Bon Jovi formed in 1983 with lead singer Jon Bon Jovi, guitarist Richie Sambora, keyboardist David Bryan, bassist Alec John Such, and drummer Tico Torres. Other than the departure of Alec John Such in 1994 (which pared the lineup down to a quartet), the lineup has remained the same for the past 25 years. After two moderately successful albums in 1984 and 1985, the band scored big with Slippery When Wet (1986) and New Jersey (1988), which sold a combined 19 million copies in the U.S. alone, charted eight Top Ten hits (including four number one hits), and launched the band into global super stardom. After non-stop touring, the band went on hiatus after the New Jersey Tour in 1990, during which time Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora both released successful solo albums. In 1992, the band returned with the double platinum Keep the Faith and has since created a string of platinum albums throughout the 1990s and 2000s.
In 2006, the band won a Grammy for best Country Collaboration for "Who Says You Can't Go Home" with Jennifer Nettles from Sugarland and also became the first rock band to reach #1 on the Hot Country Songs chart with the same song. The band has also received multiple Grammy nominations for music from the albums Crush, Bounce, and Lost Highway.
Throughout their career, the band has released ten studio albums, of which nine have gone platinum. In addition, the band has charted 19 singles to the Top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100, four of which reached #1 ("You Give Love a Bad Name", "Livin' on a Prayer", "Bad Medicine", and "I'll Be There for You"). The band also holds the record for the most weeks for a hard rock album at #1 on the Billboard 200 with Slippery When Wet, as well as the most Top 10 singles from a hard rock album, with New Jersey, which charted five such singles.
Founding member Jon Bon Jovi began to play piano and guitar at thirteen with his first band, called Raze. He was enrolled in an all-boys Catholic school, St. Joseph High School in Metuchen, New Jersey, but left to attend public school at Sayreville War Memorial High School. At sixteen, Bon Jovi met David Bryan (born David Bryan Rashbaum) and formed a 12-piece cover band named Atlantic City Expressway after the New Jersey highway. They played at New Jersey clubs, even though they were minors. Still in his teens, Bon Jovi played in the band John Bongiovi and the Wild Ones, playing local clubs like "The Fast Lane" and opening for known acts in the area.
By mid-1982, out of school and working part-time in a women's shoe store, Bon Jovi took a job at the Power Station Studios, a Manhattan recording facility where his cousin, Tony Bongiovi, was a co-owner. Bon Jovi made several demos (including one produced by Billy Squier) and sent them out to many record companies, but failed to make an impact.
In 1983, Bon Jovi visited the local radio station WAPP 103.5FM "The Apple" in Lake Success, New York. He spoke directly to the D.J., Chip Hobart, who suggested Bon Jovi let WAPP include the song "Runaway" on a compilation album of local homegrown talent. Bon Jovi was reluctant but eventually gave them the song on which Bon Jovi had used studio musicians to play on the track "Runaway" (originally written in 1980). The studio musicians who helped record "Runaway" were known as The All Star Review. They were: guitarists Dave Sabo and Tim Pierce, keyboardist Roy Bittan, drummer Frankie LaRocka and bassist Hugh McDonald.
The song began to get airplay in the New York area, then other sister stations in major markets picked up the song. In March 1983 Bon Jovi called David Bryan, who in turn called bassist Alec John Such and an experienced drummer named Tico Torres.
Richie Sambora became the band's lead guitarist.
Before joining the group, Sambora had toured with Joe Cocker, played with a group called Mercy and had been called up to audition for Kiss. He also played on the album Lessons with the band Message, which was re-released on CD through Long Island Records in 1995. Message was originally signed to Led Zeppelin's Swan Song Records label, although the album was never released.
Drummer Tico Torres was also an experienced musician, having recorded and played live with Phantom's Opera, The Marvelettes, and Chuck Berry. He appeared on 26 records and had recently recorded with Franke and the Knockouts, a Jersey band with hit singles during the early 1980s.
David Bryan had quit the band he and Bon Jovi founded in order to study medicine. While in college, he realized he wanted to pursue music full-time and was accepted to Juilliard School, the New York music school. When Bon Jovi called his friend and said he was putting together a band and a record deal looked likely, Bryan followed Bon Jovi's lead and gave up his studies.
