The 2018 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony has the potential to reunite many bands. The Cars have committed to performing for the first time since their short-lived 2011 Move Likes This tour, the Moody Blues are willing to play with former keyboardist Mike Pinder and flautist Ray Thomas and at least some version of Dire Straits will take the stage should Mark Knopfler decide he wants that to happen. But the most high-profile reconciliation of the evening will take place when Richie Sambora performs with Bon Jovi.
He last played with the band in the early part of their 2013 Because We Can world tour. He made every show on the first leg, but after a short break, the group was due to perform in Calgary on April 2nd. “Richie was coming from a Hawaii trip,” Jon Bon Jovi told People in 2016. “He said, ‘I’d like to come up on the day of the show to get my daughter home and unpack.’ I said, ‘Yeah, sure.’ The evening before the show, Bon Jovi got a phone call from the band’s tour manager. “He never calls my room,” the singer said. “I go, ‘Oh no,’ and he says, ‘Yep.'”
Richie had decided to stay in Hawaii. He wasn’t going to make the Calgary show or any one after that. Guitarist Phil X filled in for Sambora two years earlier when he went to rehab, and Phil X was called in to play his parts. But he couldn’t get to Calgary in time for that evening’s show. That meant that rhythm guitarist Bobby Bandiera got to play lead for the one and only time. Phil X made it for the April 3rd show in Edmonton – and he’s been there ever since. “That’s the story,” Bon Jovi told People. “There was no fight or money issues, like the reports say. Nobody expected Richie to quit in the middle of the night for no reason. He wasn’t fired; he just didn’t come to work.”
Earlier this month, Sambora gave us his side of the story. “You miss a lot of life when you’re on the road for most of your life,” he said. “I just decided, ‘I gotta get back to my family. I gotta get back to being an individual.’ There ain’t no malice or anything like that. It wasn’t moving anywhere. Thirty-one years is 31 years. That’s a long time, and being in a huge organization like Bon Jovi, it’s all-consuming. You really don’t have a chance to do anything else but that. That’s where you are and that’s it.”
Richie Sambora’s final gig with Bon Jovi took place on March 17th, 2013 at the United Spirit Arena in Lubbock, Texas. It didn’t seem like a momentous occasion at the time, but fans still shot much of the show on their cellphones. Check out the first encore of “Wanted Dead or Alive” right here. (The show wrapped with “Living on a Prayer,” but the video quality is simply too poor to post and share.)
Nothing is definite about the Hall of Fame induction in April, but both Bon Jovi and Sambora say they want to play together that night. “Nobody has called me yet or anything like that,” Sambora told us. “But I would imagine that would be the protocol. Don’t you? I would think so. Of course, I’d be obliged.”