Jeff LaBar (lead guitarist for Cinderella), born March 18, 1963 in Darby, Pennsylvania, he was of American and Japanese ancestry through his mother, June. He grew up in Upper Darby, , where he received primary education. Jeff had a particularly close relationship with his mother, June, who was his biggest inspiration in life. Young Jeff picked up guitar playing as a teenager, inspired by his older brother Jack, and he joined the local rock band Cinderella, replacing Cinderella’s original guitarist, Michael Schermick in 1985. The band was formed 3 years earlier and developed a following in the region, but with the arrival of LaBar, the band sparked into international stardom, with a string of platinum selling albums.
Jeff’s biggest musical influences though his early career were 1970s British rock bands, such as Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple, while he also enjoyed the psychedelic music of Pink Floyd, Jethro Tull and Genesis. In later years, he grew a liking to a heavier style of rock, particularly played by Alice Cooper and Black Sabbath.
Cinderella received first major recognition from the Kiss bass guitarist Gene Simmons, who tried to get them a deal with Kiss’ record label PolyGram, which the members of Cinderella ended up declining. However, after watching them perform in 1984, Jon Bon Jovi convinced the Mercury/Polygram Records executive Derek Shulman to sign Cinderella to his label, after extensive negotiations.
Cinderella released their debut album, “Night Songs” in August 1986, which became a huge success, launching the band into international stardom. Although the album initially only sold locally among existing fans of the band, at one point it was selling over 50,000 copies per week, and eventually achieved triple platinum status, and #3 on the Billboard chart. The band had also released a video compilation called “Night Songs”, which accompanied the eponymous album, and ensured their presence on MTV.
In the same year, Cinderella embarked on their first tour, along with the Mechanicsburg-based band Poison, as an opening to the Japanese heavy metal sensation Loudness, which played a big part in Cinderella’s early success. In the following years, Cinderella toured with bands such as Van Halen and Bon Jovi, and went overseas, performing in the UK, Japan, Germany and Scandinavia.
Their second album “Long Cold Winter” (1988), marked a shift from typical glam metal, towards a blues-rock sound, and was followed by a 254-show world tour. It contains the band’s most popular song “Don’t Know What You Got (Till It’s Gone).” In August 1989, they appeared alongside Ozzy Osbourne, Motley Crew, the Scorpions and other metal acts at the Moscow Music Peace Festival, which marked the first time metal acts from outside of USSR were granted permission to perform in the capitol of the country. Cinderella’s first two albums scored triple platinum certifications after selling over three million copies each.
-The group toured the world and had numerous charting songs and videos on MTV. Cinderella had an exceptionally strong fanbase in Japan, which was particularly special to Jeff as that’s where his mother June was born and raised. He would always take her and their family in Japan to the band’s shows there, a life highlight for both mother and son.-
Cinderella released their third studio album, “Heartbreak Station” in 1990, which leaned even more into the blues genre than their previous release. Unfortunately, the band’s success was hindered, as in the following year the lead singer/songwriter Tom Keifer suffered a paresis of his vocal cords, which forced them to stop touring, and delay the release of their fourth album “Still Climbing”, which finally came out in 1994. Adding to the struggles Cinderella had at the time, in the early-mid 1990s, hair metal was being pushed away from the mainstream, in favor of grunge bands such as Nirvana and Pearl Jam, and their album was a commercial failure. Their label Mercury Records consequently dropped Cinderella, which pushed the band to go on a hiatus. In 1996, they released a compilation of their greatest hits, under the title “Once Upon A…”, and three years later a live album from one of their 1998 concerts, entitled “Live at the Key Club”.
Cinderella had reached the height of their commercial popularity during the late 1980s era of hair metal. The band’s music has been described as a mix of different genres, ranging from glam metal and heavy metal, to blues; their main musical influences were bands such as KISS, Led Zeppelin and AC/DC. In 2015, VH1 channel named them the 10th best hair metal band of all time, while the magazine “LA Weekly” named them the 13th most influential hair metal band in their 2021 list.
During the mid-1990s hiatus, Jeff suffered financial losses, and had to support himself by running a pizza shop with his brother, and by doing construction work. In 1998, he and his Cinderella band-mate Eric Brittingham, formed a glam metal band Naked Beggars, which also included his wife Gaile LaBar-Bernthart with whom he had a son named Sebastian. They released two moderately successful studio albums during their nine-year-long career.
Following a move to Nashville in 2004, Jeff quickly surrounded himself with a community of dear friends who he loved to host and cook for at his home there. As Jeff got older, a love of music shifted to a passion for the culinary arts, with his cooking inspired by June’s Japanese heritage. He would reinterpret dishes that were standards in the La Bar household and add a unique flair. mainly dishes he learned from his mother. At one point, he even considered making a career in the field, and so went to culinary school and collaborated with chef “Iron Mike” Rolchigo to produce a hot sauce which reports say was “almost ready for production” at the beginning of July 2021. Two years later, he married his long-term girlfriend Debinique Salazar.
In 2005, Cinderella headlined the VH1 Classic Rock Never Stops summer tour, followed by several smaller tours with bands such as RATT and Quit Riot. At the end of the decade, they discussed putting out new music, however, the issues with Tom’s vocal cords, and the fact that they were not signed to a label anymore obstructed their plans.
Jeff revealed later that during the height of Cinderella’s popularity, he often abused not only alcohol, but also cocaine and heroin, and ended up admitting himself into rehab, which wasn’t publicized. ‘As a band, we tried to hide our dirty laundry, and most of our dirty laundry was me. We didn’t try to hide it; we just didn’t publicize it. We just didn’t tell people.
Jeff at the time admitted to having substance abuse problems, which later caused a rift with his former band-mates from Cinderella. When interviewing for Another FN podcast in 2016, Jeff said: ‘I can only speculate, but I believe the band’s break-up is all my fault. When I fell out on one of those cruise ships in front of everybody – like, basically O.D.’d – that’s when the band, and mostly singer Tom Keifer, took notice and was, like, ‘What the fuck?’ It’s just Tom and I that don’t talk anymore. And I can only speculate that he’s very disappointed and doesn’t wanna see me die. He doesn’t wanna witness me dying.’
In 2014, Jeff released his only solo album, “One for the Road”, which featured a classic heavy-metal sound. Up to that point, Jeff had been planning to release a solo project for a long time, but it was only after Keifer’s debut solo album “The Way Life Goes” came out in 2013, that Jeff started planning his own solo project. He further played with a number of other groups including Cheap Thrill, Freakshow, and the Naked Beggars.
Jeff LaBar passed away on 14 July 2021, at the age of 58; his unconscious body was reportedly found by his ex-wife Gaile, who went to his apartment to check on him after she was unable to reach him for several days. In addition to his son Sebastian, Jeff is survived by his wife and best friend Debinique, with whom he created an internet radio show ‘Late Night with the La Bars.’