The world of rock and roll is often associated with loud music, addiction, alcohol, and drugs. But for rock icon Jay Jay French, staying at the top of the game even in this field requires a clear mind, teamwork, and a strong entrepreneurial mindset. He sits down with Steve Farber to share the colorful journey of forming the band Twisted Sister, their rise as a bar and video band, their decline and fall, and their revival as a festival band. Jay Jay explains how leaving drugs behind and remaining sober, which is beyond the norm of rock and roll, helped them overcome even the most formidable challenges to become one of the most successful and recognizable music groups today. He also details his current transition to motivational speaking and podcasting, as well as his upcoming book with Steve.
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Behind The Scenes Of Twisted Sister: A Rock Icon’s Entrepreneurial Journey With Jay Jay French
My guest is the one and only, John “Jay Jay” French, who is the Founder, the guitarist and the Manager of the iconic rock and roll band, Twisted Sister. You’ve probably heard the name Twisted Sister before, but if you’re not exactly placing it, I know you know the song I Wanna Rock, and the iconic song We’re Not Gonna Take It. That’s Twisted Sister. John is the guy that started that band several years ago. He is an incredible storyteller, a phenomenal entrepreneur. He’s that rare blend of musician, artist and businessperson all rolled into one. We have a great conversation coming right up, freewheeling, a bit on the rated R end of the language spectrum, so you may want to keep that in mind before you jump in, but I’m sure you’re going to have a great time with us. Here is my friend, John “Jay Jay” French. Enjoy.
He is the guy behind Twisted Sister, and that is his baby. He is my dear friend. John, welcome to the show. Let me start with a basic question. You are a person who has been through many names in your life. Your born name that it says on your birth certificate is what?
John French Segall.
Nowadays, you are known to millions as Jay Jay French. Your friends know you as John French. We also know that you’re Jay Jay French, but your friends call you John. What’s it like going through life with all these different names?
You know how close friends of De Niro call him Bobby, but you’ve got to be close to him. Joe Pesci goes, “Bobby and I are out,” but you can’t say Bobby if you’re not that close. I have a friend who got Dylan his first apartment in New York City in 1961, when he came from Minnesota, and he was Dylan’s first producer. He calls him Bobby Dylan. We don’t call him Bobby Dylan. Nobody calls him Bobby Dylan. Nobody but he does. Johnny is used by the old Jewish ladies in my building who knew me when I was a little kid.
Just so people know, you live not only the same building, but the same apartment that you lived in when you were a kid.
For many years. The people who are still alive go, “I knew him.” The thing is as the older they get, the shorter they get. When they put their arm up to show my height, “I knew him when he was big.” According to some of them, I was one foot tall. There are some people that call me Johnny. There’s a tiny little group that can do that. John is used in Manhattan, for example, unless it’s purely a business situation, it’s never Jay Jay. Jay Jay is used as a business name, and close friends call me John, like your close friends call you Steve. Everyone else calls you SS, we know how that works. Jay Jay became this nickname because it was created for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was that I ascertained early on in the band’s career that people who were drunk don’t remember names.
If you can make it easy for them to remember a name, they can heckle you better during the course of the night when it’s easier to come out. “John sucks,” it doesn’t work as much as a “Jay Jay, you suck.” Most people don’t ever put these two together, but one of my favorite guitar players is BB King, the blues guitar player. I liked the brevity of Jay Jay, so it became this name.
In the early days of the band, it got picked up after that. It became, “Do I want to spell it how do I want to spell it?” That confuses even more. Now I’m John “Jay Jay” French Segall. In the early days of getting our platinum records, the record label had my name Segall on the plaque. It would be John “Jay Jay” French Segall. When my daughter, Samantha, was about to be born given the fact that my wife would not take my last name, none of them ever do, they don’t take Segall. We’ll give it to Sharon because that’s more confusing ever because her husband’s last name. I wanted to make it simpler. Samantha’s mom’s last name is Brock, and I am John Segall, but Jay Jay French. Is my daughter going to be Samantha French Brock Segall? You know Spanish names that go on forever? I knew a girl named Tessa Martinez Sutherland Koenigsberg. I had a girlfriend like that. These long games. I said, “How can I make it simple?”
I did two things before my daughter was born to make my life simpler. Number one, I legally changed my name to John French. That’s legally my name. That’s what I signed. I did not have a high school diploma because I dropped out of high school, I decided I wanted to have a high school diploma before my daughter was born. We could say that her father is a high school graduate because even though it can be argued that I didn’t need a high school diploma to validate who I am. Also given the fact, Steve, that I do motivational speaking to not only college graduates, but guys with multiple degrees and they’re taking actual advice from me and I’m a high school dropout. I had all the fun and they didn’t.
I decided to take the equivalency diploma. I did. It arrived three days before my daughter was born. Those are the two things I accomplished when my daughter was born. My name officially is John French. Professionally, Jay Jay French. When we, meaning you and me, Steve, were discussing how do you introduce me and me being a little schizophrenic about the John, the Jay Jay, I said, “Why don’t you just say, John “Jay Jay” French?” That’s it. The ones who call me Jay Jay, which most people we’ll meet in professional circumstances, they always say Jay Jay. The only people who call me John are you, Veronica, a small group where people call me John, because you guys know me. When you’re in New York City in my neighborhood, you never call me Jay Jay, because you know me personally.
I remember the first time I visited you in New York, we were going to go out to dinner and there was a place that you wanted to go. It was hard to get into and I will never forget this. You picked up the phone, you called the restaurant and you said, “This is Jay Jay French for the band, Twisted Sister. Can you get me in tonight?” That was not John French. That was Jay Jay French making the reservation.If you are fighting the pillow of recovery, you can't make clear-eyed choices because you can't even get to the problem. Click To Tweet
That was my alter ego, Michael Hall, working on behalf of Jay Jay French. In the words of Tony Danza, when asked how famous he was, he said, “I’m famous enough to get a doctor when I need it, and a reservation in a restaurant.” That’s my level of celebrity. I am well enough known so I can get into any doctor’s office as, “The guy from Twisted Sister. He needs to see you. He’s dying of hangnail cancer. He needs someone to do an MRI.” I can get in right away. Being the neurotic Jew that I am, that’s how I’m going to die, hangnail cancer. It’s a newly discovered cancer. Have you ever noticed how Jews always have the best doctors? Being Jewish, did you ever notice like, “My son, he went to be the world’s greatest doctor. He invented prostate cancer. His name was Irving Prostate Cancer. They named the disease after him.” Why does every Jew have the best doctor?