The Bon Jovi lineup, which remained stable for a decade, was:
With the help of their new manager Doc McGhee, the band's debut album, Bon Jovi, was released on January 21, 1984. The album went gold in the U.S. (sales of over 500,000) and was also released in the UK. The group found themselves opening for ZZ Top at Madison Square Garden (before their first album had been released), and for Scorpions and Kiss in Europe. They also made an appearance on the popular television program American Bandstand.
In 1985, Bon Jovi's second album 7800° Fahrenheit was released. While embarking on a tour opening up for Ratt, the album received a poor response by critics. The leading British metal magazine Kerrang!, which had been very positive about the debut record, called the album "a pale imitation of the Bon Jovi we have got to know and learned to love." Jon Bon Jovi himself later said it could have and should have been better.
They brought in songwriter Desmond Child for their third album, Slippery When Wet. With Child co-writing many of their hits, the band shot to super-stardom around the world with songs "You Give Love a Bad Name", "Livin' On A Prayer", and "Wanted Dead or Alive". Bon Jovi has said the album was named after the ubiquitous highway warning signs, but Bryan has said the following about the album's title:
"During the recording of the record we frequently wound up in a striptease club where incredibly good looking girls were putting water and soap on each other. They became so slippery because of that, that you couldn't hold on to them even if you wanted to really bad. 'Slippery when wet!' one of us yelled out and the rest of us immediately knew: that had to be the title of the new album! Originally we were going to put a picture of some huge breasts, the really big ones, on the cover; but when the PMRC [a moral board chaired by Tipper Gore, wife of future Vice President Al Gore ] found out, we were in big trouble. So we made it into a very decent cover."
The album has sold in excess of 26 million copies worldwide since its release in late 1986. In 1987, the band headlined England's "Monsters of Rock" festival with Dio, Metallica, W.A.S.P., Anthrax, and Cinderella. The tour took its toll on singer Jon Bon Jovi when he began having vocal difficulties. The extremely high notes and unrelenting schedule threatened to damage his voice permanently. With the help of a vocal coach, he made it through the tour. Bon Jovi has tended to sing slightly lower pitches since then.
The next album was 1988's New Jersey. The album was recorded shortly after the tour for Slippery. The resulting album was a commercial success, with hit songs "Bad Medicine", "Lay Your Hands on Me" and "I'll Be There for You", which are still in their live repertoire. New Jersey was a commercial hit and became the first hard rock album to spawn five Top Ten singles. "Bad Medicine" and "I'll Be There for You" both hit number one, and "Born to Be My Baby" (#3), "Lay Your Hands on Me" (#7), and "Living in Sin" (#9) rounded out the list.
New Jersey was supported by video releases such as New Jersey: The Videos and Access All Areas, as well as a massive 18-month tour, originally billed as The Jersey Syndicate Tour. In 1989, the band headlined the Moscow Music Peace Festival along with the Scorpions, Ozzy Osbourne, Mötley Crüe, and Skid Row.
Jon Bon Jovi recorded a solo album, a soundtrack to the movie Young Guns II, more commonly known as Blaze of Glory, (in which he had an extremely brief cameo). Released in 1990, the album featured high profile guests such as Elton John, Little Richard, and Jeff Beck. The album fared well commercially, received positive reviews and quickly achieved platinum status. The title track, "Blaze of Glory", hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100 and earned Jon an Academy Award nomination for Best Song. "Blaze of Glory" was awarded a Golden Globe.
Sambora, with the help of Tico Torres and David Bryan, released a solo album entitled Stranger In This Town, in 1991. The album featured Eric Clapton on the song "Mr. Bluesman". David Bryan recorded a soundtrack for the horror movie The Netherworld, which was the brighter part of that year after he was hospitalized with an illness caused by a South American parasite.
In 1992, the band met together and managed to resolve their differences by allowing each member to speak about his feelings without interruption from another. Upon resolving their issues, the band returned with the album Keep the Faith. Produced by Bob Rock, it featured more a mature sound and lyrical content. Singles "Bed of Roses", "Keep the Faith" and "In These Arms", all hit the Top 40 in the U.S. Other songs on the album were released as singles internationally, mainly "Dry County", "I Believe", and "I'll Sleep When I'm Dead."
