Rock Legend Jon Bon Jovi Talks Rest Stops, Richie Sambora, and Career-Redefining Vocal Surgery in Stern Show Return

Iconic recording artist discusses his band’s recent docuseries, “Thank You, Goodnight: The Bon Jovi Story,” and new album, "Forever"

May 1, 2024

Rock star and recording legend Jon Bon Jovi returned to the Stern Show on Tuesday to sit down with his good friend Howard following the release of his band’s critically acclaimed documentary series “Thank You, Goodnight: The Bon Jovi Story,” which debuted last week on Hulu. The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer had plenty to discuss, including the new song (“Legendary”) off his forthcoming album “Forever,” the price his hit-filled catalog might fetch on the open market, and his thoughts on the New Jersey rest stop adorned with his name. But first Howard was eager to discuss the sweeping four-part doc, which incorporates 40 years of Bon Jovi footage to chronicle the rise and enduring legacy of one of America’s most beloved bands.

“It’s great to have those memories, and then to have them documented is pretty neat,” Jon Bon Jovi told Howard on Tuesday morning. “I guess I’m a hoarder. I had no idea how much I had, but quite a bit. I started archiving everything in year 38 — thinking that the 40th was on the horizon — and contemplated a documentary to mark the milestone.”

Looking for a director, Jon reached out to Gotham Chopra, who’d impressed Jon with a previous docuseries about N.F.L. legend Tom Brady. “I was really taken by his approach to filmmaking,” Jon said of Gotham, who also happens to be the son of renowned author and alternative medicine advocate Deepak Chopra.

“I wanted to create a film that was going to tell our collective truth — and a real career that spans four-decades-plus is going to have its crests and valleys, so I didn’t mind showing everything,” Bon Jovi continued.

On His Vocal Surgery

The documentary dives into some tough subjects — like the surgery Jon underwent to address the vocal issues he first noticed back in 2015. “I was seeking advice and not getting it … I just chalked it up to getting older and started writing in the appropriate keys,” the singer told Howard before recalling struggles during the band’s 2022 tour. “I thought if I just beat it into shape and do a couple of shows maybe it will bounce back — it really did not get to my standard.”

Eventually, a doctor got to the bottom of it. “It was just atrophying due to use … There was no nodule, there was none of the usual vocal issues – this was unique,” Jon said before explaining his two vocal cords were completely different sizes. “One of mine was as thick as the thumb but the other was as thick as a pinky, so the strong one was moving the weak one around and causing these issues.”

Jon — who had taken vocal lessons since the 1980s — agreed to a surgery, which he drove himself to. “He cut me right in the front and they put in a Gore-Tex implant outside of the cords,” Bon Jovi remembered before insisting he wasn’t scared going into it. “I was excited. God forbid I don’t tour again, I’ve had an incredible career, the band has had incredible memories, and that’s okay.”

With a new album out in June, Jon’s recovery is headed in the right direction – but the singer admits there is still work to do. “What I’m not ready to do is do two-and-a-half hours a night, four nights a week,” he revealed. “I can sing, I just need to get it up to touring.”

Good Richie Sambora Stories and ‘Bad Medicine’

Another part of the docuseries making headlines is the conversation with former Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora, who explains why he parted ways with the band in 2013. “He came clean in the film for the fans, so I guess it would end all the speculation that there was ever a fight [between us] or any of that stuff because, as I’d stated 1,000 times, that was not the case,” Jon said.

Howard wondered if Jon was shocked to hear those words finally come out of his ex-bandmate’s mouth.

“I don’t know if it was a shock or not,” Jon conceded. “It was 11 years ago now, and it was not easy. The shock was when he didn’t show up, and the issues that he was having again. That was the shock, and then that was the disappointment.”

The doc also details the story behind Bon Jovi’s hit 1988 tune “Bad Medicine,” apparently inspired by Richie’s relationship with a prostitute. “[Richie] did absolutely start singing that chorus idea in a pool of water while we were singing a Japanese television commercial for Fuji film,” Jon recalled. “He starts singing ‘Your love is like bad medicine,’ and I went, ‘What, what, what, what?’ And we said, ‘Let’s put that one in the notebook — we’ve gotta go and write that song.’”

Will Jon Ever Sell His Song Catalog?

