute. Accompanied by a photo of Rauch at his kit, the Megadeth frontman said, “One of MEGADETH's very first drummers, Lee Rauch, has passed away. 

“He played on the recording of our 'Last Rites' demo tape in early 1984, and I can remember the good times during our rehearsals at Curly Joe's studio in LA. Farewell, my friend, till we meet again someday.”

Meanwhile, former Megadeth bassist David Ellefson also paid tribute to Rauch via his own social media channels. 

“I want to offer condolences on our fallen friend and former MEGADETH drummer, Lee Rauch. He was a kind young man with big ambitions (and an even bigger drumkit!!), who was our drummer from late 1983, after our first drummer Dijon Carruthers departed the group in fall of 1983. 

"Lee joined us shortly thereafter and was in the live performing lineup of the band with me, Dave & Kerry King when we debuted the group for our very first live shows in the San Francisco Bay area during February & April 1984." 

But Ellefson also points out that as he recalls, it was Rauch’s replacement — and drummer on Killing Is My Business… — Gar Samuelson who played on the Last Rites sessions.

“However, there is some misinformation about the "Last Rites" demo. Lee never did any studio recordings with the band. The "Last Rites" demo that is out there on the web was recorded 100% by his successor, our other fallen brother, Gar Samuelson on drums. 

“That three song demo was recorded as a three piece with me, Dave & Gar in summer of 1984. Our then-manager Jay Jones brought Gar into the fold shortly after Lee departed the group in April, 1984 as he funded the making of that demo during several late night sessions at Hitman Studios in Hollywood…"

Ellefson concludes “In closing, some friends near Lee had reached out to me in recent years to let me know that he had lived a good life as a man of Faith back in Ohio, which is where he hailed from before moving to LA back in the 80s. it's nice to hear that he finished well in his life... may he now rest in peace.”

Rauch’s role in the band’s recordings hasn’t been contested before now, and Rauch was credited as drummer on the original demo tape. Following his exit from Megadeth, Rauch went on to play for fellow thrash pioneers, Dark Angel, before joining Wargod in 1985.

Stuart Williams

I'm a freelance member of the MusicRadar team, specialising in drum news, interviews and reviews. I formerly edited Rhythm and Total Guitar here in the UK and have been playing drums for more than 25 years (my arms are very tired). When I'm not working on the site, I can be found on my electronic kit at home, or gigging and depping in function bands and the odd original project.