Rock Hall of Famer Ricky Byrd promotes Rock & Roll For Children online auction

Listen to the full conversation with Ricky Byrd on my podcast “Beyond the Fame.”

WTOP's Jason Fraley covers Rock & Roll for Children (Part 1)

The Rock & Roll for Children Foundation hosts an annual concert to raise money for The Children’s Inn at National Institutes of Health, but last year’s concert was canceled due to COVID-19.

“We had a whole cool band, we had special guests and we were ready to rock, so it was certainly disappointing,” Ricky Byrd, formerly of Joan Jett & The Blackhearts, told WTOP.

Even though it was canceled, the foundation still raised $50,000 for The Children’s Inn. Only one or two ticket holders asked for refunds, while everyone else donated their funds.

“It’s a great organization,” Byrd said. “They raise money on behalf of the Children’s Inn at NIH, which provides a home away from home for the children and their families, so the families can stay with the kids as they’re undergoing treatment. … It’s also an excuse for me to get together with my rock ‘n roll friends and put together this band for the night.”

There won’t be a concert again this year, but there is an online auction of items signed by the likes of Bruce Springsteen, AC/DC, Journey, Taylor Swift and Justin Timberlake.

“There’s a bunch of great trips, autographed items and a bunch of cool swag, as we say in the rock ‘n roll business,” Byrd said. “Everybody’s always donating signed guitars.”

Speaking of memorabilia, Byrd’s own gear was enshrined in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2015, which proves he’s come a long way since growing up in the Bronx.

“My first acoustic guitar that my mom brought me home at 9 years old in ’65, that’s in there,” Byrd said. “My Les Paul, my ‘I Love Rock & Roll’ guitar was in a display with Chuck Berry’s shirt! I got a little weepy … It’s pretty trippy, man. There’s Sam Cooke’s tuxedo, there’s Keith Richards’ guitar and there’s our stuff. This can’t be right!”

Oh, it’s right. Byrd’s hard-driving guitar can be heard on such rock staples as “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll,” “Bad Reputation,” “I Hate Myself for Loving You” and “Cherry Bomb.”

“I played with Jett from ’81 to ’91,” Byrd said. “She left everything on the stage. We were a badass rock ‘n roll band, no matter who we played with, where we played in the world, we came out there going 100 miles an hour. She was the engine and just gave it all, a great influence for guitar players, especially female guitarists. … She’s a rock ‘n roll icon.”

Jett grew up in Rockville, Maryland, and graduated from Wheaton High School.

“I remember those conversations on the tour bus — her with the Orioles and me with the Yankees,” Byrd said. “She loved [Orioles pitcher] Jim Palmer. That was her guy.”

In fact, Byrd was there at the 1996 ALCS when a young fan named Jeffrey Maier reached over the outfield wall at Yankee Stadium to turn a Derek Jeter fly ball into a home run.

“Jeter hit the ball and you can see my cousin Kevin in the footage barreling through everyone with his cast trying to get the ball,” Byrd said. “He didn’t get the ball, but he’s definitely in there. … Just think, that was in ’96, so Jeffrey is probably married with kids.”

When he’s not watching the Yankees, he’s cutting albums to help folks with addiction.

“I’ve been in recovery for almost 34 years,” Byrd said. “I started writing these recovery-based songs. … ‘Clean Getaway’ was the first one in 2017. I released ‘Sobering Times’ on April 9. … You don’t need to be in recovery to enjoy it, it’s just a bunch of cool songs, but if you’re struggling with addiction, you’re definitely going to hear yourself in the lyrics.”

WTOP's Jason Fraley covers Rock & Roll for Children (Part 2)

Listen to the full conversation with Ricky Byrd on my podcast “Beyond the Fame.”

Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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