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AC/DC auditioned tribute band singer to replace Brian Johnson

Lee Robinson and Jeff Young of Thunderstruck

It turns out AC/DC’s search for a new singer did not begin and end with Axl Rose, who has been announced as the replacement for Brian Johnson on the rockers’ final tranche of stadium dates. In fact, they came close to doing what Judas Priest had done before them, and plucking a new frontman from the obscurity of the tribute band circuit.

Lee Robinson, the frontman of Thunderstruck, an AC/DC covers band from Raleigh, North Carolina (the band claim to “offer the most complete and authentic reproduction of AC/DC’s sound and stage performance in North Carolina and beyond”), has told the metal site Blabbermouth that he was summoned by his heroes to audition for them in Atlanta.

At first, he said, he didn’t believe the band were trying to contact him, and insisted on calling back their representatives to check they were who they claimed to be. He didn’t sleep for three days, studying the songs, until the night before the audition on 14 March, when AC/DC’s crew told him Johnson had used a teleprompter, which would be available. “When I heard that, I pretty much passed out. I didn’t have to worry about forgetting the lyrics anymore,” said Robinson.

Robinson discovered that AC/DC bassist Cliff Williams had recommended him, after finding him on YouTube. The band were impressed by the way he sings AC/DC songs in the key they were written in, rather than dropping the key. “Stevie [Young, guitarist] said, ‘Hell yeah, that’s the right way to do it,’ when I asked if we could do the audition in standard,” Robinson said. “But that’s the only way I know how to sing it.”

The audition encompassed Robinson singing with the band for almost two hours, performing all but two songs from their current tour setlist, as well as others not currently in the band’s repertoire. Angus Young, apparently, was impressed. “‘Whatever happens,’ he told me, ‘you’ve got a helluva voice.’”

Sadly for Robinson, AC/DC went for someone with a slightly more high profile. Who singer Roger Daltrey, however, is not impressed. “Go and see karaoke with Axl Rose? Give me a break,” he told an interviewer this week.

Thunderstruck’s next show is at the Lynchburg music festival on 14 May. AC/DC’s next show is at the Passeio Marítimo de Algés on 7 May.

What they say

The best Angus I have ever seen. Jeff does Angus better than Angus.

Tommy Redd
Lead Guitar/Nantucket

As a lifelong fan of AC/DC, I tend to be a pretty tough judge of tributes... but when I saw Thunderstruck, they really impressed me!  Whether they're covering classics from the Bon Scott era or songs from the Brian Johnson catalog, Thunderstruck nails it!

Mark Arsen
Former 96Rock & WRDU personality

Whatever happens, you've got a hell of a voice.

To Lee Robinson when he auditioned for AC/DC

Angus Young
AC/DC

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