Former Joan Jett Guitarist Ricky Byrd Talks Sobriety, Music & Spreading Awareness

Former Joan Jett Guitarist Ricky Byrd Talks Sobriety, Music & Spreading Awareness

By David Konow 11/29/16

“This is my third act. This is my main attraction that I want to do with my career…I feel like I can be of greater use if people know.”

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Former Joan Jett Guitarist Ricky Byrd Talks Sobriety, Music & Spreading Awareness
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When released in early 1982, Joan Jett’s "I Love Rock 'n' Roll" was an ubiquitous hit that was the No. 1 song in the country for seven weeks. In addition to Jett’s great vocal hooks, it featured a tasty guitar solo from Ricky Byrd, who has also performed with Roger Daltrey, Paul McCartney, and Joe Walsh.

Not only is Byrd a skilled guitar player and an inductee of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, he has also been in recovery for nearly 30 years. Byrd cleaned up his act on Sept. 25, 1987 after 18 years of excessive drug and alcohol use.

As Byrd had previously told The Fix, he had already survived a collapsed lung and had dropped down to 128 pounds. “I was pretty much a garbage head,” he said. “Cocaine was definitely in the mix, as well as booze, pills and pot.”

Today Byrd says, “This is my third act. This is my main attraction that I want to do with my career … I feel like I can be of greater use if people know.”

Like many musicians, Byrd fell into the all-too-familiar trap of sex, drugs and rock and roll. “I was addicted to more,” Byrd says. ”I was a maniac. Everyday I was using.” While some of his fellow musicians made fun of him for abstaining and going to meetings on the road, Byrd was determined to clean up his act. “If you want it, it’s there.”

Byrd has also created a non-profit organization called Ricky Byrd’s Clean Getaway, which sponsors concert events and outreach programs. As Byrd states on the organization's website, “Our mission is to bring awareness, education, prevention and addiction resources to those suffering from drug and alcohol addiction through the healing power of music.”

Byrd often speaks at recovery centers, performing songs about sobriety and spreading the word. In one song, Byrd relates, “I went down to the bottom, my life was stripped bare to the bone … I called that place my home. By the time the ride was over, I was strung out, desperate and alone.”

When performing music about his addiction and recovery, people in recovery know that Byrd has suffered like they have. He’s grateful he can connect with others who need help. At one recent meeting, he told the audience, “When I’m in a room like this, this is really all about humanity. This is like the place I get my medicine.”

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In addition to contributing for The Fix, David Konow has also written for Esquire, Deadline, LA Weekly, Village Voice, The Wrap, and many other publications and websites. He is also the author of the three decade history of heavy metal, Bang Your Head (Three Rivers Press), and the horror film history Reel Terror (St Martins Press). Find David on LinkedIn and Facebook.

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