Anthony Joseph "Joe" Perry (born September 10, 1950) is the lead guitarist, backing and occasional lead vocalist, and contributing songwriter for the rock band Aerosmith. He was ranked 84th in the Rolling Stone's list The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time. In 2001, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as part of Aerosmith, and in 2013, Perry and his songwriting partner Steven Tyler were recipients of the ASCAP Founders Award and were also inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
Early life (1950-1970):
The paternal side of Perry's family are Portuguese, originally from Madeira. His grandfather changed the family's name from Pereira to Perry upon arriving in the United States. His maternal side is Italian, more specifically Neapolitan.
Perry was born in Lawrence, Massachusetts and grew up in the small town of Hopedale, Massachusetts. There, his father was an accountant and his mother a high school gym teacher and later an aerobics instructor. She later retired to Arizona when Perry's father died in 1975. Perry also attended the prep school Vermont Academy, a boarding school of about 232 students in Saxtons River, Vermont.
A substantial early influence on Perry's music was The Beatles. "The night The Beatles first played The Ed Sullivan Show, boy, that was something. Seeing them on TV was akin to a national holiday. Talk about an event. I never saw guys looking so cool. I had already heard some of their songs on the radio, but I wasn't prepared by how powerful and totally mesmerizing they were to watch. It changed me completely. I knew something was different in the world that night."
Formation and initial success of Aerosmith (1970-1979):
During Perry's early years he formed a band with Tom Hamilton called The Jam Band. Steven Tyler, Joe, Tom, Brad Whitford and Joey Kramer eventually joined and the band became Aerosmith. While initially dismissed as Rolling Stones knock-offs, the band came into its own during the mid-1970s with a string of hit records. Chief among these successes were Toys in the Attic (1975) and Rocks (1976), thanks largely to the prevalence of free-form, album-oriented FM radio. The group also managed hit singles on the radio with songs like "Dream On", "Same Old Song and Dance", "Sweet Emotion", "Walk This Way", "Back in the Saddle", and "Last Child".
During this time, Perry and vocalist Steven Tyler became known as the "Toxic Twins" for their notorious hard-partying and drug use. Aerosmith's crowd earned the nickname "The Blue Army", so called by the band after the seemingly endless number of teenagers in the audience wearing blue denim jackets and blue jeans. The audience was abundantly male with long hair.
Following Rocks, the group began to stumble - drug use escalated and the creative process became hampered by strained relationships within the band. This was highlighted during the recording process for their next album, which was recorded at an abandoned convent in upstate New York. During their time there, Tyler and Perry would spend much of the time in their rooms, getting high, away from the rest of the band, and would often record their parts separately. The band, hampered by heavy drug use and distracted by hobbies such as driving fast cars on the nearby parkways and shooting high-powered firearms in the building's attic, struggled to come up with material. Draw the Line, released in 1977, became a hit nonetheless, going double platinum. However, it was not as successful as their prior efforts, with the singles "Draw the Line" and "Kings and Queens" both charting in the Hot 100, but failing to crack the Top 40. On the album, Perry sang lead vocals on the track "Bright Light Fright". The band toured throughout 1977 and 1978 in support of the album, but increasing violence at concerts (such as bottles, cherry bombs, M-80s, and firecrackers being thrown on-stage, including several notorious incidents at The Spectrum in Philadelphia) as well as the band's heavy drug use began to mar the performances. In 1978, Aerosmith released the live collection Live! Bootleg, released the stand-alone single "Chip Away the Stone", and starred as "The Future Villain Band" in the film Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. For the film, the band released a cover of The Beatles' "Come Together", which would become the band's last Top 40 hit for nearly a decade.
Decline of Aerosmith and formation of Joe Perry Project (1979-1984):
In 1979, Aerosmith headlined over Van Halen, Ted Nugent, AC/DC and Foreigner during the world music festival concerts. An argument backstage in Cleveland resulted in Perry's wife throwing a glass of milk at Tom Hamilton's wife. After a heated argument between Tyler and Perry, Perry quit Aerosmith part-way through the recording of the album Night in the Ruts, with the remainder of his parts played by temporary guitarists. Perry took a collection of unrecorded material with him, which would later become the basis of his album Let the Music Do the Talking, released in 1980. The album went on to sell 250,000 copies. Equipped with a new record label (MCA Records) and three new band members in singer Mach Bell, bassist Danny Hargrove and drummer Joe Pet, The Joe Perry Project released the follow-up I've Got the Rock'n'Rolls Again (1981) and Once a Rocker, Always a Rocker (1983). These albums didn't fare as well as The Project's debut, selling only 40,000 copies apiece. Despite the poor sales, The Project went out on a final tour in support of the album, adding then ex-Aerosmith guitarist Brad Whitford to the line-up. During this tour, The Project performed in a series of co-bills with Huey Lewis and the News.
