Many would agree that one of rock’s all-time charismatic and entertaining frontman would have to be Aerosmith‘s Steven Tyler.
Born Steven Victor Tallarico on March 26, 1948 (just outside New York City in Yonkers), he began playing drums at an early age, but eventually switched to vocals after discovering The Beatles, as well as the tougher blues rock of The Rolling Stones and The Yardbirds. After moving to Boston in the late ’60s, Tallarico hooked up with two members of an up-and-coming outfit called the Jam Band, guitarist Joe Perry and bassist Tom Hamilton, and after finding drummer Joey Kramer and second guitarist Ray Tabano (who was eventually replaced with Brad Whitford), renamed themselves Aerosmith. The band became a regional sensation, combining the blues sleaze of the Stones/Yardbirds, as well as the power of such hard rock acts as Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple, as Steven (who by now had changed his name to “Steven Tyler”) proved to have a flair for the outrageous — his stage outfits resembled a rock & roll gypsy look, while long scarves dangled from his microphone stand.
By 1973, Aerosmith was signed to Columbia Records and as soon as the quintet issued their self-titled debut that year, the band was besieged with non-stop comparisons to their idols, the Rolling Stones (or more concisely, Tyler and Perry’s resemblance both musically and visually to Jagger and Richards). Although the debut didn’t set the world on fire, word of mouth and constant touring built the band a hardcore following and due to such all-time hard rock classics as 1974′s “Get Your Wings,” 1975′s “Toys in the Attic,” and 1976′s “Rocks,” Aerosmith became a sensation, selling out arenas and scoring big-time hit albums and singles (the proto-power ballad “Dream On” and the funky rocker “Walk This Way“). But with fame came hardcore drug abuse for the band, which also created constant bickering between the band’s two leaders. With the rock & roll lifestyle taking its toll on the band (their albums grew increasingly more and more unfocused), Perry quit the band to pursue a solo career in 1979, with Whitford following a year later.
Refusing to admit that Aerosmith‘s best days were behind them, Tyler soldiered on with replacement members, as his whole life centered around where and when he would score his next fix (all the sordid details are recounted first hand by Tyler in Aerosmith‘s excellent 1999 autobiography, “Walk This Way”). With the band in disarray, fast approaching bankruptcy and reduced to headlining theaters as opposed to the enormous football stadiums during their heyday, Tyler and Perry patched up their differences in 1983, leading to a reunion of all the original members a year later. It took a while for the bandmembers to clean up their act, but by 1987 all were clean and sober and promptly reclaimed their title as one of the United States’ finest rock & roll bands, on the strength of sold out arena tours and such mega-hit albums as Permanent Vacation and Pump. In the process Tyler became one of the most influential frontmen in rock & roll history, as a plethora of singers in ’80s hard rock bands (Guns N’ Roses‘ Axl Rose, Cinderella’s Tom Keifer, Motley Crue‘s Vince Neil, The Black Crowes‘ Chris Robinson, etc.) all resembled Tyler circa 1976 with their look and vocal delivery. By the ’90s, Tyler and co. had reinvented themselves as an MTV band, focusing on more pop-oriented material (such as the soppy number one hit ballad “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” from the movie Armageddon), while Tyler’s daughter, Liv Tyler, became a major model and actress. – Greg Prato