Like so many other musicians who came of age in the '60s, guitarist Ricky Byrd
wanted to play guitar after watching the Rolling Stones and Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show.
“After seeing those bands on TV, I requested a guitar from my mom, and I got a cheap acoustic, which is now in the Rock Hall somewhere,” he says via phone. At noon on Saturday, July 14, Byrd joins Michael Des Barres, Liberty DeVitto and Paul Ill at the Rock Hall
to discuss how rock 'n' roll can play a role in helping addicts recover. The conversation will include performances of songs that address both addiction and the recovery process. Akron Civic Theatre's Millennial Theatre Project Meditation and sound for mindfulness with Dawn Witt Schroeder will also deliver a performance related to heroin addiction. An Inner Bliss Yoga teacher, Schroeder is the founder of Pranaverdana.com and a sound healing enthusiast.
The free event benefits Recovery Resources, a Cleveland nonprofit behavioral healthcare organization that helps people “triumph over mental illness, alcoholism, drug and other addictions.”
Initially, Byrd started doing “the garage band thing” and began playing dances. Eventually, he joined Susan, a rock band that toured with Graham Parker, and he heard that Joan Jett was looking for a guitarist to join her band, the Blackhearts. He went to a New York studio and jammed with her and joined the band. He took the place of Eric Ambel and finished recording her breakthrough album, I Love Rock n’ Roll
, with her.
Byrd, who struggled with addiction issues, left the band in the mid-'90s and did a record with Roger Daltrey and then hit the road with Ian Hunter.
“I was trying to find my own thing, which took a long time,” he says. “All I could muster was cheap Rolling Stones sound. My first solo record, Lifer
, which came out in 2013 is a conglomeration of all the stuff I grew up on. That was my method for doing the record in 2013. I put it out myself. Since I had complete control over it, I wanted to write music that represents the stuff that made me want to be this guy. I wear my influences right there on my sleeve.”
Byrd has been in recovery for almost 31 years. After becoming “clean and sober,” he started doing benefit concerts for treatment centers.
“I had never done anything like that before,” he says. “We didn’t do recovery songs, but I had such a great time. You do a meet and greet and meet with people and they would tell you stories about people they knew who were struggling.”
About five years ago, he says he was “feely mopey,” so he called his friend Richie Supa to do some writing.
“We wrote ‘Broken is a Place,’” he says. “I came back to New York. I knew it was special. I did a quick demo and threw it online. I started getting responses. It was really helping people. This light bulb went on in my head. That led me to write a second and a third. When I had six songs, I contacted a treatment facility and asked to lead music groups. I had no idea what the fuck I was doing. I do this a lot now.”
For the Rock Hall show, Byrd says he’ll sit on a stool, play an acoustic guitar, sing and tell stories.
“I’ll play some from my new album, Clean Getaway
,” he says when asked about the performance. “I conned Liberty [Devitto] into doing the ‘The No No Song’ from Ringo Starr. We’ll have a meet and greet. I’ll have records to sign and sell, and we’ll tell our stories and talk about how you can play rock n’ roll and still be clean and sober.”