As co-founding member, principal co-songwriter, electrifying lead guitarist and co-producer of Aerosmith, America’s Greatest Rock & Roll Band, Joe Perry has achieved permanent iconic stature in the pantheon of rock. He has driven his band, over the course of three decades, to sales of more than 150 million albums, four Grammy Awards, twelve MTV Video Music Awards, two People’s Choice Awards, eight American Music Awards, an Academy Award and induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Joe’s fourth solo album, 2005’s Joe Perry, not only received universal praise from journalists across the country, it earned him his first solo Grammy nomination for Best Instrumental Song (“Mercy”). “Perry applies his craft with an ear for atmosphere and a respect for nuance,” proclaimed USA Today at the time. “This is his most virile and free work of his non-Aerosmith career,” said the New York Daily News. One Boston-based journalist perhaps summed it up best. “The power and the craftsmanship of his playing are transfixing.”
Joe’s new and fifth solo, Have Guitar, Will Travel, named by Joe Piscitelli, one of nearly 2,000 names given as part of a Twitter search, reveals even more intriguing layers of the guitarist who was immortalized in 2008 when Activision released the Guitar Hero: Aerosmith, sales of which broke records and further solidified another generation of fans for Joe and Aerosmith.
Have Guitar Will Travel (2009), follows self-produced solo releases including Let the Music Do The Talking (1980), Once A Rocker, Always A Rocker (1984) and I’ve Got The Rock ‘N’ Rolls Again (1981). Recorded this past Spring at the BoneYard, Perry’s state-of-the-art home studio, where Aerosmith’s Honkin’ On Bobo and Just Push Play were recorded, Have Guitar, Will Travel is a ten-song CD written and produced by Perry, complete with his trademark rock and blues ferocity.
The CD’s blazing first single “We’ve Got a Long Way to Go”, showcases the voice of a young German singer known as Hagen, found completely by chance on YouTube by Joe’s wife Billie. “I first called him from Cleveland when I went to perform at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Jam with Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, Ron Wood, Flea and Metallica,” said Perry. “It took several minutes to convince him that it wasn’t a prank call, but a true invitation to audition to sing on the CD.” Hagen mans the microphone for five tracks, while Perry sings lead on four. The remaining tenth song is an instrumental entitled “Wooden Ships”.
“Freedom”, a hard-driving signature Perry track, was written during an election year. “On this record, as opposed to my last solo CD, I thought that I’d write a bit more about what is going on outside instead of inside, and freedom is a really good example of that,” said Perry. “It’s musically inspired by Hunter S. Thompson’s book Fear and Loathing that I read during the seventies. Those images have always stuck with me. In fact, I think I lived a bit of it.”
Still as scorching hot on guitar as he is preternaturally cool in his persona, Perry attracted an eclectic blend of musicians with whom he recorded. Drummer Ben Tileston, a Boston University percussion graduate, who plays drums with two of Perry’s sons in TAB The Band, joined an esteemed roster of some of the best that the music world has to offer; Bassist David Hull, who played with The Buddy Miles Band at 19 and was in the Joe Perry Project in the ‘80s, Paul Santo, whose played Hammond Organ/Pipe Organ with the likes of Ringo Starr, Eric Clapton and Ozzy Osbourne, drummers Scott Meeder and Marty Richards and Willie “Loco” Alexander, Boston’s “Godfather of Punk”, who was part of the Bostown sound of the band “the Bagatelle”.
It was Alexander who helped Perry pay tribute to the legendary Gene Vincent on the track “Head Kicked in Tonight”. “If Elvis was the “Dom Perignon,” Gene Vincent is the “White Lightening Moonshine” with a stiletto in his boot,” said Perry. “With the Boogie Woogie played by Willie (Alexander), we had a great time recording this song. It turned out to be quite a party.”
Perry is planning a “short, fast, hard tour” with the Joe Perry Project after Have Guitar, Will Travel is released. “That’s what I’m really looking forward to - getting back out there with some old friends and some other musicians and doing it like it used to be done.”
Perry’s solo credits include composing the theme song for the “Spiderman” animated TV series, as well as the instrumental music for the independent movie This Thing of Ours, which starred James Caan. In late 2006, at the personal invitation of Chuck Berry, Perry jammed with Mr. Berry and his band at his 80th birthday celebration at Blueberry Hill in St. Louis. Joe also lent his guitar virtuosity to Mick Jagger’s Goddess in the Doorway and played guitar on Les Paul & Friends: A Tribute to A Legend, amongst many others.
In fact, Perry’s guitar prowess was documented in a version of James Moore’s “I’m A King Bee”, performed with Aerosmith band mate Steven Tyler and seen on the 2005 Martin Scorsese-produced concert on the blues, Lightning in A Bottle.
On July 1, 2007, Perry joined Tom Jones and his band at the historic “Concert for Diana” at Wembley Stadium on the classic “Ain’t That A Lot of Love” (with Joss Stone on guest vocals) and covers of Prince’s “Kiss” and the Arctic Monkeys’ “I Bet You Look Good on The Dance Floor”. Between this appearance, viewed by more than 500 million worldwide, and his special guest performance with Kelly Clarkson on the 2007 season finale of American Idol, Perry and his fiery signature guitar sound were a part of two of the year’s biggest TV events.
In June 2006, Perry and his wife Billie hosted a concert for the town of Woodstock, Vermont, where they have a home, by the Sierra Leone Refugee All Stars. Later that year, Perry joined the All Stars on stage for a medley of Bob Marley’s “War” and “Get Up Stand Up”. The couple also ensured that the band would continue to pursue their music by providing them with instruments, along with a MAC computer for the youngest member.
In 2003, Perry launched his own food company. With the first products being BoneYard Brew Hot Sauce, later followed by Mango Peach Tango; Perry is planning to release his Mac and Cheese “Joe Perry’s Rockin’ Roni” in two flavors – White Cheddar and Shells and Spicy Buffalo Cheddar and Elbows.
Perry and his family are well-known animal lovers and helped to fund the building of a new animal shelter in their community. They were also instrumental in bringing awareness to the Friesian Horse. Twenty years ago, Joe and Billie were the first in the New England area to own a pair of the once endangered breed, a cause Billie is very involved with. In that time, the Friesian Horse has gone from the endangered list to rare breeds list and now numbers in the tens of thousands in America alone.