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Richard Stephen "Richie" Sambora (born July 11, 1959) is an American rock guitarist, producer, musician, singer, and songwriter who is the longtime lead guitarist of the rock band, Bon Jovi. He and frontman Jon Bon Jovi form the primary songwriting unit of the band. He has also released two solo albums: Stranger in This Town in 1991, and Undiscovered Soul in 1998.
Sambora was born in Perth Amboy, New Jersey, the son of Joan, a secretary, and Adam, a factory foreman. Sambora is of Polish and Italian descent and was raised Catholic. He grew up in Woodbridge, New Jersey and attended Woodbridge High School there, graduating in 1977. He began playing the guitar at the age of 12 following the death of guitar legend Jimi Hendrix in 1970. From his early days Sambora was strongly influenced by blues and 60s rock 'n' roll. His most important influences were Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Johnny Winter, Jimmy Page, Joe Perry and George Harrison. He was also influenced by Spanish classical music and began a life long love of the Spanish guitar. Furthermore, he has stated that psychedelic soul singer Janis Joplin crept into his heart very early in the late 60s and early 70s, having a big influence on his musical style. Classical music directly inspired several of his songs, such as The Answer which was originally written on piano.
He was a guitarist for the band Message, and with that band he gave out a record, which was re-released in 1995 under the name "Message", and in 2000 under the name "Lessons". Bon Jovi added Sambora to replace original lead guitarist Dave Sabo. Sambora went to a show and, after being impressed by Bon Jovi, approached him and informed him that he thought they should work together. They immediately hit it off as friends, and Sambora was invited to a rehearsal. By the time Bon Jovi arrived, the band was sounding better than ever and Sambora was hired on the spot.
Sambora has occasionally taken over as lead vocalist on some Bon Jovi songs, most notably "I'll Be There for You" and "These Days" when played live on the Bounce, Have a Nice Day and Lost Highway tours, while on The Circle Tour he has been performing "Lay Your Hands On Me" and "Homebound Train." He has also performed his solo hit, "Stranger In This Town" during live performances. One of the live performances of "Stranger In This Town", recorded during the Keep the Faith Tour, was released on Bon Jovi's CD single "Dry County" in 1994.
Recent ventures have seen him compose television theme songs for both Entertainment Tonight and The Insider. He (along with Jon Bon Jovi) is part of the Ownership Group of the Philadelphia Soul, an Arena Football League football team.
Sambora made a cameo appearance in The Sims Superstar.
Sambora is featured on the track "Baby Rock Remix", from LL Cool J's upcoming album "Exit 13".
His first solo outing was Stranger in This Town in 1991, a blues-influenced album that was received well by many critics although commercially a relative flop partially due to the more adult tone of the record that was not instantly appealing to Bon Jovi fans. Eric Clapton played the lead guitar track on the song Mr Bluesman, backed by Sambora on acoustic guitars. He did a short US tour in support of the album, featuring Tony Levin (bass), Dave Amato (guitar), Crystal Taliefero (percussion) and Bon Jovi bandmates Tico Torres (drums) and Dave Bryan (keyboards). Ballad of Youth was released in the UK in summer 1991 and despite plugs from The Friday Rock Show on BBC Radio 1 the song barely skimmed the top 75.
Undiscovered Soul was Sambora's second solo album, released in 1998. The album was produced by Don Was. In support of Undiscovered Soul, Sambora toured Japan, Australia and Europe in the summer of 1998. The band featured Richie Supa (guitar), Ron Wikso (drums), Kasim Sulton (bass), Tommy Mandel (keyboards), Everett Bradley (percussion - Japan only), Gioia Bruno (percussion - Australia only) and Crystal Taliefero (percussion - Europe only).
In 1999, Sambora appeared as a guest vocalist on the Stuart Smith album Stuart Smith's Heaven & Earth, performing a cover of the Deep Purple song "When a Blind Man Cries".
Sambora played on a recently released album called Lessons from a band called Message. The album was recorded in the early 1980s.
Sambora sings "Long Way Around" (background audio) during the final scene in the 1997 Steven Seagal action movie Fire Down Below and is featured on the movie's soundtrack.
