Jay Jay French
|Jay Jay French|
|Birth name||John French Segall|
July 20, 1952 ,|
New York City, New York
|Associated acts||Twisted Sister|
French is most famous for his role as the founding member and one of the guitarists of the heavy metal band Twisted Sister. Since his first performances with Twisted Sister, French has played more than 9000 concert performances. Being an avid runner, French has also completed two New York Marathons, in 1981 and 1986.
Born in New York City, French grew up on Manhattan. His father, Lou Segall, was a jewelry salesman. His mother, Evaline French Segall, was a political consultant for the Democratic Party in New York, and worked for the John F. Kennedy presidential campaign. Evaline also ran the successful election campaign of the first black woman, New York state senator Constance Baker Motley.
French has one older brother, Jeff Segall.
French was an anti-Vietnam war and civil rights activist. In the summer of 1967, he attended the Shaker Village summer program, and was a bunkmate of Ben Chaney, brother of James Chaney, one of the three murdered civil rights workers who died on a voting registration drive in Mississippi in 1964. These events were later portrayed in Alan Parker's movie Mississippi Burning in 1988.
The seeds for French's musical life were planted in 1963, when he attended his first concert, seeing the legendary folk group The Weavers in Carnegie Hall.
Even though he didn't own his own guitar yet, French started his first band, "Lost 6", on the night of November 5, 1965, the night of the big East Coast Blackout. The name of the band was chosen due to the fact that the boys were wandering around the neighborhood in the dark after rehearsal.
In December the same year, he got his first guitar, a Hagström bass, and the following winter, he jointed the big local band "The Bats".
Shortly after, French joined "The Prophets", and their rehearsal place was at the legendary Nite Owl Café in Greenwich Village, where The Blues Magoos were the house band at the time. As payment for the rehearsal place, the band had to clean the bar on weekend mornings.
Showing early talent as an impresario, French booked a friend's band, “The Glass Stairway” into the Cafe Wha? in 1967. In the fall of 1967, French decided to switch from bass to guitar, and he bought his first electric guitar, a Fender Telecaster on 48th Street.
During the years 1968-1971, French spent many weekends at the Fillmore East, seeing concert performances with artists like Jimi Hendrix, Joe Cocker, Led Zeppelin, The Who and Pink Floyd´s first concert with David Gilmour. French was an avid concert attender, and even caught early shows with The Rolling Stones, The Animals, Elvis Presley and David Bowie´s first show at Carnegie Hall.
All these musical experiences, including French's political point of views, formed him both as an artist and a human being.
In 1968, he was involved in a lawsuit against the NYC Board of Education, as he was expelled from Brandeis High School for handing out an underground newspaper in violation of his constitutional rights. After settling the case, he was transferred to George Washington High School, where he met future Twisted Sister-guitarist Eddie Ojeda. French formed a high school band with Ojeda, drummer Terry Tunic and bass player George Bartos.
Only two months before his graduation, French dropped out of George Washington High School, as a protest to the student murders at Kent State University on May 4, 1970.
In 1972, French auditioned for an early edition of what would become Wicked Lester, featuring Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley. However, after two rehearsals, they moved on to more auditions, and French chose to create his own musical path.
In December the same year, he joined the New Jersey-based glitter band "Silverstar". The band changed its name to Twisted Sister in February 1973. At this time, in addition to French, the band consisted of Michael Valentine (vocals), Billy Diamond (guitar), Kenneth Harrison Neill (bass) and Mell Star (drums). This version of Twisted Sister existed until December 1974.
In 1975, French hired Rick Prince (vocals) and Keith Angel (guitars), but after a few months, French took over the vocals himself.
In October 1975, Eddie Ojeda replaced Keith Angel on guitars, and Daniel Dee Snider joined the band in February 1976, to relieve French from his vocalist duties. Other significant member changes in the history of Twisted Sister include the addition of Tony Petri (drums, April 1976), Mark Mendoza (bass, December 1978), Richie Teeter (drums, December 1980), Joey Brighton (drums, April 1981), Anthony AJ Pero (drums, April 1982) and Joey “Seven” Franco (drums, 1987).
The early editions of Twisted Sister performed six nights a week, often performing five 40-minute sets each night, including costume changes. Gradually, the band´s glam image and musical influences were changed into a heavier direction, being influenced by artists like Led Zeppelin, Slade and Alice Cooper.
French, in addition to being one of the band's guitar players, took over the manager position from 1975 to 1979, and from 1988 to present day.
Twisted Sister´s first album release was the EP Ruff Cutts (Secret, 1982).
The band´s debut studio album, Under The Blade, was released in September 1982.
Twisted Sister released five studio albums in the period of 1982 to 1987: Under The Blade (1982), You Can’t Stop Rock’n’Roll (1983), Stay Hungry (1984), Come Out And Play (1985) and Love Is For Suckers (1987).
Following the departure of singer Dee Snider and guitarist Eddie Ojeda, French decided, together with bass player Mark Mendoza, that Twisted Sister should stop performing live in 1987.
French started his own management company, French Management Enterprises, and his own production company, Rebellion Music Inc. From 1988, he took over the management of Twisted Sister again, dealing with the music catalog. He also signed R&B singer George Taylor, in addition to artists like blues legend Johnny Gale, David Forman and Thom Jack.
In 1988, French became a Grammy voting member.
