I appreciate all the kind words about Joan Jett & The Blackhearts getting inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. As the guitar player in the original barnstorming band that played every little club in the country I’m very excited for them. There have been a lot of guys who have contributed to the Blackhearts legacy since Gary Ryan, Danny O’brien and I answered the add in the LA Weekly that said “Joan Jett is looking for 3 good men”. Before forming the Blackhearts with Joan the three of us had already been a band for a while playing with both Rik L Rik and Top Jimmy in Los Angeles.
I’m very lucky that Kenny Laguna became involved in Joan Jett & The Blackhearts and convinced us, after we’d been to London and Holland, to move from Hollywood to New York City. Kenny took us to see both the Mets and the Yankees the first week we were here and told us we needed to “pick a team”. In New York City the band found the lovely and deeply missed late Lee Crystal to play drums and we also got to work with songwriting legend and producer Ritchie Cordell.
I learned quickly that you could do more in a day in New York than you could in a week in LA. As a guy from Batavia, Illinois I’ve always felt welcome in NYC and it was Joan who brought me here.
Joan’s better than almost anyone knows. I never saw her do less than a kick ass show from our first month-long Tuesday residency at the Whiskey A Go Go to the last gig I played with her opening for Alice Cooper at the Cape Cod Coliseum. Of all the people I’ve ever played with only Dan Baird has the kind of rock solid immovable rhythm guitar clock that Joan does. You can build a fortress on the foundation she lays down with her right hand.
Every year the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducts a band that has had more than a few members over the years. The committee picks the version of the band that gets inducted. That’s just how it works. The band they went with didn’t include me. I’m fine with that. The people who saw the original band criss cross the USA booked by Ian Copeland’s fledgling agency FBI at a lot of clubs that never even had an original band before knew they witnessed a real force of nature. Those original fans became a family that got larger as Joan’s music reached more people. I’m not alone in the alumni column. There’s a lot of great guys who came through the band after me that won’t have to buy a new suit either. Kasim Sultan, Kenny Aronson, Thommy Price and Tony Bruno are a few. Thommy Price is still playing with Joan.
Again, I’m very thankful for the start in music that I got with Joan. I’m not sure I ever would have moved to NYC where I started the Del-Lords with Scott Kempner, Frank Funaro and Manny Caiati, began my producing career which would eventually have me working with great people like Nils Lofgren, The Bottle Rockets, Jimbo Mathus, Blue Mountain, Ryan Adams, Mojo Nixon, Spanking Charlene and Freedy Johnston. I’ve toured and or recorded with lots of great people including Steve Earle & The Dukes also playing on his Grammy winning record The Revolution Starts…Now in 2005. I’ve been a member of the Yayhoos with Dan Baird, Terry Anderson and Keith Christopher. Had my own band Roscoe’s Gang and made some solo records including one with the undisputed king of recording in Springfield, MO the late great Lou Whitney. I own and operate a recording studio (Cowboy Technical) in Williamsburg Brooklyn with my partner Tim Hatfield and also had a great bar called the Lakeside Lounge (1996-2012) in the East Village with my partner “The Hound” Jim Marshall.
And on top of all that I once played “Rebel Rebel” with Joan and the Coasters on a pier on the west side of Manhattan.
So, I’m not gonna be getting cut off on tv saying thanks in my new suit. As the original guitar player in Joan Jett & The Blackhearts I’m saying thanks here now to Joan Jett, Kenny Laguna, Danny, Gary & Lee and I’m saying thanks to all of you too.
Eric Ambel December 16, 2014