Sambora also recorded the song "One Last Goodbye" on the soundtrack for the movie The Banger Sisters. He also covered Jimi Hendrix's "The Wind Cries Mary" for the soundtrack of The Adventures of Ford Fairlane, released in 1990.
In 2004, Sanctuary Records released a self-titled album which had been recorded in 1978 by Shark Frenzy, documenting Sambora's first recorded material. The mix tapes had been damaged in a flood and it had taken band member Bruce Foster to remaster them for them to be released so many years later.
Sambora co-wrote several tracks and played guitar on Australian rock/pop artist Shannon Noll's third album, called Turn It Up. It was released in Australia September 15, 2007.
In October 1984, Bon Jovi supported the group Kiss at the Queens Hall in Leeds.
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 US (sales of over 500,000). In 1985, Bon Jovi's second album 7800°Fahrenheit was released, but the response was poor. The turning point came when they brought in songwriter Desmond Child for their third album, Slippery When Wet. With Child co-writing many of their hits on this and future albums the band shot to super-stardom around the world with songs such as "You Give Love a Bad Name", "Livin' On A Prayer", and "Wanted Dead or Alive". The album has sold in excess of 28 million copies worldwide since its release in late 1986.
During their 1986-1987 tour, Jon's attempt to give it his all during live shows (plus the tour's exhausting schedule) greatly strained his vocal cords. In the band's Behind The Music special, he notes that his vocal cords were given steroids to help him sing. With the help of a vocal coach, he was able to continue doing the tour. Contrary to popular belief, Bon Jovi did not have voice damage during the New Jersey Syndicate Tour.
The next album from Bon Jovi was New Jersey released in 1988. The album was recorded very shortly after the tour for Slippery, because the band wanted to prove that they were not just a one hit wonder. The resulting album is a fan favorite and a mammoth commercial success, with hit songs such as "Bad Medicine", "Lay Your Hands on Me" and "I'll Be There for You", which are still nightly stalwarts in their live repertoire.
Despite the band achieving massive success, New Jersey almost led to the end of the band as they went straight back out on the road so soon after the heavy touring for their previous album. This constant living on the road almost destroyed the strong bond between the band members. Sambora is noted on the albums as co-writer for many songs, yet he resented the attention that was heaped on Jon alone. As mentioned in VH1's Behind the Music, the band members note that at the end of the tour, each band member went their separate way, even departing in separate jets after the tour ended in Guadalajara, Mexico in early 1990.
Between 1990 and 1992, members of Bon Jovi went their separate ways after the very rigorous two year New Jersey Tour, which exceeded 200 shows on 5 continents. This time off also helped them determine where Bon Jovi would fit within the rapidly changing music scene upon their return.
In 1992, the band returned with the album Keep the Faith. The album was released in November 1992. Produced by Bob Rock, the album signified an ending to their early metal roots in previous albums and introduced a more "rock n roll"-driven groove to the album. Much more complex, lyrically and musically, the album proved that Bon Jovi could still be a viable band in 90's, despite the industry's and audience's growing affinity for Grunge.
In 1994, Bon Jovi released a "greatest hits" album titled Cross Road, which also contained two new tracks: the hit singles "Always" and "Someday I'll Be Saturday Night". Always spent six months on the Top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 and became one of Bon Jovi's all-time biggest hits. The song peaked at #4 on the U.S. 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 and only lineup change since Bon Jovi began. Hugh McDonald, who was the bassist on "Runaway", unofficially replaced Such as bassist.
Their sixth studio album These Days was released in June 1995 to the most critical acclaim that the band had ever received. With the album These Days, Bon Jovi took the mature rock sound they had developed on Keep the Faith further. The record as a whole was darker and more downbeat than the usual Bon Jovi fare. By 1996, Bon Jovi had established themselves as a force"in the music industry, proving much more durable than most of their 80's glam peers.
