Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Ricky Byrd Paves the Road to Recovery with Song

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Ricky Byrd Paves the Road to Recovery with Song

Article excerpt

Twice a week guitarist Ricky Byrd drives from his Manhattan home to northern and central New Jersey to play for anywhere from 10 to 25 people, ranging in age from 18 to 65. Most listen intently to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member's acoustic performances. Others don't pay much, if any, attention.

No matter, Byrd said his appearances at drug and alcohol detox and recovery centers are among the most meaningful of his 40-year career.

"It's become a mission for me," said Byrd, who has been sober for 29 years and founded the non-profit Ricky Byrd's Clean Getaway Foundation in 2014. "I want to eventually do this all over the country, like a recovery troubadour," Byrd said. "Music is a healer."

Clean Getaway's mission is to spread the message of hope, education, awareness and addiction resources using music as a touchstone to the sick and suffering and their families.

Byrd, who was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015 as a member of Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, performs songs he has written specifically for those in recovery and talks about his journey through alcohol and drug abuse and the path to sobriety.

"We talk about people, places and things that can be triggers for relapse," Byrd said. "Hopefully through my story and songs people will be encouraged to start going to meetings and not slip into old habits."

His set of 15 recovery songs includes "Broken Is a Place" ("Broken is a place I've already been, I'm not going back") and "Highwire" ("I'm up on this high wire working without a net, I've fallen more times than I've liked to remember, that ain't stopped me yet"). Byrd said he hopes to release a benefit album of full band and acoustic recovery songs.

He said he began drinking and taking drugs as a teen and continuously increased his consumption, especially when he began touring heavily and indulged in the rock-and-roll party lifestyle. Byrd said he decided to change his ways after too many "near misses."

"Sept. 25, 1987, I looked at myself in the mirror and everything was going wrong and I made a phone call to a friend," he said. Byrd attended his first 12-step group meeting that day. …

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