Here’s the embarrassing part, calling up using your name and they don’t know you. That’s truly a humbling experience. It’s not automatic that they know because sometimes they don’t know, or they know, it’s a sophisticated restaurant and they google you right on the phone, “Who is this?” “Jay Jay, Twisted Sister.” They see and they can corroborate this while they’re talking to you because they pretend that they know who you are.
Being unknown is embarrassing. Hence this description of when I visited my aunt and uncle in Florida back in the ‘80s at the peak of my success, incidentally at the peak, I’m as famous as I’m going to be. I’m visiting my Aunt Tinny and Uncle Irving. I have two Uncle Irving’s, which is the Jewish version of Darryl and Darryl from The Bob Newhart Show. I had two Uncles Irving’s, and between them they had one good eye. They picked me up at the airport and the cars going all over the freaking highway. I’m like, “Can you pull over? I’m driving. The two of you in the back, I’m driving.” My Aunt Ruth and my Aunt Tinny take me to dinner at 5:30 in the evening at some restaurant in Fort Lauderdale. Everyone’s wearing sweaters. It’s 1,000 degrees out.
We walk in the restaurant and my Aunt Tinny goes, “Here’s my nephew, Johnny. He’s in the Twisted Sister.” They’re not taking something or they want to do something. This is humbling. I go, “Ruth, Tinny, do me a favor. Don’t, you don’t have to. I’m just your nephew, just go out to dinner. You don’t have to tell Roberta five tables over that, “He’s in the Twisted Sister.”” You learn how to deal with this humbly over time. You’ve learned to deal with your names. In my neighborhood, there are some guys who I’ve known all my life. There are a few left. They’re alive. They call me by my real last name, Segall, because in the neighborhood I was, “Yo, Segall.” That would be it. Occasionally you will hear, “Yo, Segall.” You know that guy. We went to public school.
Speaking of names, Twisted Sister was at its first heyday, before the band. The arc was, you guys fought and fought, worked for years in the Jersey clubs and the holy grail was to get a record deal. You came close to getting a record deal many times, and it fell apart. You guys were the embodiment of tenacity. Finally, you get a record deal, you have We’re Not Gonna Take It, I Wanna Rock, you’ve made it to the big time. After that, you stopped everything and then came back together around 2001. You finished your career at a high, playing these huge festivals, but in the heyday before that last resurgence of the band, gold record time and platinum record time and all of that, I knew who you were. I knew who the band was.
It wasn’t my kind of music. I happen to know that this was also your kind of music, but I know that, but your personal kind of music. My kind of music was The Band and Dylan and The Grateful Dead, the folks like John Prine, who was my idol, these guys like that, but I always thought the name Twisted Sister was like the greatest freaking band name ever. I still think that. What a phenomenal name. When you and I first started to get to know each other, and I first started to hear your story, I was curious to hear where the name came from. Could you tell us the brilliant moment that the name Twisted Sister came to be?
Steve, you and I have been working on a book since Moby Dick was a minnow. That’s the book, it’s called Moby Dick Was A Minnow. It’s the history of me and my business. Steve is one of my co-writers, my mentor, the reason why I’m even doing this is unfortunately, this gentleman, I have to thank for the rest of my goddamn professional life. I’ve been telling this story for a long time, but I never told the real story.
The name of the book is not Since Moby Dick Was A Minnow, it’s Twisted Business, to be clear.
What if I say I lied about it? I’m only going to divulge it in the book, finally. It’s a big teaser, isn’t it? If you watch the documentary, you would know. The band was called Silver Star, which is a horrible name. It was a glitter band in 1972. There’s the New York Dolls. It’s September, October, November 1972, I’m looking for a band and there are glitter bands that are all over New York City, all of a sudden. There’s Dolls, Teenage Lust, Eric and The Magic Tramps, all these quasi-transvestity, makeupy bands in the lower East side, which was weird. We talk about The Band or Dylan, or we can even say The Beach Boys or Grateful Dead or Led Zeppelin or Jeff Beck, Rod Stewart, Jimi Hendrix, all these great artists had come through New York every weekend at the Fillmore East, weekend after weekend. You would think that these musicians watching these artists every week for $3 aspire to be greater musicians.
What we’re watching is the greatest contemporary rock musicians in the world on a weekly basis. Led Zeppelin, Savoy Brown, The Grateful Dead, The Jefferson Airplane and The Who. They come in, Rolling Stones, every weekend, $2, $3. If you couldn’t afford $3, you’ll see them in Central Park for $1. It was icon Tina Turner and The Beach Boys, every week. You would think that the overarching desire to be great would be the next generation of musicians. I’m that next generation. I’m going to Fillmore every week and I’m practicing. I’d come home after seeing The Allman Brothers, and I’m practicing, and I’d see The Grateful Dead and I’m practicing. I’d see Led Zeppelin opening for Iron Butterfly and Canned Heat and I’m practicing. What’s the combination of that? The worst shittiest bands on the planet evolve out in New York. Guys who can’t play to save their ass, The Dolls, Teenage Lust, The Ramones. It’s hysterically funny, it’s cute, but what the fuck does that have to do with musicianship?
It’s like they all woke up one day and said, “Let’s suck and look good. Why bother having to play? Let’s get stoned and look good and be stupid.” What happens? Bowie comes out with a masterful record, Ziggy Stardust. Lou Reed comes out with a masterful record called Transformer. Mott the Hoople comes out with a masterful record called All the Young Dudes. T Rex comes out with a masterful record called Electric Warrior. In New York, these freaking mooks are playing like four-year-olds buying guitar at Manny’s Music learning how to play Stairway to Heaven. You go, “Why do they suck bad?” I’ve been thinking about this lately like, “Why?” Why is it that is what we deduced, that punk comes out of that? Alternative punk is like, “You can’t play? You can be an alternative band.” It’s called an alternative to talent, songwriting and singing. If your voice sucks like mine does, I can’t sing that’s why I do Dylan songs. That’s why God created Lou Reed and Dylan so guys like me can sing, which is fine. They’re geniuses.
The shit that these bands were playing, I don’t care what everybody says. You want to call them great, that’s your business. You’re all freaking nuts. The fall of ‘72, Bowie had one of best bands in The Spiders from Mars, great players. Mick Ronson, phenomenal player. MOTT, phenomenal players. We get crap. I would go see The Dolls all the time. You know how, Steve, we talk about what is an entrepreneur? I have to deduce that you become an entrepreneur for one of two reasons, and you can correct me if I’m wrong, but you either have invented something the world’s never seen before and you can’t wait to show it to the world or you go to improve something that existed before, and you can’t wait to show it to the world, you’ll risk everything in the process. Does that pretty much sum up 99%?
