Lead singer Jon Bon Jovi began to play piano and guitar at 13, using Elton John songs. At that same age, John Bongiovi founded his first band, called Raze. At 16 Jon met David Bryan in high school (Sayreville War Memorial High School ) and founded an R & B cover band with him named Atlantic City Expressway. They used to play at New Jersey clubs, even though they were minors. Still in his teens, Jon played in the band Jon Bon Jovi and the Wild Ones, playing New Jersey clubs like the Fast Lane and opening for known acts in the area.
By the summer of 1982, out of school and working part-time - including in a shoe store - Jon finally got a job at the Power Station Studios, a New York recording facility where his cousin, Tony Bongiovi, was the co-owner. Jon made several demos (including one produced by Billy Squier) and sent them out to many record companies - but failed to make an impact.
At 19, Jon had his first recording experience, singing the song "R2-D2 We wish you a merry Christmas" on a Star Wars Christmas album, "Christmas With the Stars", with music by John Williams, produced by Tony Bongiovi at the Power Station and released on the RSO label.
In 1983, a local radio station, WAPT, had a contest to search for the best unsigned band. Jon used studio musicians to play on the track "Runaway (which was written in 1980). After it won the contest, it quickly became a popular song in the New York City area in the summer of 1983. The studio musicians who helped Jon to record "Runaway" were known as "The All Star Review and they were Tim Pierce (guitar), Roy Bittan (keyboards), Tony Laroca (drums) and Hugh McDonald (bass).
Jon desperately needed a band. The members of Bon Jovi had crossed paths in these early days, but the current lineup didn't come together until March of 1983 after "Runaway" which hit No.39 on the singles chart. Jon gave Dave a call, who in turn called Alec John Such and Tico Torres.
A succession of guitarists (including Dave Sabo, who went on to Skid Row) followed, until Richie Sambora signed on. Alec talked Jon into letting Richie show what he could do, and Jon loved it. Before joining Bon Jovi, Richie had toured with Joe Cocker, played with a group called Mercy and had just been called up to audition for Kiss. He also played in the album "Lessons" with the band "Message, that has been recently rereleased in CD through Long Island Records.
Tico Torres was also an experienced musician by then. He had jammed with Miles Davis and played live with the Marvelettes and Chuck Berry. He had played on about 26 records and had just recorded his third album with ppFrankie and the Knockouts]] (a Jersey band with hit singles in the early 1980s).
David Bryan was a natural recruit. He had quit the band he and Jon founded to go to college, then quit college to go to Julliard, the famous classical music school.
At one show, where they opened for Scandal, the band caught the attention of record exec Derek Shulman, who signed them to PolyGram.
The debut album came out on January 21, 1984. The album went gold (sales of over 500,000) and was also released in the UK. The guys found themselves opening for ZZ Top at the Madison Square Garden (before their first album had been released), Scorpions and KISS (in Europe).
Their third album, ppSlippery When Wet]], shot the band to superstar status around the world with hits such as "Livin' On A Prayer" and "You Give Love A Bad Name". The album has sold in excess of twelve million copies since its release in late 1986. On the tour that followed, Jon began having vocal difficulties. The extreme high notes and unrelenting schedule threatened to damage his voice permanently. With the help of a vocal coach, he made it through the tour. Jon has tended to sing slightly lower since then.
Alec John Such left the band in the early 1990s. While he has not been officially replaced, Hugh McDonald has handled studio and live bass duties since then.