It was a poignant moment, since the multiplatinum rockers have been eligible for inclusion in the institution for close to a decade and were snubbed once in 2011. Now they reunited with their estranged founding members, guitarist Richie Sambora and bassist Alec John Such, to accept the honors from the self-proclaimed King of All Media, Howard Stern. “Am I relieved? Yeah,” Jon Bon Jovi told The New York Times when asked last year about the induction. “Am I pleased? Absolutely. But it’s about time.”
He and his past and present bandmates used their time at the podium to reflect on just how they got to this point in their career. Here’s what they had to say.
Alec John Such: I realized, I soon realized, how serious it was and [Jon Bon Jovi] had a vision that he wanted to bring us to and I am only too happy to have been a part of that vision. Many people here tonight, I know it, I’m gonna thank you – all the managers, agents, PR people, record people, family, road crew, I’m gonna thank you. You know who you are. To be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is such an honor. Thank you. These guys are the best. We had so many great times together, and we just wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for those. Love ’em to death, always will. I’d like to bring up Hughey McDonald.
Hugh McDonald: Thank you, Alec. Wow. First off, my wife Kelly, my kids Morgan and Jake, I love you. I’m so happy that you’re here to share this honor with me. Thank you to the friend and the accountant, Gary, who’s had my back for 40 years. Thank you to my friend Brian, who’s been on back for over 50 years. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, thank you for the induction. Jon Bon Jovi, thank you for being you. Thank you to the fans for your devotion.
Richie Sambora: Just think that … think you could even imagine if any of this shit would’ve went down with this dude, or that dude. And I am proud to be working with these guys and you know, songs that found the way … because you’re connecting with humanity and then you find out more with humanity. Everybody is more alike than they are not alike … First gotta say thank you to everybody in this band because, the hardest thing to do, I believe, is to find four guys with yourself that will go through anything, that will work hard, that’ll go crazy, whatever it took. And we did that for a really long time. But boy, was it fun. If I wrote a book, it would be the best time I ever had.
Howard already explained that for me, and I thank you, Howard. And there’s so many people to thank, and you know, a career as long as we’ve had, and I’m so blessed. I gotta thank my mama. I gotta thank my beautiful daughter. You know, everybody, I mean, all the record company presidents we’ve been great friends with, we’ve had the chance to really bond and do business with. Make music with and make people happy all over the world. I think that’s what I’m really, really happy about. 130 million records, 33 something million people we’ve played to. Not one of them left without a smile. Miles of smiles! Thank you. Gotta thank the fans, because without the fans … every night we went out to face the stage full of that – 72,000 fans. They gave us what we needed. We gave them what they needed. Thank you very much! Tico Torres!
“I’ve been writing this speech since I first strummed the broom and sang at the top of the stairs of my childhood home,” – Jon Bon Jovi
Tico Torres: I must say … Howard, thank you very much. The guy’s always made me laugh. I’m short, but I try to look up to him … Anyway, this is a blessing to be here. I gotta thank my mom, too, and my dad who can’t be here. She backed me as a musician, saying “Do what you wanna do and play from your heart.” And honestly, you don’t get it that good. So mom, I love you, thank you very much. My dad, Lenny. Dad covered 30s and 40s … And that started my career as a drummer. So blessed to be here. Great news, and wonderful news. Not only from the past, the present, and hope to come a lot in the future. I get to stand on this stage with some of the finest musicians I ever worked with. Richie. He’s got a warm heart and soul. Hugh McDonald. Alec, I love Alec. I met him and we played together since I was 16. In 1969. Lost my virginity. I love Alec. If it wasn’t for Alec, I don’t think I could be in this band. Or any of us, he was the kingpin. David, may I say it once, the funniest man I ever met. The genius behind many coats. Great playwright. He’s the funniest man I know.