It’s a good portion of it.
You either came up with an idea that was unique, and you’ll risk everything to show it, or you want to improve something that already exists and you’re willing to risk everything to show it. Coming up with a rock band is not a unique idea. There have been plenty of them before, but can I improve on a rock band? There’s my thesis. There’s The Dolls who look great and can’t play to save their ass.
The Dolls dressed in drag.
It’s all over the internet. They’re famous, and the cover of their album. I saw them a lot because they played a lot. I knew Johnny Thunders as a druggie when I was a druggie because we were druggies together. I had personal friends who were personal friends with Billy and Sid. Billy was the original drummer who died before The Dolls made it famous. They would drag me to the Mercer Arts Center, I’d go every week and I’d sit there and go, “This band sucks.” They look great but I didn’t understand the disconnect between the great bands like Hendrix, The Who, and Stones and this shit like, “This is what we’ve come up with?” It made no sense to me. I desperately wanted to be in a glitter band because I love the way they looked, but I wanted to be in a band with players, guys who could play. I didn’t even know what that meant, but my name was mentioned by a former drummer that I was in a band to an agent in Jersey who happened to be repping a band called Silver Star. They were a new glitter band, and they needed a guitar player. My name showed up. I went to the audition and all the guys were great players.
This is the key. The singer was great, Michael Valentine. the drummer was a jazz drummer, Mel Anderson, whose brother Al was the guitar player in Bob Marley and the Wailers at this exact moment of February of ‘72. What does Bob Marley and Twisted Sister have in common? Brothers. Most people don’t know that. Bass player, Kenny Neill, best musician we’ve ever had in the band. Everyone will say it. Natural musician plays song once, looks at you like you’re stupid. You could play Rock ‘n’ Roll Animal by Lou Reed, one time through, you could play one of the songs on that, it’s complicated. He listens and goes, “Okay.” I’m sitting there and he’s like, “Are you retarded?” Perfect pitch, genius bass player. Billy, the guitar player was a great player. These guys knew each other. They’re all from Jersey. They all had played in bands prior, meaning they understood the club scene. I knew nothing at all. They hired me to be the fifth Beatle in this band.
The first two questions I asked was “How do we make money?” The name sucks, Silver Star, who the hell is going to remember that shit? That led to a bit of an argument with the drummer, because unbeknownst to me, the guy who brought me in, that was his baby. He named it. He was a good drummer, but I’m in terms of an original thinker. He called himself Mel Star. That’s a tough one, Star. That’s a great last name, and the band is Silver Star. How long do you think it took? How many seconds of brainstorm do you think it took to come up with that idea? I, being a cynical Jew from New York, not only did I say the name sucked, but I came up with my idea of a glitter band and that name was The Max Factor.
That’s creative. That solves a lot of problems, makeup, and you can’t get sued, The Max Factor. What a concept. That went over like a lead balloon, like a cartoon, like a Wile E. Coyote off a cliff coming. We knew something was wrong. The name was wrong. We’re six weeks into rehearsal. We started early January of ‘73. Michael, we have a fight and Michael goes out and gets drunk at some local bar where we were living. He calls the house and I pick up the phone. He goes, “John, it’s Michael.” I wasn’t Jay Jay yet, it’s John. Jay Jay is coming for later. I decided to call myself Johnny Heartbreaker or Jonathan Livingston Segall, because seagull. I was trying every gimmick.
This is a guy who had a problem with Mel Star?
Michael goes, “I’ve got a good name, Twisted Sister.” I was like, “That’s a great name.” I ran downstairs and I said, “Michael called with the greatest name, Twisted Sister.” Everyone liked it except Mel because he wanted to somehow preserve Silver Star, which was going to be voted off. That wasn’t happening. Michael comes back drunk from the bar. Sadly, Michael was hit by a car many years ago. Although physically he’s okay, mentally, he has completely lost his memory. When I tried to get him to be in our documentary, he couldn’t because he didn’t remember anything. He doesn’t remember this. He comes back and he’s drunk, I go, “Michael, that was a great name.” He goes, “What name?” I said, “The name, Twisted Sister. You thought of the name, you called us.” I’m thinking to myself, “If a tree falls in the forest and nobody hears, it doesn’t make a sound.” What would happen if no one picked up the phone call? We wouldn’t be talking about Twisted Sister, would we? That’s it.
That’s a good point, John, because one of the things that people can surmise from you so far, there are a couple of things that I find remarkable about you, which I’ve told you before. Nothing new to you, but first of all, you had this unbelievable memory for detail. You were conscious and aware through the whole Twisted Sister journey. A lot of that’s because you did a lot of journaling and you wrote a lot of things down, you’re a collector, you’ve got memorabilia from way back to the beginning of the band. It’s not that you just happen to remember, you were conscious of everything throughout your journey, and you’re a gifted storyteller. What I’ve learned is that there’s no short answer to a question.
Which is good for you. You guys just ask and sit back. It’s like a Grateful Dead song. You put it on and you go take a bathroom break.There is no need to use drugs just to have space in the rock and roll scene. Click To Tweet
I’m going to share with our readers a bit of when you and I first met. This is the short version of the story. We met at a business conference, we hit it off. We sat down, we had breakfast and you told me the Twisted Sister story. One of the things that you said right out of the gate was, “I understood early on that there was no place for drugs in the business of rock and roll.” The band Twisted Sister that people know, the ones that made it with Dee Snider as the front man, was a drug-free band, but you couldn’t tell anybody because you didn’t want to ruin your reputation, which I thought was hilarious.
What I said to you was, “You need to write a book and you need to get up on stage and tell the story. You need to be a speaker.” That resonated with you. You’d probably already been thinking about that anyway, but it’s because you have that natural talent. When we did our first public extreme leadership event, which was called the Extreme Leadership Summit back in 2012 in San Diego, that was your debut as a speaker. I remember you were freaking out beforehand, which I thought was funny because you’re the stage patter guy for Twisted Sister. You’re used to being up on stage in front of 100,000 people, and yet here you were coming to give a speech at a conference with 120, 150 people.
It was way more terrifying.
It was terrifying because it was a new venue and a new thing. What we said was, “I’ll sit on the side of the stage and I’ll hit play occasionally.” I’ll say, “Tell us about what happened in 1970.” I hit the button and you went on and it was phenomenal. You told the story.
