Not all hard rock ‘guitar heroes’ that emerged during the late ’80s-early ’90s were instrumental solo artists, as evidenced by Dream Theater’s John Petrucci. Born on July 12, 1967, and raised in Kings Park (a town located in the suburb of Long Island, New York), Petrucci got serious about guitar at the age of 12, and developed a liking for prog rock and heavy metal (Rush, Iron Maiden, Yes, and later, Metallica and Queensryche). But it was the technically demanding guitarists, like Yngwie Malmsteen, Allan Holdsworth, and especially, Steve Morse, who inspired Petrucci the most.
Enrolling at Boston’s Berklee College of Music, Petrucci befriended such fellow classmates as bassist John Myung and drummer Mike Portnoy, who would serve as the core for what would eventually be known as Dream Theater. Enlisting keyboardist Kevin Moore and singer Chris Collins, the quintet began playing and recording under the name of “Majesty”, until they realized another group owned the rights to the name. Hence, by the late ’80s, “Majesty” had changed their name to Dream Theater, and Collins was replaced by Charlie Dominici. The Dominici-led version of Dream Theater lasted for a single album, 1989′s When Dream and Day Unite, before his exit early in the new decade.
Despite building a sizable following in the New York area, Petrucci and his bandmates were little known elsewhere, but this all changed with the arrival of new singer James LaBrie, and their sophomore effort, 1992′s Images and Words. Despite a changing of tastes with most rock music fans (towards the sounds of Seattle), the album proved to be a breakthrough commercial success (as the song “Pull Me Under” became a surprise hit on both MTV and rock radio). Arguably, nobody in Dream Theater benefited the most from the sudden wave of success than Petrucci, who was instantly recognized as one of the most technically accomplished guitarists in all of hard rock — winning polls in guitar publications the world over, as well as being mentioned in the same breath as such six string wiz’s as Steve Vai and Joe Satriani. Like Vai and Satriani (who also hailed from Long Island, as well), Petrucci became affiliated with the Ibanez guitar company (even lending his name to his own signature series), before switching to the Ernie Ball company later on, and once more, launching his own signature series.
Dream Theater continued to issue albums on a regular basis throughout the ’90s and into the early 21st century — retaining a large and loyal fan base even after MTV/radio stopped playing them. In addition to his Dream Theater duties, Petrucci has played with a variety of other projects (all in the prog metal mold), including Explorer’s Club, Liquid Tension Experiment (which also included Portnoy, bass master Tony Levin, and eventual Dream Theater keyboardist Jordan Rudess), as well as supplying music to the Sega Saturn video game called Necronomicon. 2000 saw the release of a collaboration between Petrucci and Rudess, An Evening With John Petrucci and Jordan Rudess, while Petrucci joined forces with Vai and Satriani on tour as part of their annual G3 tour during the summer of 2001. – Greg Prato