Jon Bon Jovi. When I met Jon, I immediately knew that he wanted everything that I wanted, which made me wanted to work harder than 150 percent. And he’s absolutely the best frontman I’ve ever been with, seen, or worked with. These guys are family yes, and Howard did reveal some stuff that we went through when we were younger and the funny thing’s we’re still together. We have a new roster of young guys who’re not here. John Shanks, they’re playing with us but they’re not on this stage, but I wanted to include John Shanks, Phil X. They’re wonderful, and I think with all of this, the fact that this brought us together, not only as human beings and musicians to be able to play something that we love so much, I thank and I pay homage to all these gentlemen, all the passion that came on this stage, all the future to come. I wanna thank my family, my son Hector, Holly, all my family and friends, especially everyone here … it’s been our backing for the rest of our lives. I’d like to introduce David Bryan.
David Bryan: How ya’ll doing? Tonight is a celebration of a landmark in an incredible musical journey. A celebration of a seven year old who took fifteen years of piano – classical piano – I should say. I joined the Atlantic Expressway, the celebration of a 21-year-old recording the first Bon Jovi record. And the celebration of the 56-year-old who stands here tonight. When we started out, we said we’re gonna make it no matter what. Passion, blind faith, goes beyond our wildest dreams. And in 1983, we set out in Tico’s station wagon. And then the big tour came. A real tour bus picked us up at our house. So Jon, Richie and myself, we still live at home with our parents. And Alec and Tico were adults – they had real houses. So the bus picked us up. This bus was worth 20 times more money than my entire house. The most amazing, shiny bus comes. We said “okay, it’s time to go,” so I got all my luggage and I brought my bowling ball, because I am from Jersey. I’m not gonna use a lane ball. I need a real bowling ball. So I brought my bowling bowl, and then Alec brought his bowling ball, and Richie brought his bowling ball. So we picked up our stuff but we had to go back to each of our houses and drop off the freakin’ bowling balls because there was no room on the bus.
We grew up as nobody but we became someone. From the streets of New Jersey to the stages of the world, to my own personal journey on Broadway and now to Cleveland, for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I wanna thank my original members, my new brothers, my beautiful wife, my beautiful kids, our managers, agents, road crews, recording crews, video crews, my friends, and especially all the fans. For a great journey that continues to surprise and thrive. Thank you. Now, my brother, Jon Bon Jovi.
Jon Bon Jovi: Thank you Beth Stern for not only getting Howard here, but for getting him to stay. And thank you Howard. Howard is the only man in America who thinks he needs to bring his passport to come to Cleveland. Thank you, my friend. You were my first and only choice to induct us tonight.
I’ve been writing a speech like this since I first strummed a broom and sang from the top of the stairs of my childhood home. I’ve written it many ways and many times. Some days, I write the “thank you” speech. Other days, I write the “fuck you” speech. Writing it has been therapeutic in a lot of ways. I certainly see things differently tonight than I would have 10, 20, 30 years ago. In the end, it’s really all about time.
It took a lot of people to get us here tonight… not all of whom were fashionistas ..
I was first introduced to music at seven years old when my mother brought home a guitar she had bartered for, along with the Kenny Rogers “Learn to Play Guitar” record. As a kid, my parents took me to lessons where this guy in a little cubicle smoking a pipe, opened up a book of scales and tortured kids with his smoke and lack of interest. After a couple weeks, I quit, throwing that guitar down the basement stairs, conveniently breaking a tuning peg. That guitar laid there in the dark, until I was around 15 and a man named Al Parinello moved into our neighborhood. Al played in lounges and the wedding circuit. He was a great guy, a family man. He took an interest in a couple of us neighborhood kids and taught us a couple of songs.
Al’s teaching style was much different than the pipe-smoking, scale-playing, half-hour-nap-taking session the man at the strip mall gave me. I didn’t learn quickly, and I was by no means any good, but Al showed me the magic of a song.