I want to add some more to that. There were two things about the band at the beginning. One is, I knew I didn’t have the talent to make it without talented partners. I talked about this in the book. Success is easier, if you don’t mind who gets the credit. I’m a reliable professional guy and a good guitar player, not great, but I can conceptualize a band and figure it out. That was my talent that I brought to the band. The second part of it, the drug thing, I had already been a drug addict and a drug dealer and stopped all of it. I didn’t know about alcohol. I wasn’t feeling it. The hippie days were not full of alcohol. There was no drinking in my scene. Maybe there was, but I didn’t see it.
When I joined the band, these were drinkers. I didn’t know how bad drinking could get. I had no idea. I thought you have a drink, and because I didn’t know anything about drinking, I thought I’ll drink because you’re in bars. What else do you do in bars? You drink. My singer, Michael, who was a professional drinker, said to me, “You’ve got to try it all.” One day at a bar that we knew, the guy pulls out, I don’t know, whiskey and bourbon and the whole Johnnie Walker, a whole slew of little shot glasses, trying to familiarize me.
I would take a sip and go, “That’s disgusting. That tastes like cough medicine.” I went down the line, Crown Royal, I’m like, “This shit sucks. How do you drink this stuff? It’s horrible.” I can’t get past it to get drunk because it tastes terrible.” He goes, “What about beer?” I said, “The last time I drank a beer was when I was thirteen. I drank a six pack of beer and threw up.” I have not had had a beer. I’m twenty. He gave me a bottle of Heineken. I drank that and went, “That tastes like piss. Why would anybody drink that?” That sealed my deal with alcohol. It had nothing to do with higher power anything, like, “Why would you want to drink this shit? This is terrible.” It’s because of that, I’ve had six beers in my entire life. I’ve had them at the behest of a friend who says, “Come on, let’s have a beer.”
I remember the six times because I got sick each time. I hate it. I didn’t like it. It wouldn’t have mattered that I didn’t care about drinking except the band was a heavy bunch of drinkers. That eventually led to the demise of the band, which is in book, which is in the documentary. It got ugly because of the drinking. It was at that point when the band was reforming with new people that I said, “I can’t have people who get high. Drugs aren’t the answer and alcohol isn’t the answer.” When Dee joined, he was adamant, “I hate alcohol and drugs.”
The bass player that Mendoza replaced was an alcoholic who was an original member of the band and was a high functioning alcoholic, which means, I didn’t know he was a drinker. Eventually he told me he was a drinker, and that to save his life, he had to join AA, which I admire him for. AA introduced him to the church. The church came down to see Twisted Sister and told them the devil spoke through me and Dee, and I said, “That’s funny, because we’re not the one with the problem. You’re the alcoholic. We don’t drink. We don’t do drugs. We don’t cheat on our girlfriends. You’re the one with the issue. I don’t know how the devil is talking to me.”
He did agree with that logic. I also said to him, “As an alcoholic, you shouldn’t be working in a bar.” It’s true. Save yourselves. Kenny has. That was why I became against that because it got the way of success. As you heard me tell you many times, we went through band members who swore as we replaced them if they didn’t get high, but they lied because they couldn’t believe that we were saying it. Why do you join a rock band if not to get wasted? That’s what you do. That’s what we are. We’re a society of wasted, fucked up individuals who allow you to act like a fourteen-year-old because that’s the rules of the rock life, which most people love and is a fantasy. Ergo, politician gets busted with a sixteen-year-old girl in a hotel room and cocaine, he’s done. An athlete gets busted in a hotel with a sixteen-year-old girl and cocaine, he’s done. A lead guitar player, “Let’s write a song about that. That’d be the new song on the lead single.”
That was the assumption that everybody projected on you because that’s what everybody thinks.
Steve, this is interesting. I never proselytized about it. Internally, musicians knew, don’t ask us to party with you. We’re not going to party with you because we’re not good. Except that one of the members of the band did socially drank, but it didn’t bother me, but the replacements for the drummers that we went through like Spinal Tap, they all lied. We’d say to them, “You do understand you can’t drink and do drugs?” “Sure.” “You understand that?” “Yes.” “You don’t?” “No.” Two months later, “You’re fucked up.” “I’ll never do it again.” One guy, I remember he said, “You can’t drink and do drugs.” He goes, “I’m not going to be in the band.” I said, “Thank you for not lying to me and wasting my time.” They’re enormous timewasters. Yes, we became that way because we couldn’t afford to lose time to become successful trying to deal with someone’s substance abuse problems. It doesn’t mean I’m not sensitive to someone’s substance abuse problems, but why should it be any different from any other company? Business is business.
If you’re working like us, 5 or 6 days a week, and you are keeping to a heavy schedule where you wake up at 2:00 in the afternoon, you get to the club at 6:00, you do your sound check at 7:00, you do your first show at 10:00, you finish at 4:00 AM, you get back home at 6:00 in the morning. You sleep, you wake up, you do the same thing, five nights a week, and on the sixth day you rehearse, how do you keep that up unless you are clear-eyed and straight instead of trying to recover? What’s that old Sinatra line, “I pity people who don’t drink because when they get up in the morning, that’s the best they’re going to feel all day?” That’s a famous line. When you don’t drink and do drugs, you don’t have to worry about that. As bizarre as it sounds, yes, we were straight. We started telling people in interviews and the record label was like, “No, don’t tell people you’re straight.” “Do we lie?” “No, just don’t answer the question. Avoid it.” In order to create the image of us being out of control, we became a volatile, loud, cursing band to be portrayed as insane, which led to Twisted fucking Sister sick motherfuckers.
“They’ve got to be crazy.” I did two marathons. I remember when I came into finishing the first marathon, fans of mine are positive I did the last two miles on coke. “How could you run a marathon? You’ve got to be doing blow.” We were warned off talking about it. Time went on. I got sick of pretending. I said, “I’m proud of it. That’s why we lasted this long.” Keith Richards has another deal with the devil. I don’t understand how Keith functions. God bless Keith Richards. I met his gastroenterologist at a party. Those are the two those words you don’t tend to want to say at the same line, but Keith Richard’s gastroenterologist. I met him and I wanted to ask him what the secret was, and he go, “You can’t ask me a question.” I said, “One question.” He goes, “Maybe.” I went, “Aren’t you even amazed?” He goes, “Yes, I am amazed.” I read his book. If you read Keith’s book, it’s extraordinary. If you read Eric Clapton’s book, if you read books about guys who have survived after extraordinary amounts of drug and alcohol use, their common story, is that at some point, a tipping point occurs. Something happens which is the last time they do it.