Reunion of Aerosmith and return to the spotlight (1984-1999):
In February 1984, both Perry and Whitford met up with their old bandmates in Aerosmith, which led to them re-joining the band two months later. Aerosmith signed a new record deal with Geffen Records (which coincidentally was sold to MCA in 1990, absorbing the MCA label 13 years later). When Perry re-joined Aerosmith, he brought on his manager Tim Collins to manage the band. Collins would help orchestrate much of Aerosmith's success over the next decade.
In 1984, Aerosmith embarked on the successful comeback tour, the "Back in the Saddle Tour". The following year, the band released their first album since re-uniting, Done with Mirrors, which was received favorably by critics but did not fare as well commercially, only going gold and failing to generate a hit single, aside from the rock radio cut, "Let the Music Do the Talking", a remake of Perry's 1980 solo song. In 1986, Perry and Tyler collaborated with Run-D.M.C. in a remake of Aerosmith's 1975 hit "Walk This Way", which helped break rap into mainstream popularity and brought Aerosmith renewed mainstream attention as well. After completing drug rehabilitation, Aerosmith went on to collaborate with various big-name songwriters (such as Desmond Child and Jim Vallance), producers (Bruce Fairbairn), A&R men (John Kalodner), and music video directors (Marty Callner and David Fincher) to launch their true comeback, with the successful multi-platinum albums Permanent Vacation (1987), Pump (1989), and Get a Grip (1993), which were backed by many hit singles ("Dude (Looks Like a Lady)", "Angel", "Rag Doll", "Love in an Elevator", "Janie's Got a Gun", "What it Takes", "The Other Side", "Livin' on the Edge", "Cryin'", "Amazing", and "Crazy"), popular award-winning music videos, and worldwide concert tours. The band won several awards throughout the 1990s, including four Grammy Awards and twelve MTV Video Music Awards. Perry and Tyler resumed their friendship, again co-writing songs and performing very close together on stage, as well as vacationing together with their families after the conclusion of the Get a Grip Tour. However, tensions in the band boiled in 1996, while the band was in the midst of recording their next album. While songwriting and recording sessions in Miami had begun well, the band's manager began pressuring the band members, spreading false information to the band members, and keeping the band members separate from one another, almost causing Aerosmith to breakup. While grateful for all he had done to help resurrect their careers, Aerosmith fired Collins in 1996 and carried on with new management. The double platinum Nine Lives was finally released in 1997. Nine Lives was fueled by the hit singles "Falling in Love (Is Hard on the Knees)" and "Pink" and supported by the three-year-long Nine Lives Tour. During this time, Perry also starred in a commercial for The Gap with Steven Tyler. The band also released their bestselling tell-all book Walk This Way: The Autobiography of Aerosmith. In 1998, Perry helped conceive the group's first number one single, "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing", with pop songwriter Diane Warren. It appeared on the soundtrack to the hit film Armageddon, in which Tyler's daughter Liv starred. In 1999, the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith opened at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida.
Continued success of Aerosmith and solo albums (2000-present):
In 2001, Aerosmith performed at the Super Bowl XXXV half-time show and released the platinum-certified Just Push Play, which included the Top 10 single "Jaded". Shortly after the album's release, Perry was inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as part of Aerosmith. The band subsequently went on the eight-month-long Just Push Play Tour and went on to tour every following year, with the exception of 2008. The Aerosmith blues cover album Honkin' on Bobo was released in 2004. Perry released his first solo record, the self-titled Joe Perry, in May 2005. It was recorded at his home studio (The Boneyard) in suburban Boston, with every instrument but the drums played by Perry himself. Critics also responded favorably; Rolling Stone magazine crowned it with three-and-a-half (out of five) stars, declaring "A Joe Perry solo joint? about time!" He was also nominated for "Best Rock Instrumental" at the 2006 Grammys for the track "Mercy" but lost to Les Paul. In 2006, Perry performed alongside Steven Tyler for a three-song medley ("Dream On", "Walk This Way", "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing") with the Boston Pops Orchestra as part of a nationally-televised event to celebrate the Fourth of July in Boston, Massachusetts.
