Lead singer Jon Bon Jovi (John Bongiovi) began to play piano and guitar at thirteen, using Elton John songs. At that same age, Bongiovi founded his first band, called Raze. At 16 Jon met David Bryan (David Bryan Rashbaum) in high school (Sayreville War Memorial High School ) and founded an R&B cover band with him named Atlantic City Expressway. They played at New Jersey clubs, even though they were minors. Still in his teens, Jon played in the band Jon Bon Jovi and the Wild Ones, playing New Jersey clubs like the Fast Lane and opening for known acts in the area.
By the summer of 1982, out of school and working part-time – including in a shoe store – Jon finally got a job at the Power Station Studios, a New York recording facility where his cousin, Tony Bongiovi, was the co-owner. Jon made several demos (including one produced by Billy Squier) and sent them out to many record companies – but failed to make an impact.
At nineteen, Jon had his first recording experience, singing the song “R2-D2 We Wish You a Merry Christmas” on a Star Wars Christmas album, “Christmas With the Stars”, with music by John Williams, produced by Tony Bongiovi at the Power Station and released on the RSO label.
In 1983, a local radio station, WAPT, had a contest to search for the best unsigned band. Jon used studio musicians to play on the track “Runaway” (which was written in 1980). After it won the contest, it quickly became a popular song in the New York City area in the summer of 1983. The studio musicians who helped Jon to record “Runaway” were known as “The All Star Review” and they were Tim Pierce (guitar), Roy Bittan (keyboards), Frankie LaRocka (drums) and Hugh McDonald (bass).
Jon desperately needed a band. The members of Bon Jovi had crossed paths in these early days, but the current lineup didn’t come together until March of 1983 after “Runaway” which hit No.39 on the singles chart. Jon gave Dave a call, who in turn called Alec John Such and Tico Torres.
A succession of guitarists (including Dave Sabo, who went on to Skid Row) followed, until Richie Sambora signed on. Alec talked Jon into letting Richie show what he could do, and Jon loved it. Before joining Bon Jovi, Richie had toured with Joe Cocker, played with a group called Mercy and had just been called up to audition for KISS. He also played in the album “Lessons” with the band Message, that has been recently rereleased in CD through Long Island Records.
Tico Torres was also an experienced musician by then. He had jammed with Miles Davis and played live with the Marvelettes and Chuck Berry. He had played on about 26 records and had just recorded his third album with Frankie and the Knockouts (a Jersey band with hit singles in the early 1980s).
David Bryan was a natural recruit. He had quit the band he and Jon founded to go to college, then quit college to go to Juilliard School, the famous classical music school.
At one show, where they opened for Scandal, the band caught the attention of record exec Derek Shulman, who signed them to PolyGram.
The debut album came out on January 21, 1984. The album went gold (sales of over 500,000) and was also released in the UK. The guys found themselves opening for ZZ Top at the Madison Square Garden (before their first album had been released), Scorpions and KISS (in Europe).
Their third album, Slippery When Wet, shot the band to superstar status around the world with hits such as “You Give Love a Bad Name”, “Livin’ On A Prayer”, and “Wanted Dead or Alive”. The album has sold in excess of twelve million copies since its release in late 1986. On the tour that followed, Jon began having vocal difficulties. The extreme high notes and unrelenting schedule threatened to damage his voice permanently. With the help of a vocal coach, he made it through the tour. Jon has tended to sing slightly lower since then.
Alec John Such left the band in the early 1990s. While he has not been officially replaced, Hugh McDonald has handled studio and live bass duties since then.
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. They have also been nominated twice for the smash hit “It’s My Life” and two songs from the album Bounce, “Misunderstood” and “Everyday”.
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”, “Prayer ’94”, “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.
On November 2nd 2009 Bon Jovi released their 11th studio album and it is called: The Circle. The first single off the album is slated to hit radio on August 31st and is called “We Weren’t Born To follow.” All this info has been confirmed by Bon Jovi’s engineer Obie O’brien.
In 2011, Bon Jovi expressed interest in purchasing 15% of the Atlanta Falcons for 150 million dollars.
Over the past 25 years, Bon Jovi has sold over 120 million albums worldwide, 34 million in the United States alone.