Richie, who co-wrote “Bad Medicine” as well as other Bon Jovi hits like “Wanted Dead or Alive” and “Livin’ on a Prayer,” sold his share of his 186-song catalog in 2020 for an unspecified figure. Howard wondered what Jon thought of his former bandmate cashing out, and whether it’s something he himself had contemplated.

“People sell their catalogs often, but it wasn’t anything I’d ever considered,” Jon said before explaining how Richie selling didn’t change much on his end. “If it’s a collaborative effort on any song, then his share of [the licensing fees] would go to whomever bought it … mine is mine and, [for] anyone I’ve ever collaborated [with], theirs is theirs.”

Howard wondered how much Jon’s own catalog might sell for.

“A lot. It’s all speculative,” the rocker responded, explaining several variables would be at play, including an artist’s popularity and how motivated they might be to sell their catalog.

While Jon has been approached by people looking to buy, he told Howard he just wasn’t interested. “I have no desire to sell it,” he said. “The songs will outlive all of us at this point, and that’s the beautiful thing about rock and roll in general … I’m happy about that.”

‘Blaze of Glory’ With Jeff Beck and Elton John

When actor-director Emilio Estevez approached Jon about using “Wanted Dead or Alive” for his film “Young Guns II,” the songwriter had a different idea — make an entire soundtrack for it instead. “The album came really quickly,” he recalled of the process. “That was my first foray into writing soundtracks for film and this script is the basis for a lyric. So, there’s your storyline, and you just write 10 songs that fit the movie.”

It being a solo project, Jon recruited some notable musicians to back him up — like Jeff Beck, who recorded several solos for the album, including the song “Blaze of Glory,” which reached the top of the charts. “I asked him if he’d like sugar in his coffee and is that cheeseburger prepared well enough?” Jon joked when asked if he gave Beck feedback on his playing. “You get out of the way when Jeff Beck touches a guitar.”

Even Elton John got into the mix on a few tracks. “I mean that was a crazy band,” Bon Jovi admitted before noting he asked for the Rocket Man’s help after meeting him a couple of times. “I played piano on … ‘Blaze’ but, when I needed a great piano player, Elton came in.”

Despite the album’s success, it didn’t take Jon away from his day job. “It wasn’t that I wasn’t always capable of doing it on my own,” he said of working solo. “But I loved being — I still love being — with those guys performing onstage. It’s very much a cohesive band unit.”

He Gives Rest Stops a Good Name

Like many good friends, Howard and Jon Bon Jovi have plenty in common. They’re both at the top of their respective industries, they both love rock and roll, and they both — as Howard pointed out Tuesday morning — had a New Jersey rest stop named after them. Howard’s, located in Burlington County off the I-295, was bequeathed to him in the early ‘90s by then gubernatorial candidate Christine Todd Whitman. Jon’s Garden State Parkway rest stop, meanwhile, is currently undergoing repairs.

“They’re refurbishing it,” Jon laughed. “But I want a picture of the sign. It says ‘The [Jon Bon Jovi] Rest Stop: No Food, No Fuel, No Bathroom.’”

Howard wondered if his guest had ever visited the Jon Bon Jovi rest stop, which until a few years ago had been named the Cheesequake Service Area.

“Not since they re-named it … [but] I used to stop to go to the bathroom [there] if I was on the highway,” Bon Jovi responded. “It was in my hometown.”

Buying Back His First Guitar

There wasn’t much to the first guitar Jon Bon Jovi owned, a basic acoustic that came in a cardboard box. In fact, he pawned it off to a fellow kid in his Sayreville, N.J., neighborhood. “I sold my very first guitar to him for $100 with the hope that I could save up enough money and buy a Fender guitar,” he remembered.

Decades later, a volunteer at Jon’s JBJ Soul Kitchen told him that not only did the original buyer still have his guitar, but he’d likely give it back to him. Jon jumped at the opportunity, and in exchange for a meeting with his daughter, a signed guitar, and some money, he was soon reunited with his first axe. “I opened up that same cardboard case and there it was with five strings … I don’t even think the kid played it,” the rocker said. “I picked it up and I wrote … ‘I’m in Love With My First Guitar.’ It was one of those songs you had to put on the new record.”

Understandably, the reunion meant a lot. “It was very emotional,” Jon told Howard before praising the seller. “He didn’t take advantage of me or anything like that, I mean it was very sweet of him — he said, ‘This is where it belongs.’”

“Thank You, Goodnight: The Bon Jovi Story” is available now on Hulu. Bon Jovi “Forever” arrives June 7 — pre-order it here.

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