In 1994, Bon Jovi released a greatest hits album titled Cross Road, with two new tracks: the hit singles "Always" and "Someday I'll Be Saturday Night", as well as an updated rendition of "Livin' on a Prayer" entitled "Prayer '94", available only on the U.S. version. "Always" was originally written for a soundtrack to the film Romeo Is Bleeding, but after seeing (and disliking) the movie, the band decided not to lend the song to the producers and instead released it on "Cross Road". The video for "Always" featured Carla Gugino, an actress known for her roles in several TV shows' and films such as Son In Law and actor Jack Noseworthy, best known for his role in the 2000 film U-571. "Always" spent thirty-two weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 and became one of Bon Jovi's biggest hits. The song peaked at #4 on the US charts and at #1 in countries across Europe, Asia and in Australia. The single sold very well, going platinum in the U.S.
That same year, bassist Alec John Such left the band, the first lineup change since Bon Jovi began. Hugh McDonald, who was the bassist on "Runaway", unofficially replaced Such as bassist, with rumors that he had also recorded bass on previous albums. Jon Bon Jovi said, regarding the departure of Such: "Of course it hurts. But I learned to accept and respect it. The fact that I'm a workaholic, studio in, studio out, stage on, stage off, want to be dealing with music day and night, doesn't mean everyone else has to adjust to that pace. Alec wanted to quit for a while now, so it didn't come as a complete surprise."
The 1995 album These Days went platinum in the U.S. and topped the UK charts. It spun off one hit single in the U.S., "This Ain't a Love Song". Other tracks proved to be popular European singles, including "Hey God", "Something for the Pain", "Lie to Me", and the title track.
At the end of the These Days Tour, the band once again decided to take a break and pursue other interests. Tico used the opportunity further pursue his painting while David started writing and composing various musicals. In 1998, Richie released his second solo outing called Undiscovered Soul.
Jon had also been bitten by the acting bug. He landed lead roles in movies Little City and The Leading Man, and supporting roles in Moonlight and Valentino, Homegrown, and U-571, among others. While he was free between filming different movies, Jon wrote what would become his second solo album, 1997's Destination Anywhere. The album received positive reviews and was a success across Europe. A short movie of the same name was recorded around the record's release, based entirely on the songs from the record and starring Jon Bon Jovi, Demi Moore, Kevin Bacon and Whoopi Goldberg. Dave Stewart of Eurythmics played guitar on the record, and produced some of the tracks.
Bon Jovi reunited in 1999 to record the song "Real Life" for the movie EdTV. David Bryan didn't make it to the filming of the video for the song because of a hand injury sustained in a home improvement mishap, so the band used a cardboard cutout of him for the shoot.
The Crush Tour, which began that summer, originally encompassed only 60 or so shows and was extended because of demand, with the band remaining on tour through mid-2001. While on tour, Bon Jovi released a collection of live performances from throughout their career in an album entitled, One Wild Night: Live 1985-2001. The Crush tour was notable in that the European 2000 leg included the band headlining two nights at Wembley Stadium. These were the final shows at the venue before it was demolished. Shortly after the September 11, 2001 attacks, the band performed as part of the star-studded The Concert for New York City benefit for victims and their families. They performed an acoustic medley of "Livin' on a Prayer" and "Wanted Dead or Alive" with a stirring finale of "It's My Life".
In late 2002, Bounce hit stores. It produced hit singles "Everyday" and the title track. The band went on the U.S. Bounce Tour for this album, during which they made history as the last band to play Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia before it was torn down. The band also released a promotional album through Target, featuring eight demo and live tracks.
Following the end of the Bounce Tour in August 2003, Bon Jovi embarked on a project; originally intending to produce an album consisting of live acoustic performances, the band ended up rewriting, re-recording and reinventing 12 of their biggest hits in a new and much different light. This Left Feels Right was released in November 2003.
The following year the band released a box set entitled 100,000,000 Bon Jovi Fans Can't Be Wrong, the title being an homage to Elvis Presley's 50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can't Be Wrong. The set consisted of four CDs packed with 38 unreleased and 12 rare tracks, as well as a DVD. The box set marked the sales of 100 million Bon Jovi albums and also commemorated the 20th anniversary of the release of the band's first record in 1984.
In November 2004, Bon Jovi was honored with the Award for Merit at the American Music Awards, where they performed a sneak preview of an unfinished song, "Have a Nice Day". Bon Jovi also participated in Live 8 on July 2, 2005, where they debuted the full, final version of "Have a Nice Day", alongside "Livin' on a Prayer" and "It's My Life". On August 20, 2005, the band headlined Miller Brewing Co.'s Big Brew-Ha, celebrating its 150th anniversary. The free stadium concert at Miller Park in Milwaukee included one preview song from the band's forthcoming album.
