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Joe Perry

 

Unlike so many guitar pantheons that jump around between various projects, bands and live performances, Joe Perry has spent most of his career in just one band, Aerosmith.  The long standing friendship and collaboration between Joe Perry and Aerosmith front man Steven Tyler has resulted in a marathon 36 years of success for Aerosmith.  Being part of such a strong band for such a long time has done great things for Joe Perry's career, although he is not always recognized for his individual contribution as much as some of the more maverick guitar greats.  This doesn't seem to bother Joe, as he consistently makes decisions to put his band and his family above his own ego.  Even so, Joe Perry was listed as number 48 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the top 100 guitar players of all time.  Perry's great success has largely to do with his strong character and commitment to friendships and family relationships.
 
Like so many other guitar virtuosos, Perry got an early start on learning his skills.  He was born in Massachusetts in 1950.  His father's family was from the Portuguese island of Madeira and the family on his mother's side originally came from Naples, Italy.  He was introduced to the glory of rock and roll by his neighbors when he was only six years old.  He enjoyed listening to the old classics like “Tutti Frutti” and “Rock Around the Clock”.  During the 60s Perry was a die-hard fan of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.  He began playing guitar himself when he was a teenager and picked up influences from The Yardbirds and John Mayall, which would teach him the fundamentals of the blues licks and riffs that would make him a great contributor to Aerosmith.  Some of his early band efforts included groups called Just Us, Flash, and Plastic Glass.  While participating in a pre-Aerosmith band called The Jam Band, Perry first started working with bassist Tom Hamilton, another future member of Aerosmith.
 
It was fate when Joe Perry met Steven Tyler in 1969 at The Barn in Sunapee, New Hampshire.  Each of them arrived at the event with their separate bands, but it didn't take long before they hit it off and formed their own band, Aerosmith.  Aerosmith's original line-up included Tyler on vocals, Perry on guitar, Hamilton on bass, Joey Kramer playing drums, and Ray Tabano on second guitar.  Tabano was later replaced by Brad Whitford.  Aerosmith's sound was heavily influenced by Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones and the Yardbirds.  At first they were simply considered a Stones knock-off, but they worked hard to create their own reputation.
 
Aerosmith released its first album in 1973 and enjoyed massive success through the 70s.  They rocked hard and had great success with Toys in the Attic (1975) and Rocks (1976) as well as sold-out tours, but hard drugs became a downfall for Aerosmith.  Steven Tyler and Joe Perry had once worked together extremely well, but became known as the “Toxic Twins” as drug use created more spats and tension between them Illegal substances caused all kinds of problems for the band and distracted their focus from their music.  Even the Grateful Dead's lead singer Jerry Garcia, who was known for drug use, called Aerosmith “the druggiest bunch of guys I've ever seen.”  Early Aerosmith fans were equally rowdy, knowing that a steady supply of hard drugs followed the band everywhere.  Aerosmith audiences were known as the Blue Army because of the large majority of fans wearing blue jeans, a symbol of rebel cool in the 70s.  During this phase of Perry's career he married Elyssa Jerret and had a son, Adrian.  The couple's relationship can be described as turbulent at best and Elyssa reportedly bit Perry's face during an altercation.  The family drama spilled over to affect Aerosmith as well.  After a fabled incident where Elyssa poured a glass of milk on Tom Hamilton's wife backstage, Perry decided to quit Aerosmith in 1979 and pursue a solo project.
 
Members of The Joe Perry Project included Ralph Mormon on vocals, Ronnie Stewart on drums, and David Hull playing the bass.  After a year of working together, The Joe Perry Project put out its first album, Let The Music Do The Talking.  The album was received well by critics, but was generally over-looked by fans and did not yield the results that Perry was looking for.  Perry's drug use returned and continued to cause issues with his new band and as things started to look down, Perry had to consider bankruptcy.  He continued to make music and put out a couple more albums with his project, but never reached the level of music that he really wanted to create. 
 
The disappointment of The Joe Perry Project did not stop Joe Perry.  His manager Tim Collins was dead set on the idea of Perry rejoining Aerosmith.  Perry was extremely resistant to the suggestion, and was auditioning to play with Alice Cooper when he finally decided to iron out his differences with Steven Tyler and reunite Aerosmith in 1984.  Drugs once again became an issue for the band, until both Tyler and Perry went through rehabilitation in 1985 and became completely clean.  Being able to successfully kick such an intense and possibly debilitating drug habit and stay clean for years to come shows Joe Perry's strength of character.  Not surprisingly, Aerosmith's success began to skyrocket after they were able to focus on the music instead of the drugs.  Their work with Run DMC on “Walk This Way” gave them the momentum they needed to get going and start rocking the 80s.  Perry's personal life also took an upswing when he met Billie Montgomery in 1983 on the set of the “Black Velvet Pants” video.  They were married in 1985 and had two sons, Tony and Roman.
 
By the end of the 80s, Aerosmith was considered one of the biggest rock bands around.  In 1989 their album Pump went triple platinum.  Aerosmith is still together to this day and follows only the Eagles as the second best-selling American rock band of all time.  They have sold 140 million albums throughout the world and 66.5 million albums in just the United States.  Not surprisingly, Aerosmith has the record for the most gold, platinum, and multi-platinum albums by any American group.  So far the band has put out twenty-one Top 40 hits and won four Grammy awards, but they don't plan on stopping any time soon.  Aerosmith was also nominated for an Academy Award in 1998 for their song “I Don't Want To Miss A Thing” from the Armageddon soundtrack.  They currently continue to tour and create new music.  Keeping with his family-friendly ways, Perry is known for bringing his entire family along on Aerosmith tours.
 
Joe Perry has put his creativity toward food as well as music.  He has always been a fan of spicy flavors so he created his own hot sauces called "Rock Your World”.  The habanero pepper flavor is called “The Boneyard” after his music studio and the peach mango flavor is called “Mango-Peach Tango”.  The two varieties of “Rock Your World” hot sauce were released in 2005 through Boston-based Ashley Foods, Inc.  Perry keeps the business in the family as his stepson Aaron oversees the hot sauce operation.  Perry also made a guest appearance with Rachel Ray on Inside Dish.  He talked about his passion for knives and how Aerosmith prepares food while they are out on the road touring. 
 
Finally, in May 2005 Joe Perry released a self-titled solo album, Joe Perry.  In an interview he described creating the album as an organic experience with little pressure from deadlines or record labels.  Perry does the vocals for some of the tracks and brings in a personal touch with the addition of “Ten Years”, which is a love song written as a tenth anniversary gift to his wife that was never intended to be performed publicly.  Joe Perry's album is also unique to most solo guitar records because he doesn't feature a lot of guest performances by famous cohorts.  He felt that he already has enough notable sidekicks when he plays with Aerosmith, so he kept the solo album simple with just a small contribution from little-known musicians.
 
All in all, Joe Perry's career has been extremely successful as guitar players go.  His life has been filled with friends, family and enough sex, drugs and rock and roll to last a lifetime.  Joe Perry never gave up on his music or himself, even when faced with potential bankruptcy and horrible drug addiction.  His close friendship and musical camaraderie with Steven Tyler has brought huge success to Aerosmith.  Although Joe never sinks too far into the background during Aerosmith performances, he has never let his ego get in the way of performing great music with his closest friends.  His humble and honest solo album proves that being one of the world's best guitarists has not gone to his head.  Fans should expect Joe Perry to remain a modest, down to earth guy and keep rocking the stage with Aerosmith until he can't rock anymore.
 

     

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