Band: New York Dolls
Johnny Thunders died aged thirty eight from drug related causes on 23rd April, 1991 in New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S.A. He was survived by his ex-wife Julie, sons John, Vito and Dino, and daughter Jamie.
Johnny Thunders was born John Anthony Genzale in Queens, New York, U.S.A. where he first lived in East Elmhurst and then Jackson Heights.
His first musical performance was in the winter of 1967 with The Reign. Shortly thereafter, he played with Johnny and the Jaywalkers, under the name Johnny Volume, at Quintano's School for Young Professionals, around the corner from Carnegie Hall, on 56th Street near 7th Avenue, New York.
In 1968 he began going to the Fillmore East and Bethesda Fountain in Central Park on weekends. His older sister, Mariann, started styling his hair like Keith Richards. In late 1969 he got a job as a sales clerk at D'Naz leather shop, on Bleecker Street in the West Village, and started trying to put a band together. He and his girlfriend, Janis Cafasso, went to see The Rolling Stones at Madison Square Garden in November 1969, and they appear in the Maysles' film, Gimme Shelter.
In London, after the Isle of Wight Festival, the following summer, his girlfriend Janis fell sick and they flew home. Back in NYC from the UK, toward the end of 1970, he started hanging out at Nobodys, a club also on Bleecker Street in the West Village. It was near there that he met future Dolls Arthur Kane and Rick Rivets. He joined their band Actress, which later, after firing Rivets and adding David Johansen, Sylvain Sylvain and Billy Murcia, became the New York Dolls. It was then that he adopted the stage name "Johnny Thunders", inspired by a comic book hero.
Dolls bass guitarist Arthur "Killer" Kane later wrote about Johnny Thunders' guitar sound, as he described arriving outside the rehearsal studio where they were meeting to jam together for the first time: "I heard someone playing a guitar riff that I myself didn't know how to play. It was raunchy, nasty, rough, raw, and untamed. I thought it was truly inspired...", adding "His sound was rich and fat and beautiful, like a voice."
The New York Dolls were signed to Mercury Records, with the help of Artistes and Repetoire man Paul Nelson. Johnny Thunders recorded two albums with the band, New York Dolls and Too Much Too Soon. They were managed by Marty Thau, and booked by Leber & Krebs. Subsequently, they worked with Malcolm McLaren for several months, later becoming a prototype for the Sex Pistols.
In 1975 Johnny Thunders and Nolan left the band, though Johansen and Sylvain continued playing, along with Peter Jordon, Tony Machine (an ex-assistant agent at Leber & Krebs) and Chris Robison, as the New York Dolls until late 1977.
Johnny Johnny Thunders, performing at the VFW Post in Ann Arbor, Michigan in July 1979. At that time he was collaborating with Wayne Kramer of MC5, as 'Gang War'.
Johnny Thunders formed The Heartbreakers with former New York Dolls drummer Jerry Nolan and former Television bassist Richard Hell. Walter Lure, former guitarist for the New York City punk band The Demons  was soon added. After conflict arose between Johnny Thunders and Hell, Hell left to form Richard Hell and the Voidoids and was replaced by Billy Rath.
With Johnny Thunders leading the band, the Heartbreakers toured America before going to Britain to join the Sex Pistols, The Clash and The Damned on the now-legendary Anarchy Tour, replacing the Ramones, who quit the tour due to a lack of organization. The group stayed in the UK throughout 1977, where their popularity was significantly greater than in the U.S., particularly among punk bands. While in Britain they were signed to Track Records and released their only official studio album, L.A.M.F., an abbreviation for "Like A Mother Fucker". L.A.M.F. was received positively by critics and fans alike, but was criticised for its poor production. Displeased with the production, the band members were soon competing with one other, mixing and remixing the record, culminating in drummer Jerry Nolan quitting in November 1977. Shortly thereafter, the Heartbreakers officially disbanded.
Johnny Thunders stayed in London and recorded the first of a number of solo albums, beginning with So Alone in 1978. The notoriously drug-fuelled recording sessions featured a core band of Johnny Thunders, bassist Phil Lynott, drummer Paul Cook and guitarist Steve Jones, with guest appearances from Chrissie Hynde, Steve Marriott, Walter Lure, Billy Rath and Peter Perrett. The CD version of the album contains four bonus tracks, including the single "Dead or Alive" and cover of the early Marc Bolan song "The Wizard". Soon afterwards, Johnny Thunders moved back to the US, joining former Heartbreakers Walter Lure, Billy Rath and sometimes Jerry Nolan for gigs at Max's Kansas City. Around this time Johnny Thunders played a small number of gigs at London's Speakeasy with a line up including Cook and Jones, Henri Paul on bass and Judy Nylon and Patti Palladin (Snatch) as back up vocalists.
In late 1979 Johnny Thunders moved to Detroit with his wife Julie and began performing in a band called Gang War. Other members included John Morgan, Ron Cooke, Philippe Marcade and former MC5 guitarist Wayne Kramer. They recorded several demos and performed live several times before disbanding. Zodiac Records released an EP of their demos in 1987. In 1990 they also released an album titled Gang War, which was credited to Johnny Thunders and Kramer.
During the early 1980s, Johnny Thunders re-formed The Heartbreakers for various tours; the group recorded their final album, Live at the Lyceum, in 1984. The concert was also filmed and released as a video and later a DVD titled Dead Or Alive.
In the 1980s Johnny Thunders lived in Paris and Stockholm with his wife and daughter.
In 1985, Johnny Thunders released Que Sera Sera, a collection of new songs with his then band The Black Cats, and "Crawfish", a duet with former Snatch vocalist Patti Palladin.
Three years later he again teamed up with Palladin to release Copy Cats, a covers album. The album, produced by Palladin, featured a wide assortment of musicians to recreate the 1950s and 1960s sound of the originals, including Alex Balanescu on violin, Bob Andrews on piano, The Only Ones John Perry and others on guitar, and a horn section.
From August 1988 until his death in April 1991, Johnny Thunders performed in The Oddballs, with Jamie Heath (saxophone), Alison Gordy (vocals), Chris Musto (drums), Stevie Klasson (guitar) and Jill Wisoff (bass).
From April–May 1990, Johnny performed an acoustic tour of the UK and Ireland joining up occasionally with John, Sam & Peter of The Golden Horde, whom he had met and played with previously in 1984 at the TV Club, and were concurrently on tour (of the UK & Ireland) at that time also, for full-band electric performances and TV appearances.
On May 8, 1990, recording sessions in London for a joint EP-single cover version with The Golden Horde of "Sugar, Sugar" by The Archies, and original material, had to be cancelled when Johnny experienced "health problems" following his performances in Wakefield, UK while on tour.
His final recording was a version of "Born To Lose", with German punk rock band Die Toten Hosen, recorded just thirty-six hours before his death in New Orleans.
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