After another lengthy hiatus of nearly three years, during which several band members worked on independent projects, Bon Jovi regrouped in 1999 to begin work on their next studio album. Their 2000 release, Crush, enjoyed overwhelming success all around the world, thanks in part to the smash-hit single "It's My Life", co-written by famous Swedish producer Max Martin. Crush, which also produced such hits as "Say it isn't so", and helped introduce Bon Jovi to a new, younger fan base.
In late 2002, Bounce, the band's follow-up to Crush, hit stores. Though Bounce did not enjoy the level of success of its predecessor, the album did produce hit singles such as "Everyday" and the title track.
Bon Jovi's ninth studio album, Have a Nice Day, was released in September 2005. "Have A Nice Day" was the first single off the new album and the second single from the album "Who Says You Can't Go Home", was released in the U.S. in the spring of 2006. 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 made history by becoming the first Rock & Roll Band to have a #1 hit on Billboard's Hot Country Chart. On February 11, 2007, Bon Jovi also won a Grammy Award, for "Best Country Collaboration with Vocals" for "Who Says You Can't Go Home".
In June 2007, Bon Jovi released their 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 US charts since the release of New Jersey in 1988. Thanks to the band's new country music fanbase, 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.
On April 6, 2009, it was announced that the Tribeca Film Festival will screen a Bon Jovi documentary called When We Were Beautiful. The film follows the band on the Lost Highway Tour during 2008. The film is directed by Phil Griffin and will be the centerpiece of the festival and is considered a work-in-progress.In November 2009, Bon Jovi released their latest studio album The Circle.
Instruments & equipment
Sambora has been known to use a wide variety of equipment throughout his career. He has an extensive guitar collection, featuring more than 120 instruments.
In the 80s, Sambora mostly played Kramer, Jackson, Charvel and Hamer superstrats as well as modified and custom Les Paul models, such as his Rod Schoepfer model. In early-mid 1987, Kramer put out a Richie Sambora signature model with three humbuckers, pointy drooped headstock, gold hardware, star-shaped fingerboard inlays and a Floyd Rose Original locking tremolo, which quit production in 1989. Today it has been reissued by MusicYo, and is named "Jersey Star", no longer carrying Sambora's actual name. He had also used several other Kramer models, including a variety of custom ones ("one-offs"). His two most notable guitars from the Slippery When Wet album/tour were his Kramer Richie Sambora signature and a custom white Jackson with gold hardware and a Floyd Rose tremolo, HSS pickup configuration and a reversed Strat-like headstock and a star on the body and headstock. There is also another of his very famous guitars from Kramer, which is a Jersey Star signature double neck used on "Lay Your Hands On Me".
During the following years Sambora played various guitars, most notably a custom black Jackson, which featured only a humbucking pickup in the bridge position, Floyd Rose tremolo system and a maple neck and fretboard with a reversed Strat-like headstock, along with vintage Fenders and Gibsons.
In 1991, Fender issued a Richie Sambora signature Stratocaster model which featured an original Floyd Rose tremolo system and an HSS combination of DiMarzio PAF Pro humbucking and 2 Fender Texas Special single-coil pickups. This guitar came in two versions; American and later in 1996, Japanese. US-made Sambora model featured an alder body with ash veneers and was available in Cherry Sunburst and Olympic White, while the Japanese version had an alder body with black paisley graphics (ltd) and a Snow White Finish. Other features included a one-piece maple neck/fingerboard with 22 frets and star-shaped position markers, as well as a 25dB active mid-boost circuit (US version only) with TBX (US & Japanese) tone controls and an active/passive push-button switch.
In the 1995 video Live from London, Sambora uses a custom orange burst double neck Fender Stratocaster with traditional maple neck with star inlays, locking tremolo (on the lower neck).He uses this guitar on the song 'Lay Your Hands On Me' on the London DVD.
There was also a Mexican-made standard version of the instrument, featuring a DiMarzio PAF humbucking pickup in the bridge position and two standard single-coils in the neck and middle positions. The guitar also sported a rosewood fingerboard with 21 frets and white dot inlays, as well as a Floyd Rose II locking bridge. Both the US and Mexican-made Sambora models were discontinued in 2002, though now there is a Fender Standard Series Stratocaster HSS Locking Tremolo with about the same specs as Sambora's own guitar, but its only available through Guitar Center.
