Kings Of Leon

Kings Of Leon biography

Made up of three brothers and a cousin from Tennessee, Kings of Leon have almost the perfect rock and roll story, and they're now firmly established as one of the biggest bands around. Forming in 1999, it took them until 2007 to achieve massive mainstream success, with fourth album Only by the Night, and its astronomically popular crossover hit 'Sex on Fire.'


Kings Of Leon are three brothers, Anthony Caleb Followill (lead vocals and rhythm guitar), Ivan Nathan Followill (drums, percussion and backing vocals) and Michael Jared Followill (bass guitar and backing vocals) and cousin Cameron Matthew Followill (lead guitar and backing vocals). All of the members of the band are known by their middle names and hail from Tennessee.

The father of the three brothers, Ivan 'Leon' Followill, was a United Pentecostal Church preacher, and it was from him that the band took their name. As young boys, the Followills would spend a lot of time on the road, travelling around the southern US, without much exposure to music (apart from church choirs), and enduring a strict religious upbringing. They would later cite these restrictions as the motivator for their wild and creative behaviour.

It was when their father quit the church and divorced his wife that the boys' lives was shattered - and their destiny began to take a very new path.

Youth and Young Manhood

The two older brothers moved to Nashville to try their luck in the music business. It was here that they really began to get exposed to the secular music which they had never had the chance to experience before (including the Rolling Stones and Johnny Cash). When their younger relatives joined them, the band was officially formed, and influences from other artists including Lynyrd Skynyrd and Led Zeppelin started seeping into their music. Playing gig after gig, the band were finally noticed, and ended up as the target of a bidding war between record labels, with RCA winning.

The band put out an EP, Holly Roller Novocaine, in early 2003, when they were still just boys (Jared was only 16 years old and couldn't play the bass guitar yet). It wasn't long after that their first full album was released, Youth and Young Manhood. Featuring tracks including 'California Waiting', 'Genius' and 'Holly Roller Novocaine,' the record won critical praise from all quarters, and one song in particular, 'Molly's Chambers', got them noticed in the UK.


Because Kings Of Leon were doing so much better in the UK than in the US, their second album, Aha Shake Heartbreak, was actually released in Britain in October 2004, several months before it hit the stores Stateside. It featured hits including 'The Bucket', 'King of the Rodeo' and 'Taper Jean Girl.' The band also opened for Bob Dylan and Pearl Jam in 2005 -2006 and it was around this time that the band's now legendary reputation with women, and allegations of the use of alcohol and drugs, began to surface.

Major UK success - Because of the Times

The third album Because of the Times was a very clear gear-change for the boys, who were now honing their music and style into a commercial animal. It debuted at number one in the UK, as did the single 'On Call.' Other hits included 'Charmer,' 'Fans' and 'Knocked Up'. Kings of Leon were beginning to hit the big time, although they still ran the risk of remaining a niche band. Many critics actually didn't have many good things to say about the album, despite its far more polished brand of southern bluesy rock.

Breakthrough - Only by the Night

For Kings of Leon fans, the fourth album was one of those 'event' records, and Only by the Night managed to achieve a magical combination of chart success and critical acclaim, while retaining credibility with the rock fans who had been with them from the start.

It was their also their first ever platinum-selling album in America and entered the UK charts at number one. Their biggest single so far, 'Sex on Fire,' was one of the biggest records of the year and reached number 3 in Absolute Radio's Song of the Decade vote in 2009. Other notable tracks from the album include 'Use Somebody' and 'Notion.'

Critical reaction to Only by the Night was mixed, with some hailing the album's 'brilliance,' while others described it as more of a 'commercial sell-out.' However, awards soon poured in for the Followills, who picked up BRIT Awards for Best International Band and Best International Album in 2009, an NME award, as well as a Grammy Award in the US.

In many ways 2009 belonged to Kings of Leon as they achieved chart success and huge airplay, as well as a marathon run of sellout live shows, including generally glorious festival slots in the UK and the US. The only standout bad point was Reading and Leeds, during which lead singer Caleb swore at the crowd after they failed to really get behind the band after strong winds and bad acoustics led to a bit of a lacklustre set.

Come Around Sundown

In June 2010, Kings Of Leon headlined their biggest ever UK show at the time, performing to a sell-out crowd of around 50,000 in London's Hyde Park, as part of a European and US tour. It came off the back of yet more Grammys for the band, who picked up three at the start of the new decade, including the big one, Record of the Year. The band also won Best Rock Performance, and Best Rock Song, for their hit single 'Use Somebody,' taken from Only By The Night.

Before the year was out, Kings Of Leon released their fifth album Come Around Sundown in October 2010, which was recorded in Nashville and New York. It went straight to number one in several countries, including the UK, where it sold over 180,000 in its first week and almost 700,000 by the end of the year, making it the 11th biggest record of 2010.


At the start of April 2011, it was announced Kings Of Leon would be giving fans an insight into their lives in a tell-all documentary, which follows the band from their early beginnings as sons of a preacher man, to their hardcore rock shenanigans some years later when they hit the big time. 'Talihina Sky: The Story of Kings Of Leon,' was due to be screened at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York between April and May 2011.

The band hit the road again in early 2011, performing across America and Europe as well as planned dates in South Africa for the end of the year. They headline the Isle of Wight Festival in June 2011, and are performing gigs in London's Hyde Park just before that.

Leona Graham
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