If James Hetfield is the face of Metallica, Kirk Hammett is the blood that runs through its veins.

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The guitarist was born in San Francisco, Calif. on Nov. 18, 1962. He developed a fascination for horror and rock 'n' roll during his youth, and eventually picked up the guitar at 15. "I learned by playing along to records hundreds of time. The first one I learned to play decently was [Jimi Hendrix's] 'Purple Haze,'" he once recalled to Rolling Stone.

Hammett's beginnings in the thrash metal scene of the Bay Area didn't start with Metallica. He founded Exodus in 1979 with some high school classmates, and they released a demo in 1982. They opened for Metallica in San Francisco that same year, and that played a large part in what was to come.

When Metallica's then guitarist Dave Mustaine was fired, Hammett received a call asking if he wanted to audition for them. He's been their star shredder ever since.

Scroll through the gallery below to see photos of Hammett through the years.

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