First was The Animals version of “House of the Rising Sun.” We slogged through it. Then Thin Lizzy’s “The Boys are Back in Town.” I did a half ass job at practicing, but I went back. After a couple weeks, Al lost his cool demeanor. This hip dad yelled at me, “Don’t waste my time! If you don’t know this next week, we’re done.”
It worked. I’ve been practicing my craft every day since. Al passed away in 1995. The initials A.P. have been carved on my guitar since and serve as a reminder to practice every day. For that I say, “Thank you, Al Parinello.”
Every kid who ever played in their garage dreams of being in a “Big Rock Band,” and I was no different. It began in my buddy’s basement and in my backyard. We played the local talent show, came in second place, worked up to the block dances, and then the clubs, where we got a glimpse of what we thought was the big time. At 17 years old, I started a 10-piece band called Atlantic City Expressway that played the songs of my childhood heroes: The Animals, and Thin Lizzy, Springsteen and a lot Southside Johnny.
David Bryan was in that band. He used to do his homework in the basement of the Fast Lane before we’d play our set. I want to take a moment here to thank David’s Dad, Big Ed. I know he’s here tonight watching down over us. Thanks, Big Ed, for your van, and for always cheering us on.
By 18, I can already see that there are two paths in music: Play for fun, or play for keeps. The cover band circuit was where the money was, where the girls were, and where the future was….not.
So I quit my own cover band and joined an original band as their lead singer: The Rest, as we were called, didn’t last long but I appreciated Jack Ponti for taking me in and nurturing the earliest me. Thanks Jack.
In the fall of 1980, I was out of high school, out of The Rest, fronting my own band wherever and whenever I could and running errands at The Power Station in NYC. The next couple of years were my “college” experience. Write, sing, play, watch, learn, repeat. I saw a lot of the men and women who make up this Hall of Fame walk in and out of those studios.
The Stones, Queen, Bowie, Bruce, Dylan, Cher and Chic. I did hand claps on a Little Steven record and sang on a Star Wars Christmas record. I remember Mark Knopfler, who was dating the studio manager, asking to borrow my copy of his album Making Movies. I told him I would loan it to him if he’d sign it for me. I still have it and I remain a huge fan. Congrats to you Mark, and to Dire Straits.
By 1982, I had written and recorded a bunch of songs, but one stood out. It was called “Runaway.” After sending that cassette to every label and manager I could think of, I thought, “Who is the loneliest person in the music business?….the DJ. There was a new station in NYC called WAPP. It was so new, that there wasn’t even a receptionist, so I was able to walk in and get the attention of John Lastman, and the D.J. Chip Hobart. I told them about the songs on the cassette and the frustration of not getting any label to listen to it. Chip did listen to it, and he told me he thought it should be included on their “Homegrown” record of local original music.
A few months later, “Runaway” was playing on the radio, not only in New York but in Tampa, Chicago, Detroit, Denver and other markets. I had the attention I needed to showcase the songs. All I needed was a band. I called David; he was still playing but also going to college to be a doctor like his nice Jewish mother said he should.
I met Alec Such, who was in a band called Phantom’s Opera. Alec was the coolest cat on the cover circuit scene. He was the rock star in his band. Alec was also in an original band with Richie Sambora called Message. They were doing a summer tour supporting Joe Cocker and promoting their own E.P Alec also knew the baddest drummer in the land, Tico Torres. I swear, back at the Fast Lane, I once watched Tico beat a drum to death. He was the hardest hitting sledgehammer I’d ever seen.
Tico was a married man, had a house, was in a band called Frankie and the Knockouts, was already on the road with a record deal and hit singles. I needed to convince him to give that up, to rehearse in a store front, and play with 21-year-old me? Part of me thought NO CHANCE. But, one Sunday I went to his house, played him the songs, told him about the radio exposure and hoped he might help me out. Tico took a shot and has been with me ever since.
