Racer X was an American heavy metal band formed in 1985 in Los Angeles, California. The group has gone through a hiatus, and a few lineup changes with bassist Juan Alderete and vocalist Jeff Martin being the sole constant members. The band is signed to Shrapnel Records.
Guitarist Paul Gilbert first gained notoriety when he was featured in Mike Varney’s Spotlight Column in the February 1983 issue of Guitar Player magazine. Gilbert was 16 years old and was living in Greensburg, Pennsylvania. He later moved to Los Angeles and enrolled at the Guitar Institute of Technology (GIT), part of the Musicians Institute.
After graduating from GIT, Gilbert was hired as an instructor and recorded the album “Trouble In The Streets” with Los Angeles metal band Black Sheep, released on Enigma Records in November 1985. While at GIT, Gilbert met fellow student Juan Alderete. Searching for a drummer, Alderete and Gilbert sought the services of fellow student Harry Gschoesser.
After acquiring Gschoesser, Gilbert, with the help of Varney, recruited Jeff Martin of the Phoenix metal band Surgical Steel. Martin, who still lived in Phoenix and could not regularly write songs with Racer X in Los Angeles, began writing lyrics immediately for demo tapes that Gilbert had sent him. Recording for their first album began quickly.
The band began the recording process in 1985, and Racer X’s debut album Street Lethal was released on January 1, 1986 on Mike Varney’s Shrapnel Records label.
With the release of Street Lethal, Paul Gilbert suddenly burst into the mainstream as one of the members of the Neoclassical genre, popularized by Randy Rhoads and Yngwie J. Malmsteen.
While Racer X was not playing neo-classical pieces as frequently as Rhoads or Malmsteen, Gilbert was often mentioned alongside Malmsteen and Rhoads in many guitar and music magazines. Gilbert acknowledged his debt to Malmsteen on the Street Lethal album with the neoclassical instrumental “Y.R.O.”. The title is an acronym for “Yngwie Rip Off”. He would repeat such a reference on a later song, “B.R.O.”, which stands for “Bach Rip Off”.
Racer X was rapidly becoming a popular live act on the Sunset Strip. Around this time, Gilbert secured an endorsement deal with Ibanez guitars, which continues to this day.
After Gilbert left for Mr. Big, other members also went on to other projects. Jeff Martin formed a short-lived outfit named Bad Dog with drummer Todd DeVito and former War & Peace and future Fight and Steel Panther guitarist Russ Parrish; the latter had also been part of Electric Fence, a side project featuring Martin and Paul Gilbert. Martin eventually went on to replace Eric Singer in Jake E. Lee’s band, Badlands.
After the demise of the final Racer X line-up, with former Roxanne vocalist Jamie Brown briefly taking over for Martin, Juan Alderete, Bruce Bouillet, and Scott Travis teamed up with former Angora vocalist John Corabi to form the band Black Cloud – which would later become The Scream.
The four played one show at the Troubadour before Travis received an offer from Judas Priest, who were looking to replace the recently departed Dave Holland. Jeff Martin, a friend of Judas Priest, relayed the message to Travis, who was ecstatic at the opportunity, and accepted the offer. Travis would go on to record several albums with Judas Priest, and remains a member of the band to this day.