Ricky Byrd Balances Rock and Roll with Recovery

Ricky Byrd [photo: Jeff Smith]
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The rock and roll lifestyle can appear glamorous but for many the temptations of the road can be life threatening. 

Such was the case for Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Ricky Byrd, the former lead guitarist for Joan Jett and The Blackhearts. 

Joan Jett & The Blackhearts c. 1981 promo photo (Ricky Byrd second from left)

In 1982, the band's hit, I Love Rock and Roll, was number one on the charts, but as the band was rocking Byrd was reeling from addiction.

"There's always somebody who wants to get the guitar player high.  People ask me, 'What was your thing?' and I just say, 'I was addicted to more,'" Byrd said.

Ricky Byrd and Joan Jett [courtesy: Ricky Byrd]

Fortunately he was able to escape the addictions he succumbed to as the band was at its peak.

A chance encounter at a wedding with a former addict planted the seed for his recovery.

"I turned to her and said to her my favorite two words at the time: 'You holding?' She was like, 'No I'm doing this, and I'm going to these community support meetings.'  I was like, 'Good for you!' and I looked somewhere else," he said.

But in September of 1987, when Byrd couldn't take it anymore he called that same friend, who set him on the road to more than three decades of sobriety.

Ricky Byrd [photo: Leland Bobbe]

Now Byrd, who's no longer in the Blackhearts, has a new album of songs about addiction, "Clean Getaway."

"When I had about a half a dozen [songs] I called the treatment facility, and I said, 'What would you think if I came with my guitar and led a recovery music group?'  I started doing that and started writing more songs," Byrd said.

This Saturday afternoon (July 14) Byrd shares his story and music from Clean Getaway at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as part of a free program presented in partnership with Recovery Resources and the commercial radio program, "Rock and Recovery."

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