As owner of the Twisted Sister trademark and again manager of its affairs, French also began to produce new Twisted Sister album releases, such as the compilation album Big Hits & Nasty Cuts.
In partnership with Dennis Berardi, president of Kramer Guitars, French signed the Atlanta, Georgia-based hard rock band "Redd Threat". Over the next seven years, Redd Threat changed its name and personnel multiple times, and by 1995, the band was called "Snake Nation". French told the drummer Morgan Rose, that if he ever hooked up with a great R&B singer, Lajon Witherspoon from the band “Body & Soul”, he would be interested in managing the band. Later, French received a phone call from Rose, confirming that Witherspoon was on board, and they renamed the band "Crawlspace". French travelled to Atlanta and produced a demo for the band, including the songs “Black” and “Bitch”.
French signed the band to Rebellion Music, and within a year, French signed a production deal with TVT Records. Due to trademark issues, Crawlspace changed its name to "Sevendust". French and Mark Mendoza produced the self-titled debut album, and executive produced the following three Sevendust-albums. With French at the helm, Sevendust became one of the biggest new breed of metal bands called nu metal, and sold over six million albums.
Sevendust and French parted ways in 2000, due to creative differences.
French then joined forces with an old friend, former Sony Records executive Sean Sullivan, and founded a new management company called Rebellion Entertainment. The company signed many different artists, representing a variety of musical styles, including New Jersey alternative metal band "The Step Kings", south Asian pop artist Tina Sugandh, singer/songwriter Julian Velard, the Grammy nominated Latin percussion group "The Groove Collective" and the legendary alternative band and RCA recording artists The Sound of Urchin.
On June 10, French received the New Hampshire Excellence in Education award for "Efforts to Curb Substance abuse Among Young People".
Following the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, Twisted Sister reunited as a performing unit to play a November 2001 fundraiser, organized by Eddie Trunk, for the Widows and Orphans Fund for the New York City Police and Fire Department.
This performance led to promoters from all over the world sending in offers to see the band on stage again, and the band started to perform regularly again beginning in 2003. In the years following, the band has performed to record-breaking audiences all over the world, including United Kingdom, North America, most European countries and South America. The band has also performed in South Korea at three different US army bases, through a USO sponsored tour.
The band´s popularity has again become so big, that French´s performing manager role has become a full-time occupation. Besides performing, the band´s activities include the creation and production of six new DVDs, two new albums and re-mastering of the entire catalog of previous releases.
During the last years, the band has created a spectacular Christmas show, and has also produced this show for several live DVDs.
The band has a tradition of performing at least one benefit show each year for causes near and dear to each band member.
Coinciding with this new found worldwide acclaim, the songs "We're Not Gonna Take It" and "I Wanna Rock" have also become two of the most licensed songs for TV and radio commercials, product sponsorships, Movies, TV shows, sports arenas and politicians.
As the band re-recorded these songs, the band now controls the ownership of its music. This is a business move that Twisted Sister pioneered and now has become an industry standard.
In 2007, French and Twisted Sister were first year inductees of the Long island Music Hall of Fame.
The Pinkburst Project
In 1996, French's daughter Samantha was diagnosed with a rare but debilitating eye disease called Uveitis. In 2010, to raise money and awareness, French created "The Pinkburst Project". This project united, for the first and only time, the world's most famous musical instrument and amplifier companies: Fender, Marshall Amplification, Gibson, Martin, Mesa Boogie, Diamond, Vox, Gretsch, PRS, Epiphone, Ruokangas, Hartke and Orange.
These companies, at French's direction, created one-of-a-kind guitars and amplifiers, which were featured in the world’s most famous instrument magazines and all auctioned off to raise money for Uveitis research.
Celebrating his 40th anniversary as founder of Twisted Sister, Jay Jay French is proud to have helped create one of the most well known worldwide brands in music.
In December 2012, Twisted Sister held a benefit for victims of the Hurricane Sandy disaster, together with Adrenaline Mob, Andrew W.K. and sports legend Bernie Williams.
The band continues to perform on festivals in Europe and worldwide.
- "Jay Jay French: A Twisted Christmas". Epiphone. September 29, 2006. Retrieved 23 May 2014.
- Kjeldgaard, Alison (May 2, 2013). "Musical Fads Come and Go, But Rock Withstands Decades: Jay Jay French Talks about Respecting One’s Fans and the Fads of Today’s Music Industry". Galo. Retrieved 23 May 2014.
- (editor), EvilG (June 25, 2012). "Twisted Sister guitarist Jay Jay French Interview on Dee Snider/Manowar/and the origins of Twisted Sister". Metal Rules. Retrieved 23 May 2014.
- Smith, DeAnn (June 4, 2013). "Dee Snider: 'People are going crazy' over Twisted Sister trademark fight". KCTV 5 News. Retrieved 23 May 2014.
- Louie, Tim (January 19, 2011). "Interview With Clint Lowery From Sevendust: Metal On Top". The Aquarian. Retrieved 23 May 2014.
- "Twisted Sister's Jay Jay French Defends Band's Decision To Play Select Shows And Not Make New Music". Blabbermouth. May 6, 2014. Retrieved 23 May 2014.
- Halbersberg, Elianne (January 17, 2011). "The Pinkburst Project". Premier Guitar. Retrieved 23 May 2014.