Everyone has that story. Every person who has survived severe substance abuse who’s lived will say, “This happened this time and this was the catalyst.” In Keith’s book, his story was that he threw up in front of his ten-year-old son, Marlon, for the last time in an embarrassing drug overdose. The band was terrified to go and talk to Keith to get him up for a show, so he sends his ten-year-old son to wake him. Think about this, you’re Keith Richards, Rolling Stones, million-dollar touring company, but your band members won’t go into your hotel room to wake you up because they’re afraid of disturbing you. They convinced you to hire your son to come around on tour because you’re not going to yell at your son. The ten-year-old son Marlon would go in and wake up his dad, and Keith would wake up and throw up.
At some point, Keith went, “I’m sick of throwing up in front of my son. I’m sick of embarrassing myself in front of him.” Consequently, from what I understand, Marlon hates drugs and alcohol. What’s interesting about that is, how many times do we hear that bad habits are picked up by the kids? It propagates. It can go either way, either the kid is going to follow your lead or reject it. In Marlon’s case, he rejected it. Eric Clapton’s description was, “I don’t get into it, but there was an episode that happened.” I’m reading this episode, I’m going, “This is a guitar hero of mine. This is Eric Clapton, and this is what he did? This is how it finally came down?” You read it and you go, “It’s pathetic. I didn’t want to be pathetic. I didn’t want to be in a band with the pathetic guys. If we want them to hate each other, let’s hate each other for real reasons.” Steve, in business, if you are fighting the pillow of recovery, you can’t make clear-eyed choices. You can’t even get to the problem because you got this pillow of haze around you. Why we bonded was because you heard me tell the story and you’re going, “This is a business. This is not what I thought.”
Let’s build on that for a bit. First of all, in terms of the business of music, there’s the artist side and the management side of the equation. You happen to be in both of those roles. You’re a musician, you’re a guitar player. You’re a part of the whole artistic side of the band, but you’re also the business guy. Is that unusual for one person to wear both of those hats?
You’re a student of rock and roll and you’ve probably read a million stories. Do you know any bands with a band manager player? Do you know baseball teams with player managers? It’s rare. I know in rock, two, Mick Fleetwood, and after reading his ex-wife’s book, I asked her, I said, “How did he function as a manager? Is that stone on coke?” That’s not me saying anything bad about it, it’s in a book. I want to interview Mick because he is one of those guys, and Steve Miller is another one of those guys. They are complete separate talents. I’m not a musician. I am a businessman that plays guitar. That’s the best way I can put it.
Your psychological makeup is you’re very business oriented. You have that entrepreneur’s instinct and sensibility and all that, but you’re also driven by the love for the music. When you go back to the early days, I want to ask you to tell the whole story, but again, you had that moment where you said, “Music, that’s what I want to do.” You fell in love with The Beatles early on, but there was also the businessperson in you. You discovered both the love for music and this propensity towards business early on and you brought the two of them together. Was that a conscious choice for you? You said you’re a business guy who plays guitar. There are a lot of business guys who play guitar. I happened to be one of them, but most of your life, you’re in the business of music. Was it like “I’m going to bring these two instincts together,” or it was more of an organic process?
No, it was organic., first of all, as you know my story, I was a drug dealer for five years, between the ages of 15 and 20. I’m a New York City kid. When I say drug dealer, let me be clear. I sold a lot of weed. I was ahead of my time by 50 years. Now everybody is selling weed. It’s a big freaking deal. I needed money. My parents had no money. I wanted to buy gear. I figured out how to sell weed fast and made a lot of money fast. I fueled it for five years while I bought my guitars and amplifiers and traveled around the world and did stuff. Luckily, I got out of the business before things got stupid. Here’s the thing. There’s a show on CNN, and I forget the guy’s name, but it’s called Street of Dreams in which he picks a street and discusses the history of the street.
This first street of dream story was 47th Street, The Diamond District. The second street of dreams was the Main Street of Nashville in which he gets behind the music business. I’m watching these two back-to-back. 48th Street was my street of dreams. 48th Street was where all the music stores were, music row in New York City. The Diamond District was one block away. My father worked in The Diamond District and I went to 48th Street. If you’re ever going to consider the fast-paced jive BS of New York, nothing could be more exemplary of that than the con job on 47th Street and the con job of 48th Street. My father would take me to 47th Street and I’d see how that whole shtick and that hustle worked. I would go to 48th Street and learned how that hustle worked. The hustle part, the New York City street vibey thing, that gets in you. When I started dealing weed, my father was a salesman, it was natural.
Even though The Beatles made me want to become a rock star, I didn’t want to own a guitar like The Beatles. I didn’t want to play Beatles songs. I think about this a lot, for a band that influenced me so much, why didn’t I care? The switch didn’t turn on until I heard Mike Bloomfield and the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. That was the switch. I was fifteen. It coincided with my desire to finally apply myself as a guitar player. My dealing weed happened at the exact same time. Here I am playing guitar, buying guitars, selling weed, going to Fillmore East, on and on, weekend after weekend, reinforcing my desires and my rock star dreams and dealing and being high. “Let’s throw in anti-war activities. Let’s not take that out. Let’s talk about high school rebellion. Let’s not take that out. Let’s talk about the law. I was sued by the Board of Education for handing out an underground newspaper. Let’s not take that out.”
You’re rolling all of these forces, these mega New York forces, the street sense, 47th Street hustle, 48th Street hustle, drug dealing, politics, rock and roll in a volatile mix of the ‘60s. As I say this to you, it is why I am the way I am. This is a combination of all those things. I didn’t sit back and go, “I am a business guy.” I was me trying to figure out what that was. When I joined Twisted, I was just a bad member. I didn’t care. I wasn’t involved in anything. I was told where to go, what to do, how to dress, simple. That’s it. I was happy. It wasn’t until the band fell apart and I didn’t trust other people to put it back together. That’s when I took over.You need to market something that people can remember. Click To Tweet
The situation called on your already internal ability.
Fast forward where Twisted Sister was over. Tell us the story of when the band came back together, because you have this whole chapter of the band’s history where that ended it with your last tour. First of all, the story about how you came back together is fascinating to me.
We stopped in ‘87 and that was the end of it. Dee and I fell apart and it was acrimonious. It wasn’t because of drugs and alcohol. It was because ego and failure and it fell apart. I thought I have to rebuild my life, which I didn’t expect to do at the age of 34. I remarried and I got a job as a stereo salesman, and there I was as a salesman, a stereo salesman on the side.
This is after We’re Not Gonna Take It, I Wanna Rock, MTV, the platinum records and the gold records. You’re selling stereo.
