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Tico Torres

“All that Jazz” by Tico Torres

Tico Torres

Tico Torres photo by David Shankbone

Photo by David Shankbone

Tico Torres, born in New York in 1953 is best known for being a percussionist, drummer, and songwriter for Bon Jovi. 

He  began playing guitar at age five, but he aspired to be a disc jockey. However, life had different plans for him.

One night Cold Sweat—an R&B band Tico used to hang out with—was going to perform on a TV show called Hullabaloo. At the last minute, their drummer left the set to find replacement drumsticks, and Tico filled in. Tico ended up playing “Harlem Nocturne” with half a drumstick and a pair of pliers. His love for performance was born.

As a young jazz fan, he studied with Joe Morello. His studio and live experiences include Frankie and the Knockouts, Marvelettes, Lesley Gore, Lou Christie, Pat Benatar, Chuck Berry, Cher, Alice Cooper, and Stevie Nicks. He also recorded with a group called Pleasure Bombs and did a Latin jazz record with Gumbi Ortez. Furthermore, Tico produced two groups: Trash ‘n’ Passion and The Rivals.

Eventually, he joined Bon Jovi. Tico recalls, “Jon was raw, definitely unpolished; he was only 21. I’d jammed with Miles Davis. I played live with the Marvelettes and Chuck Berry. I had played on about 26 records. I had just recorded my third album with Frankie and the Knockouts. But Alec and I had played in bands together since we were kids, and he asked me to check Jon out. 

“What really convinced me was watching Jon perform. The reaction from the kids, especially the girls, was overwhelming. They saw this young god running around the stage, shaking his ass. So, I said to myself, ‘Take the gamble and go for it.’ The pay was two hundred a week or some shit. I’d bought a house; I figured I’d pay the mortgage with the money I put away.” 

Jon was introduced to Tico by Lance Larson, who produced one of his early demos with Southside Johnny. Jon recalls, “I remember coming down to this club one night and seeing this wild black drum kit on stage, and I knew I wouldn’t like the man playing the drums. Then this wild Cuban came out and banged out a fierce beat, and I knew I couldn’t ever play with anyone else but Tico.” 

Throughout the eighties and nineties, Torres provided the solid backbeat for Bon Jovi. While on tour and not on stage, he often sketched—in hotel rooms, on planes, or on the band bus. In 1993, he visited an art shop, purchased painting supplies, and threw himself into what would become a second career. 

With no formal training, Torres proved to be a natural talent. Rich in color and texture, Torres’ shared his figurative and ambiguous pieces only with close friends and family—he often gave them out as gifts. Many years of artistic creation passed before Tico finally agreed to have a public show. He debuted his work in 1994 at the Ambassador Galleries in So Ho, New York City, where he received an overwhelmingly positive response. More than half the collection sold that very night. From that moment on, Torres has consistently received rave reviews for his art, and his pieces have been showcased worldwide. 

His second exhibit opened in the fall of 1995 at Steiner Gallery in Bal Harbor, Florida—an art show in conjunction with Neiman Marcus and Steiner Galleries. He also had an exhibit at Sunset in Henderson, Nevada, which opened on February 28, 1996. Other supporters of Tico’s artwork include Art Avenue Galleries in Cleveland, Ohio, Walnut Street Gallery in Denver, Colorado, and the Frankel Collection in Palm Beach, Florida. Additionally, on July 5, 1996, he promoted and displayed his work at the Restaurant Benihana in London, England.

Incredibly versatile, Tico’s painting styles have evolved and changed over time. Many of his works are reminiscent of the German Expressionist painters of the thirties, while others range from abstract to classical.

Considered a renaissance man, Torres has matched his success and fame as the drummer of Bon Jovi by being embraced whole-heartedly by the art community as a gifted painter.

Golf is one of Tico’s favorite pastimes. He consistently participates in celebrity pro-ams locally and internationally. He exquisitely showcases his affinity for the sport with his 1996 creation, The Majors Collection. This collection comprises finely detailed plaster casts of professional golfer’s handgrips, including Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Nick Faldo, Ernie Else, Nick Price, John Daly, and Seve Ballesteros. This collection expanded to include professional tennis, and to this day, Billy Jean King uses her grip as her tournament trophy. Revenue generated from this collection’s sales benefits charity.

In 2001, Torres created a children’s hip clothing and apparel line, Rock Star Baby, for which he earned a VH1 New Designer of the Year award. Rock Star Baby is manufactured in Germany and sold internationally.

In 2008, the Tico Torres Children Foundation was formed. This Not-for-profit 501 (c) 3 charity assists children in need to fight hunger, disease, homelessness, neglect, abuse, and illness.

Tico resides in south Florida with his wife and son.

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Good music comes out of people playing together, knowing what they want to do and going for it.