Sambora has used Ovation acoustic-electric guitars from the early 1980s until today. He played a custom-made doubleneck designed by his longtime guitar technician Gary "Gaz" Douglas which is featured on many "unplugged" versions of Bon Jovi songs such as "Wanted Dead Or Alive" and a variety of other Ovations, such as the Adamas hybrid wood/graphite model.
In 2000, Taylor started the production of a Richie Sambora signature model, a 6-string acoustic made of koa wood, called the RSSM. Only 100 were made all in the year of 2000. All of his double neck acoustics feature a 6 string neck on top and a 12 string neck on bottom, opposite of the normal manufacturing standard.
Since Sambora has been known to use his favourite Martin acoustic, among others, on a lot of recordings, Martin guitars put out two of Sambora's signature models in 2006, a 6-string and a 12-strings, based on his mentioned favourite 1930 Martin OM-45. He has also been seen using a Yamaha double neck acoustic at specific live shows.He still plays a variety of Fenders, apparently over 40 Stratocasters (mostly vintage, American Deluxe and Custom Shop models), such as the Telecaster doubleneck used on "Have a Nice Day." Sambora also has a '59 ash-body Telecaster used for These Days and Someday I'll Be Saturday Night.
In the period of 2003-2006, he played a wide variety guitars on stage, including custom "Sambora" guitars built by his guitar tech Chris "Lumpy" Hofschneider, Zemaitis Guitars, Floyd Rose guitars, Ovation, Taylor and Martin guitars, vintage and Custom Shop Gibson and Fender models, as well as guitars from his collection. One of the guitars built by his guitar tech features a fretboard made of both maple and rosewood, on an ash body with neck-through-body construction and a custom humbucking/single/single pickup layout. Currently, he mostly plays the custom black "Sambora" guitar (which is now a custom model called Sambora SA-2 for ESP), different models of Gibson Les Pauls and Fender Telecasters and Stratocasters (American Vintage, American Deluxe, Custom Shop and other models).
Sambora also used Gibson and Guild acoustics, particularly a Guild F-50 12-string, which he used on the song "Wanted Dead or Alive". He acquired this guitar directly from the Guild factory due to it having a finish flaw.
For most of the 80s and early-mid 90s, he used Marshall amplifiers, particularly the JCM800 models with 4x12" speaker cabinets and a variety of rack and pedal units (including effects). During his Stranger in This Town tour, Sambora used 2 Marshall JCM800 2203 heads and a Fender amp head (model not specified), with 3 4x12" Marshall cabinets. In 1995, Sambora started using Fender ToneMasters with Fender ToneMaster 4x12" speaker cabinets, following the These Days Tour. On tour, he used up to 12 cabinets on stage. For the studio sessions of his second solo album, Undiscovered Soul, he also used a Fender Bassman 4x10" combo and a Vox AC30. On the tour, he used Fender ToneMasters, a Marshall amp head, a Vox amp head and a VHT Pitbull in combination with Fender ToneMaster 4x12" and 2x12" speaker cabinets. In 2000, Sambora started using the Marshall JCM2000 DSL series (both on the tour and recording sessions of Crush). The song "It's My Life" was also recorded with a Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier. He has also used the Marshall DSL series on the Bounce tour, as well as a Hughes & Kettner amp, occasionally. During their Have a Nice Day tour, Sambora used Diezel and Divided by 13 amplification and custom made 4x12" speaker cabinets. During the studio recording sessions of the Lost Highway album, he used Matchless, Bogner Ecstasy and Diezel Herbert amps. In 2007, he started appearing on stage with 2 halfstacks, again featuring Marshall JCM2000 DSL amplifiers and custom made 4x12" cabinets.
In late 2007, Sambora became an endorsee of The ESP Guitar Company, and a new Richie Sambora signature model, the LTD SA-2, is being debuted at the 2008 Winter NAMM show.
According to "Young Guitar" (Japanese magazine), Richie Sambora use (during the Tokyo shows in 2008) an A/B box, Frampton Talkbox, Jimi Hendrix Dunlop Wah, Keeley Sd-1, Stock SD-1, Roger Mayer Octavia (butane paintjob), Boss CH-1, EHX Electric Mistress Deluxe. He also uses a MIDI rig.