Bon Jovi's ninth studio album, Have a Nice Day, was released in September 2005. The album topped the charts around the world, giving Bon Jovi its career-best first week sales of over 202,000 albums. "Have A Nice Day" was the first single off the new album, and debuted at radio worldwide on July 18, 2005. The second single, "Who Says You Can't Go Home", was released in the U.S. in early 2006, although internationally it was the third single release after "Welcome to Wherever You Are". In the U.S. a duet version of "Who Says You Can't Go Home" with country singer Jennifer Nettles of the band Sugarland was released, and in May 2006, Bon Jovi became the first Rock & Roll Band to have a #1 hit on Billboard's Hot Country Chart. On February 11, 2007, Bon Jovi also won the Grammy Award, for "Best Country Collaboration with Vocals" for "Who Says You Can't Go Home".
Soon after the release of Have A Nice Day, the band started gearing up for the new 2005-2006 worldwide Have A Nice Day Tour. This tour, being shorter than previous ones with only seventy-five shows originally planned, took the band to numerous stages and arenas throughout the world. During the tour, Bon Jovi performed as the headlining act at Nascar's Daytona 500 on February 19, 2006. Originally it was planned for them to be the first act to perform at the new Wembley Stadium in London, but the stadium's rebuilding project was delayed until 2007. The concerts were therefore moved to the Milton Keynes National Bowl and Hull, KC Stadium with the same performance dates. Following dates in Japan and Europe, Bon Jovi extended the tour and returned to the U.S. in 2006 for a few stadium shows, including 3 sold-out shows in the band's native New Jersey at Giants Stadium. On February 7, 2006, a promotional album, Live from the Have a Nice Day Tour, was released through Wal-Mart, which contained six live tracks recorded in December 2005 in Boston. Three of these tracks were released in the U.K. in June 2006 as B-sides on the single "Who Says You Can't Go Home".
On November 14, 2006, Bon Jovi were inducted into the UK Music Hall of Fame alongside James Brown and Led Zeppelin, joining music legends such as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, U2, Madonna and Elvis Presley. They will not be eligible for the U.S. equivalent until 2009.
With the end of the Have A Nice Day Tour, Bon Jovi began to throw around ideas for their next project. Among the potential offerings were going to Nashville to record with country stars (following the success of "Who Says You Can't Go Home"), a second greatest hits CD, a new studio album, and even new movies.
In June 2007, Bon Jovi released their tenth studio album, Lost Highway. The album debuted at number #1 on the Billboard charts, the first time that Bon Jovi have had a number one album on the U.S. charts since the release of New Jersey in 1988. The album sold 292,000 copies in its first week on sale in the U.S., and became Bon Jovi's third US number one album. The first single from the new album was "(You Want to) Make a Memory", which debuted (and peaked) at #27 in the Billboard Hot 100, Bon Jovi's highest ever debut in the U.S. charts. The album reached Number #1 in Japan, Canada, Australia and Europe, and reached number #2 in the UK.
To promote the new album, Bon Jovi made several television appearances, including the 6th annual CMT Awards in Nashville, American Idol, and MTV Unplugged, as well as playing at the Live Earth concert at Giants Stadium They also performed ten promotional gigs in the U.S., Canada, the UK and Japan. As part of the 'tour', Bon Jovi were the first group to perform at London's new O2 Arena (formerly the Millennium Dome) when it opened to the public on June 24, 2007. The 23,000-seater stadium sold out within 30 minutes of tickets being released.
On June 6, 2007, Richie Sambora checked himself into a rehabilitation facility. This meant that he missed a concert in Puerto Rico as well as several television appearances, with backup guitarist Bobby Bandiera taking his place. He checked out on June 13, and was present for Bon Jovi's remaining summer concerts.
When questioned on American Idol, Jon Bon Jovi stated that the band would embark on a tour beginning in January, after playing ten dates in New Jersey in the fall. According to Richie Sambora this tour would be a greatest hits tour, so it would not be in direct support of Lost Highway. However, in October 2007 the band announced the Lost Highway Tour. Starting with the New Jersey gigs, the band are touring Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, the U.S. and then Europe, finishing in the summer. In early December 2007 the band took time off from their Canadian tour to become the first ever American band to headline the Royal Variety Performance in Liverpool, England, performing in front of the Queen herself. The U.S. leg of the tour began February 18, 2008 in Omaha, Nebraska.