Mötley Crüe’s Mick Mars retires from touring for health reasons

Mick Mars
(Image credit: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Live Nation)

Mick Mars, co-founder and guitarist of Mötley Crüe, has announced that he will be retiring from the road for health reasons, but will remain a member of the band.

Speculation had been rife upon the announcement of the hard rock legends’ world tour with Def Leppard that Mars was due to step down, with John 5 heavily rumoured as his replacement.

In a statement to Variety, his team confirmed that it was time for Mars to scale down his role in the band.

“Mick Mars, co-founder and lead guitarist of the heavy metal band Mötley Crüe for the past 41 years, has announced today that due to his ongoing painful struggle with Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS), he will no longer be able to tour with the band,” read the statement. “Mick will continue as a member of the band, but can no longer handle the rigors of the road.  A.S. is an extremely painful and crippling degenerative disease, which affects the spine.”

Mars has had AS since he was a teenager, and over the years has had to endure extreme pain. The condition has greatly affected his posture. Responding to a reader’s question in Guitar World, in 2011, he admitted to becoming hooked on painkillers and didn’t play guitar for two years because of it.

“AS gets into your hands, wrists, feet, your ankles,” Mars said. “It rarely, rarely gets anywhere else, like into your spine, but in my case, yes, it did spread there. My case is pretty severe in that it’s travelled all the way up to my brain stem. My posture has changed pretty drastically. I’ve shrunk about five inches.”

Mars said he could have avoided this if he had known that sleeping flat would have corrected his posture. There would have been a problem with this, however, that he would be standing straight, unable to look down at his guitar when playing.

“I’d be standing totally straight and unable to bend my neck,” he said. “Luckily, the doctors didn’t tell me this, so I’m kind of bent now, a little hunched over, but at least I can look down at my guitar when I play. AS hurts, but I don’t use steroids or anything like that. Sometimes I have really good days, sometimes I don’t.

“My advice would be this: don’t take the quick fix,” he continued. “Don’t just go to a doctor and start taking all the drugs he pushes on you. I got hooked on pills and didn’t play guitar for two years. Play through the pain if you can.”

Mick Mars is in many ways an atypical rock star. For the sole guitarists in one of hard rock’s most controversial and successful institution, he enjoys a relatively low profile, perhaps overshadowed by the OTT hi-jinks from his bandmates. 

He has shunned the idea of signature guitars. Preferring instead to amass his own collection, acquiring a taste for vintage Fender Stratocasters in Mötley Crüe’s John Corabi era. Speaking to Guitar World, he said their weight agreed with him when other models, namely Kramer T-styles were cool but just too heavy.

“That’s when I started playing Fender Strats,” Mars said. “I owned a few vintage Stratocasters by then, and I loved how light a real Strat felt. One of the first real Strats that I ever owned was pieced together using ’63, ’64 and ’65 parts. I bought it for $1,200 while we were on the Girls, Girls, Girls tour in 1987. The pickups didn’t work, so I put humbuckers in it and installed a Floyd Rose. Even though it’s really beat up, it’s a player’s guitar. I still use it onstage and in the studio.”

As to who will replace Mars in Mötley Crüe, the smart money would seem to be on John 5, who himself was absent in his usual role as Rob Zombie’s go-to touring guitarist when the former White Zombie frontman played Aftershock 2022 earlier in October. 

John 5 also posted pictures of him with various members of Mötley Crüe as the band celebrated their drummer Tommy Lee’s birthday in Mexico. 

“You really expect us to believe that you're not joining the Crue?” asked one commentator. It’s a good question. But there has been no official confirmation to date.

Jonathan Horsley

Jonathan Horsley has been writing about guitars and guitar culture since 2005, playing them since 1990, and regularly contributes to MusicRadar, Total Guitar and Guitar World. He uses Jazz III nylon picks, 10s during the week, 9s at the weekend, and shamefully still struggles with rhythm figure one of Van Halen’s Panama.