Now, from 2010/2011, Sambora is using a rack system. Some effects the rack includes are: Furman Power Conditioner, Lexicon and Eventide rack effects. Some of the pedals that Sambora is using on the Circle tour are: BOSS OD-1, Hermida Audio Zendrive, Tone Freak Effects Naked OD and Abunai 2, Klon Centaur, Analog Man Octron, EHX Micro POG,Tone Freak Effects MelloTremo, BBE Soul Vibe, Retro-Sonic Chorus, MXR EVH Flanger, MXR Phase 90, Maxon Auto Filter, EHX Deluxe Memory Man. These effects are all run by a MIDI Controller. The effects he has running from his guitar to his amp are: BOSS TU-2 Chromatic Tuner, Moollon Wah, and an Ernie Ball Volume Pedal.
Public Service & recognition
Over the years, Sambora has been an ardent fundraiser for many charities, such as Dream Street, the Steve Young Forever Young Foundation and Michael J Fox's Parkinson's disease charity. He has donated money privately to various cancer charities since the death of his father, including both hospitals where his father was treated, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and M D Anderson. Sambora's fundraising with the charity Stand Up For a Cure allowed for three mobile full service hospital units to be brought to the streets of New York, two of which were named after his parents, respectively.
In May 2004, Sambora was bestowed with an Honorary Doctorate of Letters by Kean University where he attended the awards ceremony and gave a speech of acceptance. He attended Kean University as a freshman, but then dropped out to pursue a career as a professional guitarist and session musician.
Sambora and Jon Bon Jovi were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame on June 18, 2009.
On November 24, 2009, Sambora launched the charitable effort You Can Go Home in his home town of Woodbridge, New Jersey, which unveiled a street renamed Richie Sambora Way. He also donated funds to renovate part of his alma mater Woodbridge High School, which opened a new weight room, the Adam Sambora Fitness Center, dedicated to Sambora's father.
Sambora had a relationship with The Breakfast Club star Ally Sheedy, but the couple eventually separated. Sheedy publicly accused Sambora of being the reason she started abusing drugs, which he called "ludicrous and false".On the Upswing Sambora married actress Heather Locklear in Paris on December 17, 1994. Daughter Ava Elizabeth Sambora was born October 4, 1997. Locklear filed for divorce in February 2006 citing irreconcilable differences. The divorce was finalized on April 11, 2007. Just nine days later, on April 20, Sambora's father Adam died of lung cancer. Sambora resides in Los Angeles and owns a beach house in Laguna Beach as well as other properties.
On June 7, 2007, it was announced that Sambora was entering an "undisclosed rehab facility in Los Angeles" for treatment related to alcoholism. Following his release, he told an interviewer, "I was just drinking too much and I needed to get my life together. I'm still in therapy and stuff like that, but it's good. I'm great. I feel fine." In the Bon Jovi documentary "When We Were Beautiful", Sambora talks candidly about his addiction to painkillers following a slip in his bathroom. He credited his bandmates and mother with helping him through the difficult time.
On April 28, 2011, it was announced that Sambora had made the decision to enter rehab again. The date of entry into the facility has yet to be announced but the band made an official statement that it will result in his absence from some shows during the Bon Jovi Live tour. This is Sambora's second stint in rehab and was announced just a week after he finished probation for drunk driving charges. Sambora returned to join the band in June 2011 in Zagreb, Croatia for the start of the European leg of the tour.
On March 26, 2008, Sambora was arrested for drunk driving in Laguna Beach, California. At the time, his ten-year-old daughter and her friend were both in his Hummer. He was pulled over at 10:52pm after an officer noticed his car "weaving on the road", but was "quiet and cooperative and didn't cause any problems." At his May 2008 arraignment, he pled no contest "to driving with a blood alcohol level of .08 or higher", was fined $390, placed on probation for three years, and was required to attend a drivers education course.
Other album appearances
With Shark Frenzy
With Bon Jovi
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