So, David, Tico, Alec and Snake Sabo, who was helping me out at the time, all agreed to do a couple of these promo shows. Then one night at the Fountain Casino in Aberdeen N.J., Alec invited Richie Sambora to see us perform. Richie came backstage and we hit it off. Legend has it he told me that he was going to be in my band. I said, “Let’s get together to write a bit” to see if his style worked with my vision. It didn’t take me a minute to realize Richie was a great singer, writer and a player, and it didn’t take him long to agree to join us.
The success of “Runaway” led to a deal with Polygram in July of ’83 and the label remains our home to this day. With a band at my side, a record deal in place, and a song on the radio, it was time to look for a manager. Several showed interest, each offering something unique. Doc McGhee just wanted it more. I remember going into a record store with him talking about music, looking at album sleeves and touring programs. We talked about my influences and the big names of the day, like Van Halen and Journey. He told me we could be like them, only bigger. He believed it, and I believed him. I signed the deal.
The record came out in early 1984 and “Runaway” cracked the Top 40. We toured the U.S with the Scorpions — then we went to Europe with KISS, and then to Japan for the first time with Whitesnake.
We learned how to win over a crowd that doesn’t know your name, your songs, or even understand your language, all in 40 minutes or less. To all those who allowed us to open for you, and to learn from you along the way, all around this world, I say thank you.
In 1985, a second record, a couple top 40 hits, another year on the road, and an American gold record set us up for that make-or-break third album: Slippery When Wet, the record that would change our lives. There was magic in the combination of our band, Bruce Fairbairn, Bob Rock, Desmond Child, our A&R guy Derek Shulman, Doc, a little-known studio called Little Mountain, and the city of Vancouver….we would never be the same.
“You Give Love a Bad Name,” “Wanted Dead or Alive,” and “Living on a Prayer.” We were having consistent hits and we finally became a headliner. Everyone that was involved in that record and the tour brought out the best in each other. Many millions of records and hundreds of shows later came the New Jersey album, another five Top 10 singles, millions more records and hundreds more shows. The same team, the same results.
They say, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. It almost killed us. But we lived to become stronger. Thank you to all those who helped write that chapter. To Bruce Fairbairn, who produced Slippery and New Jersey. Thank you for your trust, your faith, patience and kindness. Your memory lives every time we hear those records. Thank you, Doc McGhee, for teaching us the ropes. You were our Colonel Parker and PT Barnum rolled into one.
By 1992, rock music got the kick in the teeth it needed with the Seattle scene. The grunge movement was a turning point in many of my peers’ careers. The big happy anthems of the hedonistic Eighties had gone out of style. There were many of you here who figured we, too, would be out on the street. I opened Bon Jovi Management with Paul Korzilius. Self-management wasn’t the most fashionable statement an artist could make, but thanks to Paul, BJM had a pretty good 25 year run.
As time marches on, Keep the Faith reinvents the band. We continue to have hit singles and were playing the biggest stadiums in the world. Alec leaves the band and Hugh McDonald joins the tour. As the Nineties wind down, we’re writing the next chapter of our careers.
We ring in the new century and introduce ourselves to a new generation with “It’s My Life” on the Crush record, followed by Bounce. In 2005, Jack Rovner joins the team and challenges the status quo. With his help the band wins a Grammy and plants the seeds for what ultimately comes the JBJ Soul Foundation. John Shanks also enters the picture as producer, collaborator, and support system on Have a Nice Day.
Richie and I write “Who Says You Can’t Go Home” and we’re the first rock band to have a #1 country single. Then it’s three more No. 1 albums in a row — Lost Highway, The Circle, and What About Now — things are going pretty well.
“There was an exuberance and a joy that was put into every single note,” – Jon Bon Jovi on This House is Not For Sale
If this was a “Behind the Music” episode, this is where the shit hits the fan. During The Because We Can tour in 2013, Richie is no longer standing at my side. Once again, Phil X answers the call. Tico has not one but two emergency surgeries and we have to have a replacement drummer sit in for eleven stadium shows.
