More than four years after his surprising and somewhat acrimonious departure from Bon Jovi, guitarist Richie Sambora is looking forward to a warm reunion with his former bandmates at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony during April in Cleveland.
“It’s the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame — it’ll be a joyous occasion,” Sambora tells Billboard after Bon Jovi was announced as part of the Rock Hall’s class of 2018, joining the Cars, Dire Straits, the Moody Blues, Nina Simone and “Early Influence” Sister Rosetta Tharpe. “I was there for 31 years and we sold 150 million records or something and we put a lot of asses in seats in stadiums around the world and made a lot of people happy. I did so many different jobs in that band, so, yeah, I’m showing up for that. Everybody should have a smile on their face and a smile in their hearts and it should be a celebration of what we did.”
Earlier on Wednesday Jon Bon Jovi — who was inducted with Sambora into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2009 — confirmed that Sambora would be joining the band at the ceremony, telling Billboard that, “He was my right hand for a long time, so there was never ill will, just like I told everybody. (He) just didn’t show up anymore. We went on, but he was there for three decades and he should be there to celebrate the moment. So he’ll be invited to join the rest of the band in all of the festivities.”
Sambora — who now works in a duo with his fellow guitarist and girlfriend Orianthi — says that he “wasn’t fixated” on a Bon Jovi induction into the Rock Hall, even after the group’s initial nomination during 2011. Now that it’s been elected, however, he’s nothing but happy. “It’s great to be recognized for anything you do,” he says. “It’s fabulous to be in line with the greats and your heroes that you grew up listening to and emulating. When you put me in line with the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan and the Beatles and everyone else who’s there, it’s a big honor.”
Sambora hasn’t yet spoken to any of the other Bon Jovi members about the induction, and he’s happy to play whatever is selected for the ceremony, which takes place April 14 and will be filmed for subsequent broadcast by HBO. “There were a lot of great songs,” he notes. “The songs that touched people are the songs I imagine will be played.” And Sambora has no regrets about what seemed at the time like an abrupt decision to quite the group he joined in 1983.
“Being in something that big at that time, it’s so consuming,” he recalls. “It was so big you didn’t really have a chance to individualize yourself in a way. And also, too, what happens is you’re in a band for 30-some odd years and people are going in different direction. Some people want to be doing that. Some people want to be doing this, maybe be home. I wanted to be home with my daughter and take care of my family, things like that. There were a lot of different things pulling me away.
“I did it for 31 years — I think that was a pretty good tenure. We did alright.”
These days Sambora is equally positive about his work with Orianthi as RSO. The duo released an EP, Rise, in September and have a second, Making History, out on Dec. 15, along with a Sambora seasonal song “One Night Of Peace.” And there will be even more in the near future as RSO plans to release a series of EPs into 2018, as well as tour.
“The way the business is now, it doesn’t happen the way it used to,” Sambora explains. “We have 25 masters ready. I would’ve been very, very happy putting out a double album, but I don’t think the public could ingest that at this point. It’s just a different time…about how people are getting music. You can’t give them too much at once. So we just decided to put out five EPs over a specific period of time and keep playing gigs. I think people are going to enjoy it, man; It’s diverse but it holds together ’cause Ori and I, we found a good sound between us and there’s not much else like it out there. I’m really, really proud of what we’re doing.”