The Untold Truth Of Richie Sambora

Richie Sambora, ex-guitarist from the popular rock band, Bon Jovi, grew up in New Jersey and was always drawn to music, taking inspiration from successful musicians such as Jimi Hendrix. According to All Music, Sambora took a leap of faith in 1980 when he worked on a "self-released eponymous" rock album. Back in those days, he even tried to join the band Kiss but couldn't find a spot for himself.

Eventually, he got the opportunity to play with Bon Jovi and became known as the band's lead guitarist, becoming an internationally recognized star. Per Sambora, the band members really got the opportunity to connect with each other as they worked on new music and went on tours together. He told The Independent that there was a time when they were living with each other in Philadelphia and "sleeping on the floor" in really cold weather with little food. But they refused to get discouraged and "never stopped having fun." Also, Sambora knows that he got the opportunity to experience as much as he did thanks to his stint with Bon Jovi. "My lord, when I look back and start to list the tours ... 18-and-a-half months of being on the road, 52 countries," he told People. "It's like, Wow."

However, Sambora saw many setbacks in his personal life and decided to step back at some point and take a break. From embracing parenthood to being forced to confront a broken relationship, there's a lot that Sambora has gone through.

He joined Bon Jovi on a whim

Richie Sambora got lucky in 1983 when he got the chance to become a part of Bon Jovi. He told The Independent that it all started with fellow musician Alec John Such who worked with Sambora before joining Bon Jovi as its bassist. After Sambora's audition for Kiss didn't pan out as expected, Alec John Such told him to attend a Bon Jovi performance. Sambora took him up on this offer and this decision changed everything for the musician. 

He said, "I went there and I thought Jon was so charismatic. It was just magic. I went backstage and gave him a verbal resume. I had certainly never done anything like that before — gone down on my knee and said, 'Here I am!' — so it was quite interesting, that power he had." While Jon was initially confused, he decided to reach out to Sambora a week later and offered him a spot in the band after watching him perform at a rehearsal. 

Sambora noted that they got to work almost immediately and jammed together, coming up with tracks like "Burning For Love" and "Come Back." As Sambora said, "We knew there was a good chemistry. We were both sincere about being good people and about being successful."

He wanted to mimic Johnny Cash

Richie Sambora was heavily inspired by popular musician Johnny Cash and wanted to be like him. According to the book, "Bon Jovi Encyclopaedia" by Neil Daniels, well-known designer Ray Brown stated that Sambora wanted to look like iconic musicians Johnny Cash and Stevie Ray Vaughn when he was performing onstage in front of his fans. This meant long leather jackets and hats: Sambora found a statement look for his performances that he stuck to. 

Ray Brown had worked with several influential names in the music industry such as Judas Priest, Whitesnake, Black Sabbath, Ozzy Osbourne, and Bon Jovi: basically, he knew what Sambora was looking for. He recalled, "Back then all his coats were always long; they were always three-quarter length. Johnny Cash was one of the ways he would describe how he wanted to look." Brown also said that he enjoyed Sambora's music and was full of praises for his solo album, "Stranger In This Town." 

Sambora lost his father to cancer

One of the most difficult experiences that Richie Sambora had to live through was losing his dad to cancer in 2007. According to People, the musician described it as the "toughest" year of his life. After his father died, Sambora was determined to do his bit for those affected by cancer and worked with Bon Jovi on a concert series called "Stand Up For A Cure" in a bid to collect funds for cancer research at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer center where his father received medical care.

That year also included other personal setbacks for Sambora, but the toughest challenge was for him to come to terms with his dad's passing. He told Today, "Going through the grief period of my dad and losing him — that was the worst thing because you know when you get that call ... When you are seven, eight years old, you have that almost vision in your mind of what that's going to be like and what your going to feel like and it doesn't prepare you."

He fought addiction

Richie Sambora spoke about his struggles with alcohol addiction on "The Today Show" in 2007 and said that he went on a "detox" to feel better (via People). He also mentioned that he didn't have to go to a rehabilitation facility but sought treatment at the UCLA Medical Center to cope with his symptoms. "Instead of me heading into a place — I was just drinking too much and I needed to get my life together. I'm still in therapy and stuff like that, but it's good. I'm great. I feel fine," Sambora said.

Meanwhile, the guitarist's bandmate, Jon Bon Jovi, said that the entire band was supporting the musician through the difficult journey. He said, "We've been through everything together and there was no way that we were not going to be supporting Richie right now — and that's what we're doing."

According to a piece by USA Today, Sambora also struggled with drugs, particularly an addiction to painkillers. The musician lost some of his friends to addiction and knew that he was "lucky" enough to have lived to tell the tale.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

His breakup with Heather Locklear was a shock

In 2006, Richie Sambora was in for a huge surprise when he found out that his wife, actress Heather Locklear, had decided to end their marriage. According to ABC News, the couple had been together for 11 years before their split was announced. Sambora didn't know what was going n and even mentioned in an interview with ABC News Radio that everything was okay between him and his wife.

He declared, "It's completely untrue," when asked about the separation and said that he intended to celebrate Valentine's Day with Locklear. Meanwhile, things worsened for the guitarist as Locklear's spokeswoman released a statement that read, "After 10 years of marriage, Heather Locklear has filed for divorce from Richie Sambora." She refused to release any more details, insisting that it was a "private matter."

Sambora remained in denial and kept saying that he was "going home." Unfortunately, the divorce was not fake news: It was finalized in April 2007. Per CBS News, Locklear cited "irreconcilable differences" as the reason for wanting a divorce. Meanwhile, Sambora wanted to be granted joint custody of their daughter, Ava, and requested the court to consider their prenuptial contract. 