Guitar Hero: Aerosmith, a video game featuring the band's songs, was released in 2008. In 2009, while on tour with Aerosmith, Perry announced that he would be releasing a new Joe Perry Project album entitled Have Guitar, Will Travel, which was released on October 6, 2009. The first single from the album was "We've Got a Long Way to Go." This marks the first Joe Perry Project album since 1983's Once a Rocker, Always a Rocker, and the fifth Joe Perry solo album in total, counting the 2005 self-titled album. He toured Europe and the States in late 2009 and early 2010 in support of the album. After Tyler fell off a stage during an Aerosmith show in August 2009 in Sturgis, South Dakota during the band's Guitar Hero: Aerosmith Tour (causing the rest of the ill-fated tour to be canceled), tensions flared between Tyler and his bandmates, especially Perry, and it got to the point where the band members weren't speaking to each other. Media reports began to circulate that Tyler had left the band and that Perry and the other members of Aerosmith were seeking out a new singer to replace Tyler. On November 10, 2009, at a Joe Perry Project concert in New York City, Tyler made a surprise appearance, assuring the crowd he was not quitting Aerosmith and performed "Walk This Way" with the band. After Tyler completed drug rehabilitation in early 2010, he got back together with his bandmates and they announced a world tour called the Cocked, Locked, Ready to Rock Tour which took place in the spring and summer of 2010. While on tour, several on-stage incidents (including Tyler accidentally hitting Perry in the head with his mic stand and Perry bumping Tyler off the stage) as well as Tyler signing on to be a judge on American Idol without telling his bandmates caused tensions to again flare between Tyler and Perry, but cooled once again by the time the tour ended.
Aerosmith then proceeded to spend much of the summer of 2011 recording their next album, their first of predominantly original material in a decade. Like Honkin' on Bobo, their next album was produced by a team that included Perry, Tyler, Jack Douglas, and Marti Frederiksen. The band toured Japan and South America in late 2011 and continued recording in early 2012. In May 2012, their new single "Legendary Child" was released and performed live on the season finale of American Idol. It was also announced that the band's new album would be titled Music from Another Dimension! and would be released in August 2012; the album's release date would later be pushed back to November 2012. Two more singles ("What Could Have Been Love and "Lover Alot") were released in advance of the album. The band supported the album with the Global Warming Tour, which lasted for much of summer and fall of 2012 and appearances on national television programs. The band is expected to continue to tour in 2013. In January 2013, the single "Can't Stop Lovin' You" (a duet with country star Carrie Underwood) was released, and in February, it was announced that Perry and his songwriting partner Steven Tyler would be recipients of the ASCAP Founders Award at the society's 30th Annual Pop Music Awards on April 17 and that the duo would be inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame at a ceremony to be held on June 13.
Perry was married to Elyssa Jerret from 1975 to 1982 and together they had a son, Adrian. Perry is now married to Billie Paulette Montgomery. They married in 1985 after meeting on the set of his "Black Velvet Pants" video in 1983. Billie appears on one of Perry's guitars, which is dubbed "The Billie Perry Guitar". They have two sons, Tony and Roman, while Billie has another son from a previous relationship named Aaron. Adrian and Tony Perry are founding members of the rock group TAB the Band.
Currently Perry lives on Sleepy Hollow Farm in South Pomfret, Vermont where he raises Friesian horses. He also has a home he resides in occasionally in Duxbury, Massachusetts.
Perry was honored by the Geoffrey Beene Foundation as the Founding Father of Rock Stars of Science 2013 for Perry's unequivocal support and generosity. The 2013 campaign's slogan, "Rock Stars Don't Follow Orders; They Follow Their Instincts" heated up the photo and interview sessions with Perry and some of the world renowned scientists from the world's most revolutionary medical research labs and high tech proving ground for cancer-research innovation at the Geoffrey Beene Cancer Research Center at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. Follow Perry during his back scene tour of the labs and interviews with the "Dream Team" at joeperry.com. "It's such important work," says Perry, "I don't know anyone who doesn't have a parent or a friend who doesn't have cancer. It's a plague. It's not a matter of if you'll get it, but when." Perry's father died of cancer.