Before I’m selling stereos, I’m working an overnight shift at a pool hall. I knew a guy who owned a gym chain, and he wants to get in the music business, and he had a nephew he wanted to manage. He wanted to know if I’d be in the management, I said, “I would, but I need money.” He goes, “I’m opening up a pool hall with eight of my former partners.” They’re all New York City narcotics detectives. My drug use ended in ‘72, so there’s no drugs. I said to him, “I need money. I filed for bankruptcy and I have nothing.” He said, “I’ll pay you $400 a week. We will manage my nephew, but you need to work. You can work at this pool hall on Broadway overnight. I know that you need some dignity. You tell people you are an owner. If anybody says, ‘Why are you here?’ ‘It’s my place,’” which was fine. I worked overnight until 2:00 every morning at this pool hall on 75th and Broadway thinking, “This is how this is winding up. I’m running a late-night pool hall. This is where John French, Jay Jay French, Twisted Sister, is running pool.”
The funny story with that is one night, a couple of wise guys, they came in to shake the place down, and they were like, “Who owns the place? We think we need to talk to the owner.” “He’s not here right now.” “Here’s our card. It would be to the benefit that you hand the card.” I said, “It’s owned by nine retired detectives to the New York Harlem Precinct. Which one of those would you like me to hand the card to?” He took the card back and he went, “On second thought, have a nice day.” I thought to myself, “That’s easy.”
That management company didn’t last too long. We managed the guy’s nephew, a wonderful artist named Andy Fortier who wrote the song with that line “When the roof caves in, it lets the sunshine in,” that I quote all the time. He’s a wonderful guy, great artist, great singer songwriter, unfortunately he didn’t make it. Now I’m back home, no job. My wife is making money. I feel useless to the point of almost having a nervous breakdown. My wife bought a copy of Tony Robbins, Awaken the Giant Within. She buys it for me and I’m reading a couple of chapters and he’s saying, “When you’re that bereft of anything, you need something. You need one thing. Do one positive thing.”
I went, “He’s probably right.” You need a victory. I used to be a client of a high-end Hi-Fi company when I could afford to buy stereos. I walked in there and they knew me as Jay Jay the customer. I walked in and I said, “The band is off the road and I know so much about this stuff. Why waste my time?” The guy goes, “Why? Would you like to work here? You know more about this stuff than most people.” I went, “Yes.” They hired me. Now I’m a stereo salesman. There were some nights where at 6:00 I had to sweep up the store, and I’m thinking, “I’m a stereo salesman. That’s where it’s winding up, selling stereos. Just like dad, I’m a salesman. He sold jewelry, I’m selling stereos.”
As luck would have it, a band called Sevendust, which I had been following for years and helping them out as they went through various permutations, asked me to manage them. I said I would. I produced a demo, and the demo got a record deal. I was still managing. I was still working at the stereo store and they became more and more successful. I didn’t have to work at the stereo store. I managed them full-time and then we parted ways. My second wife, she left me for somebody else and I was down again. As that point happened, 9/11 occurs. 9/11 is the catalyst that brings it back. Why? We were asked to play a benefit and we did. We played a benefit. We raised a lot of money. We still weren’t talking.
We did the rehearsals without talking much. We did the benefit and we helped raise money and then that was it. I didn’t think anything was going to happen, but word got out that the band was back together and then the rest is history. All of a sudden, everybody wanted the band, and they were offering us these gigs and the band came back. It’s a crazy road through all that. As that was finally ending because my drummer died in 2015, and the reunion was fourteen years in to it. It was supposed to be two years. I thought, “What’s the next chapter?” Somebody said to me, “You have three chapters in your life. You’ve got your young and then Twisted Sister.”
I said, “No, you’ve got it all wrong. I’ve got twenty chapters in my life. Twisted alone has four chapters.” He said, “What do you mean?” I said, “We were the bar band. We were the video band. We were the defunct band and then we were the festival band. That’s over a 45-year period. That’s just Twisted.” As the book is going, as Steve and I are talking and Steve is getting me to do motivational speaking, I like motivational speaking. I like doing it. I’m a performer. I like telling the story. I like to not have to rely on anybody else, just me. I have to ask our guitar player, our drummer, and we got a book deal. I’m thinking, “What’s the next chapter?” The next chapter is podcasting. As my daughter is fond of saying, if I could make money speaking, I’ll be the richest person on earth, or talking as she puts it. Here’s what Steve did.
Why are you talking about me in the third person?
This is exactly what Steve Farber did. He says to me, “You’re going to do this thing, Extreme Leadership. I’m going to advertise you.” I’m thinking to myself, “There’s no way.” As it turns out, he books this date and a date was originally May 9th, 2012. Lo and behold, I warned Steve that if a festival was offered to the band, that’s my first. I’ve got to do the festival and we got offered a festival. I said, “Steve, I told you it could happen. Sorry, but thank you.” You went, “I’ll move the date.” I’m like, “No, you can’t move the date.” “Yes, I can.” “No, you cannot move that date.” “I can move that date. It’s my thing. I could do whatever the hell I want to do.” “No.” Steve moves the date. I’m touring through Europe that whole summer and every day Sharon is going, “Did you write? Do you know what you’re going to say?” “Tomorrow.” This goes all summer long. It’s the day before I fly out to San Diego. “Do you have it ready?” I went, “No.” She goes, “Are you kidding? You are being given this great position and you have nothing on paper.”
I said, “I’m going to write it on the plane flight out six hours.” I brought a legal pad and a pencil and I spent six hours. Do you remember? When you come to the hotel room. I am shaking. I go, “I’ve got these ideas.” You look at them and you go, “I’ll tell you what, I’ll sit there on the side and I’ll ask you questions. You answer them and let’s see where it goes.” You did. It went. All of a sudden, the butterfly comes out and the stories and it changed everything. If you hadn’t pushed it, it never would have happened or would have happened in a different way. I’m not immune to knowing that it always takes something to make the move.
Someone’s got to show some faith. Someone gives you the break. Someone gives you the opening as you pay it forward. You talk about it all the time. It’s because of your sensitivity to that, I mentor a musician in New York. She was a schoolmate of my daughters who’s a great musician. I love her. I give her free lessons. I hang out anytime she wants to call me. Anytime I can make her show. Anytime I can quote on her Facebook. I do everything I can do to support her. I want nothing from her except maybe a thank you if she ever gets an award, but I love it. I do it because you instilled in me that it’s a responsibility that we have.
