Billboard was there for all the action. Here are 12 backstage and behind-the-scenes moments from ceremony at Cleveland’s Public Auditorium.
Richie Sambora Addresses Bon Jovi Future
Richie Sambora’s return to Bon Jovi for the group’s induction couldn’t help but generate speculation about more work together, and the first question in the press room was, in fact, whether the guitarist might rejoin the band full-time. “I think Richie’s got a solo career,” Jon Bon Jovi said, to which Richie responded, “They have to ask me,” to general laughter from the group members.
Howard Stern, Robert Kraft, and More Red Carpet Arrivals
A couple of hundred hearty souls braved an early evening downpour and cold temperatures to cheer red carpet arrivals before the ceremony. Though clearly partisan towards Bon Jovi and the Moody Blues the crowd gave hearty receptions to everyone, even changing “Nina!” when the late Nina Simone’s brother Dr. Samuel Waymon walked the carpet.
Also getting a big welcome was New England Patriots’ owner Robert Kraft, whose appearance inspired pleas to “Buy the Browns!,” Cleveland’s long-beleaguered football team. The Moody Blues’ John Lodge embraced former member Mike Pinder in a faux reunion for the benefit of the cameras, while bandmate Graeme Edge pumped his arms in the air to the crowd, shouting “It’s about time!”
Some additional celebrities walking the red carpet included actress Crystal Fox, The Voice champion Sawyer Fredericks, American Idol finalist Haley Reinhart, ESPN’s Chris Connelly, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, Howard Stern and his wife Beth, and the Killers.
Bon Jovi’s Exclusive Afterparty
While the official Rock Hall afterparty was at the House of Blues, Bon Jovi celebrated its induction and Bon Jovi Day, as declared by the governor of Ohio, with an invitation-only affair at an empty warehouse in Cleveland’s Flats section. Though he declared himself “spent,” Jon Bon Jovi and the rest of the band — including one-night returnees Richie Sambora and Alec John Such — mingled into the wee hours. Paul Shaffer and bandmate Felicia Collins, Alice in Chains’ Jerry Cantrell, members of the Killers, Little Steven Van Zandt and his wife Maureen, and others amidst passed appetizers, pounding DJ music and custom cocktails.
Dire Straits Talks Induction Speech
Dire Straits John Illsley decided to handle the band’s induction speech himself on Saturday morning, when it became apparent the Rock Hall hasn’t found anybody to do it that night (Keith Urban and Neil Young were reportedly approached but declined). “We didn’t have anybody to induct us for all sorts of reasons.,” Illsley said in the press room, “so I said, ‘Would it be crazy if I did it?’ And (producer Alex Colleti) said, ‘What a great idea.’ I sort of wrote it about 15 minutes before we came down, so that why I had to read it out, because I couldn’t remember what I had written down.”
Desmond Child Chokes Up
Desmond Child, who co-wrote some of Bon Jovi’s hits, choked up in the press room when he spoke about seeing Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora together again. “If I start talking about it too much, I’ll start crying. I’m very, very moved by that, and I would love to see them back together. I would.”
Custom Donuts Galore
Cars keyboardist Greg Hawkes and his family made a Saturday mid-day run to Cleveland’s Brewnuts, which in an authorized promotion with the Rock Hall made a different donut each day honoring a specific inductee. The Hawkes bought a dozen of the Cars “All Mixed Up” treats with chocolate icing, Kit Kat bars, M&Ms, fruit slices and Ju-Ju-Bes. “They were really good,” Hawkes said, calling the donut “an extra bonus to being a performing musician. The Bon Jovi “Shot Through The Heart” donut was slated for Sunday.
Jon Bon Jovi Says It Was Worth the Wait
Sipping Pinot Gris backstage after the induction, Jon Bon Jovi told Billboard that the experience was well worth the wait. “I hate to admit it but now I can think it’s better that it didn’t happen nine years ago when we were first eligible,” he said. “I think I just have a deeper appreciation for everything … It’s not taken lightly.” Bon Jovi called playing together again with Sambora and John Such “sweet wonderful, nostalgic.” And while inductor Howard Stern raked Rock Hall co-founder and Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner for a perceived role in block Bon Jovi’s induction, Bon Jovi himself said that, “The truth is I spoke to Jann and we’re totally cool and I’m good with it. I’m really good with it.”
Wenner, who usually kicks off the ceremonies with a speech, was not in Cleveland on Saturday due to health reasons.
Jerry Cantrell Honors Chris Cornell
Alice in Chains’ Jerry Cantrell said he was honored to join Wilson in paying tribute to the late Chris Cornell with a duo rendition of Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun.” “Ann called me and said she was thinking about doing something for our friend and asked me if I’d join her,” Cantrell said in the press room. “Anytime she calls, I’m there, and if it’s for Chris, of course.” Cantrell said later that in addition to spring dates in North America the group will return for more in the fall, after playing in Europe during the summer.
Bon Jovi’s Early Radio Supporters
John Lassman and Chip Hobart, former staffers at WAPP, in New York who Jon Bon Jovi credited with breaking his first single “Runaway,” were in the press room, both now working at KQRS in Minneapolis. When made aware they were there, Bon Jovi brought them onto the stage area and embraced them, thanking them again for their support.
The Cars Celebrate
Cars drummer David Robinson, sporting a bushy grey beard, told Billboard how “nervous” he was at the ceremony. “I don’t speak to the audience, ever, so I don’t know what to say to anybody, and once I see them I get nervous.” Nevertheless he called the induction “fun” and enjoyed the night. “I didn’t drop out of music completely, but almost,” he noted. “That was a big thing to get back in.”
The namesake son of the Cars’ late bassist Benjamin Orr, a Cleveland native, sat at the band’s tables on Saturday but did not take part in accepting on his father’s behalf.
Ann Wilson Discusses Heart’s Future
Ann Wilson, who has a solo covers album, Songs For the Living, Vol. 1, due out this summer, revealed that she filmed and recorded a Chicago concert last week that will be aired on PBS and AXS — “just my performance with some other documentary stuff mixed in. Kind of introducing everyone to what I’m doing now.” Wilson, who inducted the Moody Blues, sounded pessimistic about Heart’s future following a schism last year with sister Nancy. “I do know for a fact that it’ll never go back to being a meat and potatoes, ‘just play the hits and nothing more,’ writing it down old band,” she said. “That’s why I stopped it, because I felt like it was beginning to disintegrate into commercialism. It was chasing the buck. Maybe that’s idealistic, but that’s what I had to do.”
Killers’ Humbled By Tom Petty Tribute
Killers guitarist Ted Sablay told Billboard after the ceremony that the group was stoked to have opened the night paying tribute to the late Tom Petty with “American Girl.” “It was incredible,” Sablay said. “Everyone in the band has a lot of reverence for Tom Petty, so it was a real honor to come and open the show playing one of his songs, simple as that. He’s such an influence on the band it was a real pleasure to come here and do it tonight.
Additional reporting by Erica Banas and Stacey Sherman