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Judas Priest Band History & Facts

Updated on February 23, 2017

Early Origins

The story begins with guitarist Kenneth "K.K." Downing and bassist Ian Hill founding the band Freight in 1969, and quickly found drummer John Ellis and singer Al Atkins. Al Atkins had previously been in a band called Judas Priest but the group had terminated. With the name free the band chose to rename the band Judas Priest. A demo was recorded in 1971 with Atkins on vocals, though he left near the start of 1973. In this time the band was actually performing with acts like Budgie and Slade. Ian Hill's girlfriend at the time thought that her brother would make a great singer for the band, this was none other than the Metal God, Rob Halford. The band found its second guitar player with Glenn Tipton, who had previously been in the Flying Hat Band.

Origin of the Name Judas Priest

The phrase "Judas Priest" is mentioned in the title of a song by Bob Dylan from 1967 called "The Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest.”"

The picture to the right is the original Judas Priest that Al Atkins formed.

Rob Halford Early Life

Rob Halfordn grew up in Birmingham England and began singing and performing with bands when he was just a teenager. His first band he was in was Hiroshima. Other bands he was in include Lord Lucifer, Athens Wood, Thark an Abraxis. Some of his favorite singers were Janis Joplin and Robert Plant.

Judas Priest Logos History

Since the band's first album Rock Rolla it has gone through varying logos through out over 40 years of making heavy metal.

Record Deals and First Albums

In 1974 the band got a record deal and released their debut Rocka Rolla. For some odd reason the bands label, Gull Records, wanted to have a horn section in their music, but the band refused. Some songs were previously written with the first singer. Glen Tipton was not happy with how the album was recorded but does like the songs. In 1975 the band cut ties with Gull Records and got signed with CBS records to release their album Sad Wings of Destiny. With this second album the band decided to be more hands on with their music and ditch their previous producer. The songs "Genocide", "Tyrants", and "The Ripper" which appear on Sad Wings of Destiny, were possibly played live by the band prior to the release of Rocka Rolla.

Commercial Breakthrough

With the release of British Steel Judas Priest had finally found the mainstream and international success that they were striving for. The album, British Steel, was named after a metal manufacturing company that KK Downing had once worked at, and took less than a month to record. With song like "Breaking the Law" and "Living After Midnight" the band began to gain a huge following all over the world.

While performing on the British Steel Tour Rob Halford would fire blanks out of a machine gun.

Leather Becomes Metal

Rob Halford would often dress in leather and metal studs when performing with Judas Priest. This caught on with metal fans until in the 1980s most metal heads were wearing leather jackets.

Blaming Judas Priest

In 1990 Judas Priest was brought to court in Reno, Nevada by parents of 2 fans who had apparently died as a result of their music. They claimed that their sons James Vance and Raymond Belknap who had injured or shot themselves had listened to the song "Better By You, Better Than Me" which contained a subliminal message in to commit suicide. Of course they were not proven guilty of murder and had no way contributed to the fan's death. On this subject Rob Halford remarked that if anything he would have put subliminal messages in his songs that told fans to buy more music The funny thing is that the song was a cover and originally written by the band Spooky Tooth.

Rob Halford Leaves

Rob Halford wanted to do a solo album so he could explore other types of metal while still performing and recording with Judas Priest. Unfortunately the band wouldn't let him, so he had no choice but to quit and leave around 1992.

"Ripper" Owens

How Often Do You Listen to "Ripper" Owens Era Judas Priest?

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Tim "Ripper" Owens

Tim "Ripper" Owens was singing covers of Judas Priest in his band called British Steel before he became their singer in 1996. One day while performing in Erie, PA the girlfriend of Scott Travis, who had been the drummer in Judas Priest, heard Owens singing and loved it. She recorded his performance and showed to Scott Travis who in turn told Judas Priest. They were impressed as well and decided to make Owens their singer. His fist album with the band was Jugulator. And his final album with the band was Demolition. Although the band did alright during these years many fans could not accept Judas Priest with out the Metal God. The movie Rockstar was based on Owens' time with the band.

Return of Rob Halford

Rob Halford has stated that it took roughly 5 years of talking to his former band mates in Judas priest and mending their broken relationship. The band was still upset at Halford leaving but eventually they worked it out and he came back in 2003.


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