Thank you for that. There was the project of the book. It was clear. I know you wanted to tell your story and the book needed to be written. You had a couple of false starts with a couple of other potential co-authorships, but finally we decided we’ll do it together. For me, it was a different project, because I’ve written four books, but it’s the first time I wrote and worked on a book where I’m telling somebody else’s story. We co-authored the book, but it’s your book. It’s your story and it’s written in your voice. My job was to make it work on the page is the way that I looked at it. The other thing that came out of it was, as we were trying to figure out how do we tell the Twisted Sister story from the Jay Jay French perspective, which is not just the story about music, but it’s also a business lesson. You’re a business guy. That led us to this idea that this would be in that process of a biz war.
Business book and a memoir. Rom-com, dramedy, biz war.
It’s not to be confused with boudoir. In that process, it was like, “How do we construct the business lesson in this?” Talk a bit about the business framework, not to go into depth into each one because we’re going to run out of time, but what’s the businessperson, entrepreneur’s lesson that you’re teaching folks?
This has taken quite a while, it’s been good that it’s taken a while because a lot of thoughts have gone through my brain, including a presentation to do motivational speaking. How do you do motivational speaking? Every motivational speaker has a shtick. You have to have a framework. You have to have a beginning, a middle and an end. You have to have a lesson you’re teaching. You have to have a reason why you’re teaching it, and eventually you do it enough. I didn’t have that. I have these random stories and they’re all great, and there are millions of them. I could speak for hours, as Steve knows, but the day that I thought of how this could work, I was excited I called you up and I said, “I came up with a great idea, an easy thing for people to remember. If I have to attach the right words, I have a home run.”
The idea was the TWISTED method of reinvention, Tenacity, Wisdom, Inspiration, Stability, Trust, Excellence, and Discipline. This was the format. Within those letters encompasses about every story I ever want to tell that relates to those letters. When you’re doing a motivational speaking engagement and you go, “TWISTED method,” everybody can remember. Simple, they’ll know TWISTED. You go Tenacity, Wisdom, Inspiration and you put it up on a screen. I don’t like PowerPoints. I don’t like to waste a lot of time, but simple ones, two words. People attach the stories and it allowed us a framework for the book. It allowed a reason to go from piece to piece. The whole key is marketing, isn’t it? You need to market something that people can remember. It allows for many, many offshoots. I’m happy. That’s how we framed and come up with Twisted Business. The book is called Twisted Business. We’re not going to take, which is perfect because everybody knows we’re not going to take it. You may not know what Twisted Sister is.
We’re not going to take it anymore.
It didn’t hurt that Twisted’s songs continued to be successful. Even as bad as 2020 was because of COVID, we had Facebook Song of the Year. They did I Wanna Rock for the Super Bowl. My luck, they ran it in the last two minutes of the Super Bowl when the most people were watching it. I had a great run with Facebook on I Wanna Rock, which is the least of the two popular songs. Not even We’re Not Gonna Take It. Other songs came in on some other TV shows, but we are the number one or number two licensed heavy metal band in the world, music-wise. That helps the recognition factor.Familiarity sells. The more something is used, the more people it can reach. Click To Tweet
Who’s number one?
We’re number one, number two. I don’t know who else, because I’ve asked a lot of people, “How many people have more songs than us?” Nobody can come up with it. It doesn’t mean that Def Leppard, AC/DC, Kiss don’t have enormous songs. I don’t mean to say that. What I am saying is that for reasons that are impossible to ever have predicted, these two songs seem to be used more and more. The way Madison Avenue functions, the more something is used because familiarity is what sells products, which is why Don’t Stop Believin’ by Journey is on eight billion things and why I Feel Good by James Brown is on every medicine commercial on the planet. My joke was that why is I Feel Good, because a bunch of fat guys sitting around a table in Madison Avenue and they are like, “We’ve got a new drug for Lab Lab. What are we going to use?” “How about I Feel Good by James Brown?” “That’s it.” It’s in every damn commercial. I’m watching TV, I’m reading a magazine and I hear We’re Not Gonna Take It being used in an upcoming Disney movie like Spot and right after that, I Feel Good, that comes up this time in a KFC commercial. The point is they were back-to-back, and I thought to myself, “This is a freaking example.”
That’s an ongoing revenue primarily from We’re Not Gonna Take It and I Wanna Rock.
Licensing and rerecords of our own versions of them, which is important as a distinction. If you sell your own version, you keep 100% of the master recording. If you sell the record company version, it’s 50%. You want to sell your own version. You’ll say, “Why doesn’t everybody do it?” That’s a good question. I don’t know. Everybody should. I tell every band I know like Foreigner, Joan Jett, we record your biggest hits and then market them because you’ll keep more money. The only clause in a record deal that is not indentured servitude is a clause in all their arrogance. They thought when they invented this crap called the record contract, the people who created the record contract were arrogant they figured, “After five years, who cares? After five years, you’re dead.” They said, “After five years, we will rerecord your song.” Little did they know.
Most of the versions of We’re Not Gonna Take It, for example, is a version that you guys rerecorded?
I Wanna Rock, but you have to match it close.
You did the songs like 100,000 times. It would have been easy for you to match it.
Yes and no. Take a song that you love, you’ve heard one million times, let’s take Like a Rolling Stone by Bob Dylan. You hear that song. Any change in that song, you can tell. Anything that isn’t exactly that record, you will know.
Are you going to know it in a ten second snippet?
Not necessarily. No, but what will happen is the ad agency will say, “It’s the rerecord, could you sell it a little cheaper to make the money?” “We’ll use it, but I want to make sure it sounds exactly like.” They’ll play them back-to-back to make sure. When we first did the rerecords, we were singing a half step down at that point. We didn’t know. We’d send out the songs and we get, “It doesn’t sound anything like the original.” “What do you mean? It’s the exact same arrangement.” “No, sorry. There’s something, what are you tuning?” They don’t know. We put them on to realize it was half step down. Go back in the studio, tune up to A440. Sometimes they use the original. For example, video games that advertise original master recording on the box, they will use original master recordings. They don’t care. That’s what they’re advertising. There was a movie out based on video games several years ago, Steven Spielberg. They used a ton of ‘80s songs, only used the original masters. That’s what it is. For everything else, it’s Memorex. Anything else, it’s us. It’s good.
Current day, current chapter, John “Jay Jay” French, started out as John Segall, John French Segall, John “Jay Jay” French, musician, business guy, licensing guy, marketing guy, now podcaster, The French Connection, which is off to an amazing start. What a great show that is. You’ve had some incredible guests already. The book, Twisted Business: We’re Not Gonna Take it Anymore. I’m excited about that. Not only because I was involved in the project, but because I’m excited to see how the world responds to your incredible story.
