Jon Bon Jovi was born John Francis Bongiovi, Jr. in Perth Amboy, the son of two former Marines, barber John Francis Bongiovi, Sr. and Playboy Bunny turned florist Carol Sharkey. He has two brothers, Anthony and Matthew. His father was of Italian and Slovak ancestry and his mother was of German and Russian descent. John attended St. Joseph High School, in Metuchen, during his freshman and sophomore years and later transferred to Sayreville War Memorial High School in Parlin.
John spent most of his adolescence skipping school to opt for music activities instead, and ended up playing in local bands with friends and his cousin Tony Bongiovi, who owned the then famous New York recording studio, The Power Station. As a result, his academic records displayed poor grades. By the time he was 16, John Bongiovi was playing clubs. It was not long before he joined up with keyboardist David Bryan, who played with him in a ten-piece rhythm and blues band called Atlantic City Expressway. John also performed with bands called The Rest, The Lechers and John Bongiovi and the Wild Ones.
When he was seventeen, John was working sweeping floors at his cousin Tony Bongiovi’s recording studio. In 1980, when Meco was there recording Christmas in the Stars: The Star Wars Christmas Album, Bongiovi recommended Bon Jovi for the song “R2-D2 We Wish You A Merry Christmas.” This became his first professional recording (credited as John Bongiovi). He left in 1983 when he got a record deal.
Bon Jovi recorded a song, Runaway, one of a few songs John wrote during his bus travels from Sayreville to The Power Station. He went to several record companies, including Atlantic Records and Mercury (PolyGram), but they all turned him down.
He visited major rock station WAPP 103.5FM “The Apple” in New York City. He spoke directly to the promotion director John Lassman, who accepted the song “Runaway” for inclusion on the station’s compilation album of local homegrown talent. Bon Jovi was initially reluctant to have it included but eventually gave them the song. The studio musicians who helped record “Runaway” – known as The All Star Review – were guitarist Tim Pierce, keyboardist Roy Bittan, drummer Frankie LaRocka, and bassist Hugh McDonald.
Runaway became a local hit on the charts. Along the way, Mercury gave Bon Jovi a recording contract in 1983, and to promote Runaway, Bon Jovi called up Richie Sambora, David Bryan, Tico Torres and Alec John Such and formed a band. After Bon Jovi claimed he wanted a group name (and rejecting “Johnny Lightning”), one of the group suggested “Bon Jovi,” slightly changing the spelling of Jon’s last name.
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, and though the response weaker, it proved to be a fan favorite. 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.
The rest is music industry history.
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