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Sistas Afro Girl Shirt, hoodie, tank top

In Libertyville, Morello practiced alone four-to-six hours a day, amid a full schedule of high school study, Electric Sheep rehearsal and acting in school plays. A late starter on the instrument, he took a few lessons at age 13 but didn’t pick it up seriously until he was 17, so his thousands of hours practicing, experimenting, inventing paid off.

“I don’t mean to sound like a jerk, but when I met Tom, he sucked at guitar,” says Jones, who was introduced to the instrument at age six, regularly joining his dad in playing an old gut-string in front of the TV. “Now the guy is just better than anybody and I totally admire him. Tom worked really hard and he really loves what he does.”

Morello and Jones as teenagers in Morello’s basement during the Electric Sheep years, Libertyville, Illinois

photograph by Mary Morello

Jones and Morello grew up in Libertyville, about 40 miles north of Chicago, amid leafy neighbor-hood streets, vintage storefronts and open fields. Then as now, it was a bucolic, small-town setting. Marlon Brando lived there as a teen between 1939 and 1941, and was known as a relentless prankster who attended Libertyville High and briefly led a band called Bud Brando and His Keg Liners. At home, Marlon milked a family cow named Violet.

By 1980, the population was still well under 17,000, and the U.S. Census that year calculated that the number of black residents was barely 0.2 percent of the population. It was a predominantly white community, and reliably Republican for most of the last century, so a young African American KISS fanatic with leftist leanings named Tom Morello was going to stand out.

 

 

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