My podcast is fun. Steve Farber and Tommy Spaulding are going to be guests on my podcast. That podcast is going to be about motivational speaking and how they got into it and how they approach it, because I met Steve and Tommy at the same time. Steve hired Tommy to talk and I saw them both and were blown away by both. They’re both polished and have great stories to tell and have bestselling books. I want them on the show together because there’s a connection that we all have, which is important. I’ll do that. I interviewed Don McLean, American Pie. That episode is on my podcast, which is on PodcastOne, Apple and Spotify, The Jay Jay French Connection: Beyond the Music.
Another guest is Nathan Cyphert, who’s written the number one Country hit HOLY for Florida Georgia Line. He happened to be a personal friend of Sharon’s because he worked for Sharon in the backroom of one of the internet companies and he wanted to go to LA. Now he’s one of the hottest songwriters in the United States. He followed his dream. His story is incredible. He’s an amazing guy. His story’s on now. I’ve had Rob Halford for Judas Priest. I’ve had Mike Portnoy, the number one drummer in the world. I’ve had members of Whitesnake and Lynyrd Skynyrd and Def Leppard. I have Elliot Easton from The Cars with Andy Babiuk who are in a band together, but Andy Babiuk has written two Beatle bestsellers on Beatles Gear book.
If you want to know what bass Paul played at 4:00 in the afternoon on January 30th, he knows. Those people are crazy. They’re freaking nuts, but they’re going to be on the show together. I’m having a lot of fun putting these shows together and picking people to have on these shows. Nuno Bettencourt is one of the greatest guitar players in the world on Extreme. He’s on an episode. I did Don McLean who was funny and told me the story of American Pie in ways that you never heard it before. You should listen to it. I did one with country superstar, Johnny Lee, who I didn’t think I knew until I realized that he wrote, “Looking for love in all the wrong places.” I realized this guy has had one of the biggest country hits in the world.
He’s 74 years old. He signed a new record deal. I did an interview with him and he texted his manager to say that was the best interview he’s ever done. He was great. I don’t think he knew what he was getting into with me. I don’t think he knew that I was going to give him the platform to express as an artist when he needed to express. He thought I was some guy in Twisted Sister, what does he know? After he heard my Johnny Cash story, he fell in love with me. Johnny Lee is great, he’s coming up, and Don McLean is coming up. I’ve got many cool shows coming up because they’re based around things that I love. I’m enjoying it and this is the next chapter of my life. Pay attention to that podcast. Especially when Steve and Tommy are coming up on that podcast because that’s going to be a lot of fun.
Do you have a website nowadays or should be able to go to find you on PodcastOne and connect with you that way?
You have to subscribe to either Spotify or Apple or PodcastOne. It’s not a link. It’s general. You have to be on one of them. You put The Jay Jay French Connection.
If you put in John French Segall, it’s not going to work.
I don’t think so. It’s not going to work. The Jay Jay French Connection and you can get that. My Wikipedia has been redone and now it’s official. Yes, I have a website, but nobody goes to websites. Life has changed. No one buys CDs. No, people either stream or buy vinyl, go figure. What would ever be the case. I don’t buy CDs anymore. Either I listen to records or I stream. Life is strange.
The coexistence of opposite things. It’s been a lot of fun sharing you with my readers, and I’m looking forward to the book coming out. We’re going to have a great time with that. Everybody needs to stay tuned for the post-COVID, whenever that is, we’ll be out there hitting the road with this stuff.
The publishing date is August 3, 2021.
We’re not entirely sure about that, somewhere around it.
Steve and I will be performing together. It was like Abbott and Costello. It will be wonderful. Laurel and Hardy, all those famous duo, Martin and Lewis. You, me and Tommy would be the Three Stooges. I don’t know.
John, thank you for being a guest on the show. Thank you, everybody, for reading. Until next time, do what you love in the service of people who love what you do.
- Twisted Sister
- Awaken the Giant Within
- The French Connection – Apple Podcasts
- PodcastOne – The Jay Jay French Connection: Beyond the Music
- Spotify – The Jay Jay French Connection: Beyond the Music.
- Beatles Gear
About John Jay Jay French
John “Jay Jay” French is a Keynote & Motivational Speaker, Entrepreneur with several music industry businesses and Founding Member/Manager of internationally-renown heavy metal band Twisted Sister.
An energizing and entertaining speaker, John delivers insight and inspiration about resiliency, reinvention, turning roadblocks into pathways, authentic leadership and innovation. He shows how these approaches enable a better understanding of business challenges and improve decision making, business operations and communication with partners, customers and employees. John also shares his expertise in developing sales strategies, building a global brand, hiring the right people and maximizing revenue from existing assets.
John’s unique insight comes from a bumpy, but successful road on a business and entertainment journey, including 40+ years with Twister Sister, as well as being a producer/executive producer/manager of other rock bands and the founder of a nonprofit. John is a rock star, but an atypical one because while being a guitarist for Twisted Sister, playing 9,000 shows in 34 countries and selling more than 20 million albums, he has also worn a disciplined business hat as band Manager and Director of Licensing, Publishing & Touring. John developed Twisted Sister into a global brand with multiple revenue streams and built it into the most licensed heavy metal band in history.
John is one of only a handful of people in the world of rock and roll who have succeeded on both the artistic side, being part of a world-class band, while simultaneously managing all aspects of their business and operations (some others include Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac and Steve Miller of The Steve Miller Band). This highly unique ability provides John with business insights that are virtually unmatched.
Delivering presentations to global Fortune 500 companies, professional associations, private companies and nonprofits, John presents at leadership meetings, executive retreats, company-wide events and sales meetings. Some of the organizations he’s worked with include ASCAP, Apex Dynamics, Wolff Olins, Inc. 5000 Conference, Small Business Investors Alliance, International Business & Wine Society and Brook Venture Partners, among many others.
Whether a live event, podcast or international radio show, John makes people pay attention and put down their phones. His engaging delivery stems from experience having a stadium of 100,000 people in the palm of his hand, as well as an intimate group of 25 people hanging on his every word. Everything that John shares is based on real-life experiences.
John is also a writer for Inc.com, sharing business expertise in his column The French Connection since 2014. He also writes the column Now We’re 64 (about the Beatles) for Goldmine, The Music Collectors Magazine.
Twisted Sister retired from live performance in 2016, but John continues to oversee the thriving licensing and publishing business.A charter member of the Long Island Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, John has 37 Platinum, Gold and Silver albums as a member of Twisted Sister and 4 Platinum and Gold albums as a guest guitarist. A musician and guitarist for more than 50 years, John is considered a leading expert on vintage guitars and high-end music equipment.
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