The Story of Bon Jovi’s Feud With Howard Stern
Bon Jovi thought enough of Howard Stern to ask the radio personality to give a speech to induct them into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But there was a time when the longtime friends were feuding, and, with comedian Sam Kinison's involvement, it made for some of the most real and compelling radio of Stern's early days.
Prior to their massive breakthrough with Slippery When Wet in 1986,Bon Jovi found a champion in Stern, who was then a morning disc jockey at New York's WXRK-FM (better known as K-Rock). But things got tense in 1988 as the band, now superstars, looked elsewhere to promote their next album, New Jersey. As Stern wrote in his memoir, Private Parts, "It started very innocently when I got pissed at Bon Jovi for going on radio stations like [local competitors] Z-100 and WNEW to promote their new album yet shunning my show. I was mad because we were the only show to promote Bon Jovi when they were nobodies. I had what I thought was a good relationship with three guys in the band -- Jon Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora and David Bryan."
Stern was able to get a hold of Jon's home phone number and he called him one morning on-air. "He gave me some lame excuse that the record company stopped him because the other stations threatened not to play the record if he came on with me," Stern recalled. "I knew this was bullshit, and I teased him for kowtowing to the record execs. I renamed him Jon Bon Phony. Jon sounded really contrite and offered to come over to my house, wash the car and babysit my kids for restitution."
Sambora then called in and tried to apologize, but Stern was still hurt. Even though Jon Bon Jovi was two years away from his solo bow on the Young Guns II soundtrack, Stern told Sambora that his bandmate's newfound lack of personal loyalty would soon lead to him embarking on a solo career and leaving the others in the dust. "'Go ahead, Richie,'" he said. "'Name the other two Supremes besides Diana Ross.'"
In retrospect, Stern realized that the argument accomplished his goal. "Meanwhile, here I was complaining that he wouldn't come on the air and I had already had him on for over an hour," Stern wrote.
Watch Howard Stern Talk About Being Burned by Bon Jovi
Stern proceeded to regularly badmouth Bon Jovi, even recording a parody song called "You Give Friendship a Bad Name." Before the Who's concert at Giants Stadium in E. Rutherford, N.J., in June 1989, Stern, broadcasting from a luxury box, got the crowd below him to chant "Bon Jovi sucks."
Then Kinison, a friend of both parties and a frequent guest on Stern's show, entered the scene. In August 1989, he called up the show, offering to broker the peace by bringing Bon Jovi into the studio the next day. Stern and his crew were ecstatic, spending the rest of the day writing and recording bits about the feud and courting the press to cover the show.
But neither Bon Jovi nor Kinison showed up at the studio the next day. As Bill Kinison, Sam's brother and manager, recalled in 2007, "About 5 o'clock in the morning, I'm telling Sam, 'Hey dude, we gotta go over and do Howard.' They're like, 'We're not going on Stern.' So Sam's like, 'I can't go on then!' Howard thought that Sam had totally set him up, that it was never going to happen."
Listen to Howard Stern vs. Sam Kinison
Stern was both hurt and angry, particularly with Kinison. He declared Andrew "Dice" Clay, Kinison's chief rival who had made a few appearances on Stern's show, to be the future of comedy. When Kinison called in to apologize a day later, after his stand-up set was bombarded by Stern fans heckling him, the two went at it, sparing no feelings. When it was over, it was pointed out how many times Kinison and Stern called each other "man" or "dude" and, with another comedian, Gilbert Gottfried, in the studio, they listened back to the tape and counted.
Within a few weeks, Stern and Kinison reconciled, but it took a couple of years for Bon Jovi to be welcomed back into the fold. In November 1992, seven months after Kinison was killed in a car crash, Jon Bon Jovi and Sambora promoted Keep the Faith by going on both Stern's radio show and his interview program on the E! network.
Listen to Bon Jovi on Howard Stern's Radio Show in 1992