Personalities | Richie Sambora | A Guitar Hero Among Us | Guitar Heroes

Though guitar playing in the 1980s was often thought of as a ‘guitar Olympics’ of sorts, Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora typically eschewed fretboard flights of fancy in favour of melodic, tastefully arranged solos designed to serve the band’s infectious hit songs.

While this approach has kept him on the outside of the guitar-hero clubhouse, his impact on the greater musical community is rarely matched.

Richard Stephen Sambora was born in Perth Amboy, New Jersey, in July 1959. He began playing guitar in his early teens, inspired by Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and The Beatles. In 1978, he made his recording debut with his band Shark Frenzy, but the mix tapes were damaged in a flood and thus remained unreleased. (Shark Frenzy member Bruce Foster eventually remastered the tapes, and the album was released on Sanctuary Records in 2004.) In 1983, fellow New Jerseyan Jon Bongiovi hired Sambora to replace guitarist Dave Sabo in his newly signed band Bon Jovi. The rest, as they say, is history. Over the past 25 years, Bon Jovi has released 10 studio albums that have collectively sold over 120 million copies, and the band has played over 2,500 shows in over 50 countries. Additionally, Sambora has released two critically acclaimed solo albums – Stranger In This Town (1991) and Undiscovered Soul (1998). Suffice it to say, few guitarists have spent as much time onstage as Sambora has in his remarkable career.

Through the years, Sambora – an avid guitar collector – has played just about every guitar possible. In the early years of Bon Jovi, he favoured custom Gibson Les Pauls, often equipped with floating tremolo systems. He then went through a period of ‘super-Strats’, from such manufacturers as Charvel, Jackson and Kramer, which made his first signature-model guitar, in 1987. He was also one of the top endorsers of Ovation acoustic guitars, as featured in the video for ‘Wanted Dead Or Alive’ (1986).

Since then, the guitarist has continued to mix it up, using various vintage Fenders and Gibsons, as well as the ‘Sambora’ guitar, made by his long-time associate and luthier Chris Hofschneider. In 2008, Sambora announced his new ESP endorsement deal, and in 2009, the ever-popular Bon Jovi released The Circle. Sambora released a third solo album, Aftermath Of The Lowdown, in 2012 and left Bon Jovi in 2013 following the release of their twelfth studio album, What About Now.

Essential Recordings

Bon Jovi: Slippery When Wet

Bon Jovi: New Jersey

Solo: Stranger In This Town

Bon Jovi: Have A Nice Day

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