Poison rock icon Bret Michaels comes to Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races

Hear our full conversation on my podcast “Beyond the Fame.”

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews Bret Michaels at Hollywood Casino (Part 1)

He’s a glam-metal icon who’s sold over 100 million records and streams worldwide. Poison’s Bret Michaels rocks Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races this Saturday.

“It’s gonna be an incredible show, slam-packed, sold out and just a good party,” Michaels told WTOP. “My solo band’s incredible. They’re all from Manassas, Virginia. It’s like going to Mardi Gras. … We put beads on the neck, guitar picks and bandanas. It’s like rock ‘n’ roll meets Kenny Chesney meets Jimmy Buffet meets all of the Poison cryo and pyro!”

It’s your second chance to see him in case you missed him at Nats Park in June.

“Nats Park was incredible,” he said. “I walked on stage and said, ‘I’ve been waiting for this party nearly two and a half years!’ … As a baseball fanatic, it was a great day in my life.”

Born in Butler, Pennsylvania, in 1963, Michaels says he spent plenty of time around the DMV, having grown up in a hardworking military family. His dad was a Navy veteran working for Armacoast Steel, and his mom worked at White Hill Correctional Institute, while Bret worked in kitchens as he formed Poison in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, in 1983.

“I was a busboy and fry cook. So I met our original bass player Dave. He introduced me to [drummer] Rikki [Rockett] and that worked for a while playing clubs,” Michaels said. “Next thing you know, we met [bassist] Bobby [Dall] and he was great and committed. I said: ‘This isn’t just something to do for the weekends for me. I want to write original music.'”

So the band eventually moved to Los Angeles, where the guys met guitarist C.C. DeVille and gained attention playing on the Sunset Strip. Their debut album “Look What The Cat Dragged In” (1986) went triple platinum in the U.S. with the No. 9 hit “Talk Dirty to Me.”

“We got into the studio with this producer who was gonna change everything, slow the song down, and I was like, ‘We’re not doing any of that,'” he said. “The engineer from Ratt, Jim Farachi, goes, ‘Guys, just be you.’ … Had we listened to other people, it would have been a complete disaster, but we stuck to our guns and played it raw like you hear it.”

Their second album “Open Up and Say … Ahh!” (1988) was even bigger, featuring the No. 10 hit cover “Your Mama Don’t Dance” and the No. 6 smash “Nothin’ But a Good Time.”

“It just kicks ass,” Michaels said. “I wrote it about having a not-great boss, constantly being screamed at as a busboy and fry cook. … I was looking for nothing but a good time when I went to shows everywhere from Hammerjacks [in Baltimore] to The Bayou [in D.C.].”

The same album also delivered the iconic No. 1 ballad “Every Rose Has Its Thorn.”

“I had a broken heart,” he said. “She was great, but I had no money. I was in Los Angeles in the back of a mini Winnebago, traveling the country, and that fell apart. It was heartbreaking and I wrote that song. … To this day, people relate to the lyrics.”

The band’s third album “Flesh & Blood” (1990) delivered the No. 3 hit “Unskinny Bop” and the No. 4 hit “Something to Believe In,” which came from a deeply personal place.

“I wrote that when my best friend passed away,” Michaels said. “The toughest songs to write are party songs because you’re partying. You don’t want to write a song. It’s more painful but much easier to write a song that is bittersweet. A ballad is more direct.”

He next conquered reality TV, first as a judge on the singing competition “Nashville Star” in 2005, then as the star of his own VH1 dating show “Rock of Love” in 2007.

“I said: ‘Let’s go in, let’s have a lot of fun, but just don’t script it. I’m not an actor. I can do reality,’ and it ended up becoming bigger than network TV,” which he also dominated by winning the very competitive Season 3 of NBC’s “Celebrity Apprentice” in 2010.

In a career of roses, there have also been the occasional thorns. In 2009, he was injured during the Tony Awards when a large portion of the set struck him on the head. The following year, he suffered a brain hemorrhage, sparking a legal settlement with CBS in 2012. Through it all, he keeps wearing that signature bandana with a guitar in hand.

“My whole attitude is bet on yourself,” Michaels said. “You’ve gotta believe in yourself before anybody else will.”

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews Bret Michaels at Hollywood Casino (Part 2)

Hear our full conversation 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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