Mike McCready was born in Pensacola, Florida, but his family moved to San Diego, shortly after his birth.[1] When he was a child, his parents played Jimi Hendrix and Santana, while his friends listened to Kiss and Aerosmith; McCready would frequently play bongo drums.[2] At the age of eleven, McCready purchased his first guitar and began taking lessons.


In eighth grade, McCready formed his first band, Warrior, whose name soon changed to Shadow. Originally a cover band playing during free periods at Roosevelt High School, the band eventually began writing original material and recording demo tapes.[3] After high school, McCready worked at a pizza restaurant where he befriended musician Pete Droge.[4] In 1986, Shadow relocated to Los Angeles, California and attempted to cut a record deal.[3] However, according to McCready:

    We played to a couple bartenders down there, but even though it was a bad scene, it was a good experience. Basically, we weren't that good of a band, and we didn't realize it until we got down there. I guess we lost our focus, got really bummed out and came back to Seattle.[2]

In 1988, Shadow returned to Seattle and split up soon afterwards.[3] McCready lost interest in playing guitar for some time, stating that he "was so depressed about life."[5] He cut his hair, enrolled in a local community college, and spent his nights working at a video store.[2] He credits a friend named Russ Riedner for "getting me out of my college mode and back into playing guitar."[2] McCready was inspired to pick up his guitar again after attending a Stevie Ray Vaughan concert at The Gorge Amphitheatre in George, Washington. McCready said:

    As soon as he started "Couldn't Stand the Weather", these huge clouds rolled in overhead, and rain began pouring down. When the song ended, the rain stopped! It was like a religious experience, and it changed me. It lifted me out of the negative mindset I was in, and it got me playing again. I thank him forever for that.[5]

McCready gradually went back to playing guitar and finally joined another band called Love Chile.[2] A childhood friend, Stone Gossard, went to one of the band's shows and appreciated McCready's work after hearing him perform Stevie Ray Vaughan's "Couldn't Stand the Weather".[6] Gossard had known McCready from back before high school when the two would trade rock band pictures with each other.[2] After the demise of Gossard's band Mother Love Bone, he asked McCready if he wanted to play music together with him.[3] After a few months of practicing together, McCready in turn encouraged Gossard to reconnect with his Mother Love Bone alum Jeff Ament.