Perry supports the Rock Stars of Science mission which recognizes the importance of encouraging the next generation to pursue science as a career choice because it's simply "cool" and to bring awareness for the need to make funding scientific research a national priority.
The main guitar associated with Perry is the Gibson Les Paul. He has used many different types of Les Pauls since the 70s, including Les Paul Juniors, Les Paul Standards, and Les Paul Customs. In the 1990s and early 2000s, Gibson issued a Perry signature Les Paul guitar; this guitar was customized with an active mid-boost control, black chrome hardware, and a translucent black finish. However, in 2004, this model was replaced by another Perry signature Les Paul, the Perry Boneyard Les Paul. This guitar is characterized by Perry's custom "Boneyard" logo on the headstock and a figured maple top with a green tiger finish, and is available with either a stopbar tailpiece or a Bigsby tailpiece; Perry typically uses a Bigsby-equipped Boneyard model in Aerosmith and solo live shows. The Gibson Perry was a present from his wife Billie and then he was allowed to manufacture it. Perry has also endorsed an affordable replica version of the Boneyard guitar made by Epiphone that carries the same USA made Burstbucker pickups as the Gibson model. In 2012, Perry began using a new custom Gibson, which is based on the more ergonomic Axcess Les Paul. It features a more accessible neck joint and slimmer body, much like the Axcess. It also features a single bridge pickup and volume control, as well as a Wilkinson two-point tremolo.
There also exists a customized Gibson B.B. King "Lucille" guitar, however instead of the black finish and "Lucille" signature on the headstock, Perry's guitar features a white finish, a "Billie Perry" signature on headstock and an image of Billie Perry on the front of the guitar. He has also used Gibson SGs, Firebirds, ES-175s, ES-335s, and ES-350s at various points in his career.
Perry has been known to play guitars of other luthiers and manufacturers. In the late 1970s and 1980s, Perry frequently used various Fender Stratocasters; many of these guitars were left-handed Strats turned upside-down and appropriately restrung. One of these "upside-down" models is still played occasionally by Perry onstage, usually for "Sweet Emotion". Perry also uses Fender Telecasters, some modified with neck humbuckers. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Perry (along with fellow Aerosmith guitarist Brad Whitford) endorsed B.C. Rich guitars, and frequently used the Mockingbird (such as in the performance of "Come Together" in the film Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band) and 10-string B.C. Rich models. He has also been photographed playing what looks like, judging by the headstock logo, a custom built Spector guitar, and some ESP guitars during the 80s.
The six-string bass guitar is a trademark of Perry's guitar sound; instead of playing it like an ordinary bass guitar, he uses it like a regular guitar, playing riffs, chords, and solos, which is possible due to their shorter scale and narrower, guitar-like neck, compared to standard basses. The six-string bass helped to create the characteristic growl of Aerosmith's "Back in the Saddle", "Combination", and "Draw the Line". In the past, Perry used Fender Bass VI and Danelectro six-string basses; he also used a Gibson EB-6 for the bass solo on "King of the Kings" on the Joe Perry Project's Once a Rocker, Always a Rocker album (as indicated by the album's liner notes). Perry currently uses an Ernie Ball MusicMan Silhouette Bass Guitar, which is modified with a Floyd Rose double-locking tremolo.
For amps, Perry uses a collection of various alternating vintage amps on stage, including 200 watt Marshall Major amps, a 1970's silver-face Fender Dual Showman, a 1950's Fender Bassman and many more. In the studio he uses various vintage low wattage tube amps including a 1950's tweed Fender Champ and an Epiphone Pacemaker Model EA50T manufactured in Kalamazoo, Michigan in the early 60s.
For slide work, Perry typically uses a Dan Armstrong Lucite guitar, such as for "Draw the Line" and "Let the Music Do the Talking". Joe has also been known to use a Pro Co RAT, Klon Centaur, talkbox, Dunlop Cry Baby and a DigiTech Whammy.
Perry currently has a collection of about 600 guitars.
Text from this biography licensed under creative commons license