He remains friends with his ex-girlfriend, Denise Richards

After his divorce, Richie Sambora found love again in the arms of actress Denise Richards. According to US Magazine, they started seeing each other at some point in 2006 and saw a few highs and lows in their relationship before getting back together in 2011. Sadly, Richards declared a year later that their relationship was over on "The Talk." She also gave some context to her fans and explained, "We went through a lot. Years ago we both lost our parents at the same time and were going through other stuff, so we'll always have a bond with each other and we will stay good friends forever."

In her book, "The Real Girl Next Door," Denise Richards clarified that she had been friends with Heather Locklear for a short while before she ended up in a relationship with Sambora. She went on to add, "I did not break up a marriage. It was already over. Had she and I still been friends, I never would have crossed that line with him. Ever."  She said that she definitely couldn't predict that she would end up dating Sambora, but when it happened, the couple did their best to avoid the press and keep their relationship a secret. 

He ran into legal troubles because of alcohol

In 2008, Sambora got into serious trouble after he was arrested in Laguna Beach, California: Police officials noticed that he was "weaving on the road." A police sergeant, Jason Kravetz, told People that Sambora, his girlfriend, the musician's daughter, Ava, and another girl were in the car at the time of the incident. Cops decided to administer a blood alcohol test at the time and Kravetz noted that the musician was "quiet and cooperative and he didn't cause any problems."

Sambora was taken into police custody but allowed to leave early in the morning. A friend who knew Locklear and Sambora couldn't believe that the incident actually took place, especially considering the fact that Ava was in the car. The friend said, "He adores her and is very protective her. All I can think is that he made a stupid miscalculation."

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

He likes to collect vintage guitars on a massive scale

Richie Sambora doesn't shy away from expressing his love for guitars. In fact, he told Guitar World in 2010 that he had managed to collect over 135 guitars. He was so protective about his vintage guitars that he refused to travel with them when he was away on tours because he was scared that someone may try to steal them. As Sambora said, "Leave a 1959 sunburst Les Paul in a hotel room? I don't think so!"

He revealed that he used his "ESP Richie Sambora signature model" to produce versatile sounds and also bought Strats, Teles, Les Pauls, and Les Paul Juniors.  Plus, the vintage guitars were especially useful when Sambora was working on creating new music in the studio. He emphasized that traveling with some of his prized equipment was out of the question and said, "There's certain pieces I'll never take on tour. Why take the risk?"

Sambora decided to prioritize being a parent

Richie Sambora made a surprise announcement in 2013 and said that he was leaving Bon Jovi to look after his family. According to People, he only spoke at length about leaving the band several years later and stated that he didn't regret it. He said, "It wasn't a popular decision by any means, obviously, but there was really almost no choice about it. I had a lot of conscious work to do around [my personal life]."

He had come to the conclusion that he needed to focus on his daughter's needs instead of going away on tours for extended periods. The guitarist acknowledged that he was privileged even in those times and said, "Luckily I was making enough money to be able to have a private plane, get my a** home and see my kid even if it was only for one day." Ava later said that she was really grateful for the fact that Sambora made it a point to attend all those dance recitals and school performances. 

The two now share a great connection and Sambora is very proud of his kid. He said, "She's an amazing young woman with a bright future. She's just dedicated to being a good person. And she is."

Jon Bon Jovi suffered after Sambora's departure from the band

Losing Richie Sambora was a huge blow for Bon Jovi. Per Ultimate Classic Rock, the band's frontman, Jon Bon Jovi, said that there were times when he wished Sambora was still a part of the band. He admitted, "There's not a day that goes by that I don't wish that Richie had his life together and was still in the band." However, there were conflicting accounts: while Jon Bon Jovi said that the guitarist made a few bad choices that "led him astray," the latter claimed that he wasn't having a great time with the band and wasn't happy.

According to a Mirror piece, Jon Bon Jovi felt "blindsided" after Sambora chose to quit the band and found himself struggling with his mental health. It didn't help that he had an ugly disagreement with his record label and felt rather defeated. The musician remarked, "There was a lot of darkness really. I was going through a difficult period and it felt like the weight of the world was on my shoulders." He added that his wife helped get through those difficult times and stood by his side like a rock.

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.

He believed that he didn't receive enough credit from Bon Jovi

In 2021, Richie Sambora made a surprising revelation and said that he was expected to stay quiet when he was a band member. He told Nile Rogers on Deep Hidden Meaning Radio (via Music News) that for some reason, most people believed that it was Jon Bon Jovi who wrote and created the songs by himself, which wasn't the case. However, Sambora wasn't really supposed to clarify anything. He said, "That was part of my deal, to shut the f*** up ... and you know what? Guess what? I did it. And it worked out because that's what he needed, for whatever reason."

While things have been topsy-turvy, Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora seem to be in a relatively better place now. In fact, Sambora told Rolling Stone in 2017 that he'd exchanged some messages with Jon Bon Jovi and things were cordial between them. He said, "There ain't no malice or anything like that ... 31 years is 31 years [referring to the time they worked together]. That's a long time and being in a huge organization like Bon Jovi, it's all-consuming."

He arranged treatment options for his ex-wife

Richie Sambora's ex-wife, Heather Locklear, got involved in an unexpected controversy in 2018 after she allegedly attacked a police official and a paramedic inside her home. As reported by People, experts suspected that the actress had experienced an overdose and was rushed to the hospital. She later chose to seek treatment for substance abuse at a "long-term facility" and spent time focusing on her mental health.

Sambora spoke up in support of his ex-wife and told The Daily Mail, "I will of course always be there for Heather and especially Ava. I am very proud of my daughter for her composure and strength during this difficult time." Sambora showcased his support for Locklear in more ways than one: he rode a fighter plane that had his ex-wife's initials on it and hired several doctors and experts to make sure that Locklear was in good hands.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).