I’m looking at 80,000 faces at Rock in Rio, turn to David, and think ‘I am back in a cover band.’ Hugh, now Phil X, eventually Tico, David and I play a hundred and five shows and still manage to have the years highest grossing tour. By 2014 and 2015, I’m dealing with record company turmoil, as well as the unexpected departure of my creative partner, guitar player, and friend. Then, Jerry Edelstein, my rock, my lawyer and my Godfather, gets ill and has to retire. There was so much loss during this time. My voice had no interest in working for me any longer. I swear, even my guitar gave me the finger. To paraphrase Malcolm X, “There is no better lesson than adversity.”
I sought help anywhere I could find it. Professional, as well as spiritual guides, in the form of my angels, Katie Agresta, Mary Jo DuPrey, John Shanks, Steve Thaxton, Dean Grillo, Steve Cohen, Lou Cox – they all helped put me back together again.
When we went back into the studio in the spring of 2016, there was a renewed sense of pride and purpose. We ended up recording at the same studio where I was a gopher back in 1980. The same studio where I signed my record deal with Polygram in 1983 and where we extended the deal in 2015.
And this time, just like the first time, there was an exuberance and joy put into every note. There was a feeling of a band working together, with something to say. This House is Not for Sale was a band record. David stepped up to fill the creative and emotional gaps that were left behind. Lema, you’ve always been there for me but on this record you were doubly there. Thank you my brother.
Tico, Hugh, Phil, and Billy Falcon poured their hearts into this recond. John Shanks produced every note of this record with pride and urgency to deliver for me what I needed. What I wanted. What we stood for. This House Is Not For Sale entered the charts at #1.
“Time is the most precious commodity we have,” – Jon Bon Jovi
That brings us here tonight amongst this class of 2018. To all of you I say congratulations and thanks for the memories and inspiration of your music. To all of you who have been a part of this incredible ride for the past 35 years and to all the fans who have supported the band we share this honor with you.
This life is a gift. None of it would have been possible without all of you guiding us along the way.
There are so many of you I want to hug and kiss and say thank you to. First, my parents. Without them, I wouldn’t be me. To my brothers, Matt and Tony, who have always stood at my side. Jerry Edelstein, my Godfather, my protector; Charles Sussman, who has filled those big shoes . Paul Korzilius, the one man I’d want in the foxhole with me, thank you for giving me your life. Obie O’Brien, my best friend, loyal confidant, and happiest Eagles fan on earth. Mike Rew, our multi-faceted right hand man for 20-plus years who has given me his best every day. Desmond Child, my friend, you taught me many things along the way. Thanks for your talents.
Billy Falcon, also my dear friend and collaborator, thank you for being the quintessential singer songwriter. Irving Azoff, thank you for taking the reins and believing in us. I know you truly are the Wizard of Oz. David Massey and Eric Wong: you have always believed in and supported us at Island Records. To our family of 35 years, I thank you.
Ken Sunshine and Tiffany Shipp. Aside from teaching me key Yiddish words like “mensch and shmuck,” you’re the tag team that has kept the word out there while always keeping your word.
John Sykes, my friend, your unwavering support throughout my career is without compare. Robert Norman, Alison McGreggor, Chris Dalston and all at CAA, but especially Rob Light, who just refused to take no for an answer. You fought for this. You have delivered throughout my career and have been our corner man and agent for over 25 years.
To my kids, Stephanie, Jesse, Jacob, and Romeo – you’re my greatest hits. You make me proud everyday. I love you all.
And to Dorothea, my everything. You’re the greatest gift God could have given me. You’re there whenever I breathe. I just want to make your tea and tell you how much I love you forever.
Finally, the end of my speech…I know… it’s about time. That’s been the theme of this weekend. It all depends on how you read into those words – it’s about time. About time – the most precious commodity we have. I thank my lucky stars for the time I got to spend with each of you. Alec, Richie, Hugh, Tico, David. To you, to us, to you all…
Tonight, the band that agreed to do me a favor stands before you. So I can say thank you all for making this dream a reality.