John Joseph Theodore Rzeznik (born December 5, 1965 in Buffalo, New York and also known as Johnny Rzeznik) is an American songwriter, lead guitarist, vocalist and producer. He is best known as the frontman of rock band the Goo Goo Dolls, of whom he is a founding member and with whom he has recorded eight studio albums.
Rzeznik, the youngest of five children, was born to Józef (Joseph) and Edyta (Edith) Rzeznik (pronounced ZHEZ-nik" and meaning 'butcher' in Polish). Joseph was a postal worker, and Edith a school teacher, and both were musicians, playing clarinet and flute respectively. Rzeznik had a strict Catholic upbringing on Buffalo's working-class East Side. Rzeznik's father died from diabetic coma at the age of fifty five when Rzeznik was sixteen years old. Six months later his mother died from a sudden heart attack. Having lost both of his parents, he was brought up by his four older sisters: Phyllis, Fran, Glad and Kate. It was during this period and while attending high school that Rzeznik began playing the guitar.
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In 1986, he formed the band that became the Goo Goo Dolls with Robby Takac. Previously John had been in a band with Takac's cousin, called The Beaumonts. The band was originally called The Sex Maggots, but this was changed on a whim to The Goo Goo Dolls (from an ad in a True Detective magazine) when a concert promoter asked them to, fearing the local newspapers would not print an advert for a show featuring a band with such a name.
In the early days of The Goo Goo Dolls, the band performed at gigs relentlessly, with Robby as the frontman (Rzeznik gradually becoming the frontman over the next few albums, as each new album contained more songs sung by Rzeznik than the last). They were soon picked up by a small record label, Celluloid. Under Celluloid they released their first eponymous album (later the re-prints would be referred to as "First Release") on a $750 budget. This attracted the attention of a larger record label, Metal Blade, who released their next few albums. For the next few years the band toured, produced albums and held down regular jobs.
Following the album Gutterflower, Rzeznik wrote "Always Know Where You Are" and "I'm Still Here" for the Disney film Treasure Planet, which were also released as a single independently from the band.
Rzeznik has produced music for various artists including Andy Stochansky and Ryan Cabrera. He wrote songs for Ryan Cabrera's debut album Take It All Away and his music style is evident on Cabrera's song "Illusions". He has also written for Blessid Union of Souls, Anastacia, Zoe Scott, and many more.
From October to December 2007, Rzeznik was a judge alongside Sheila E. and Australian Idol judge and marketing manager Ian "Dicko" Dickson on the Fox network's The Next Great American Band.
On June 19, 2008, John Rzeznik was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame and was awarded the Hal David Starlight award.
Most of the music Rzeznik listened to while growing up was influenced by his sisters, and comprised mostly of classic rock such as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and The Kinks. The youngest of his four older sisters moved towards punk music and Rzeznik became interested in bands such as the Sex Pistols and The Clash. Rzeznik attributes his gift for melody to listening to bands such as KISS, Cheap Trick, and Rush in the early 1980s. Rzeznik also cites Paul Westerberg as an "obvious influence" on his music.
Rzeznik is well known for his distinctive and unusual guitar tunings. Many of his newer songs, particularly the more acoustic-oriented ones, are performed with his guitars tuned to an open chord with several of the strings tuned to the same note but in different octaves. This gives the guitar a shimmery, jangly sound almost like a 12-string guitar. Perhaps the most famous example of this is his signature hit "Iris", but other examples include "Name," "Black Balloon," "Think About Me," and "Here Is Gone." Conversely, on earlier albums such as "Superstar Car Wash" and "A Boy Named Goo," Rzeznik often utilized a conventional standard tuning.
Rzeznik believes that writing is not just an inspirational thing but that writing music is "ninety nine percent perspiration." He says that when writing a song, he often "runs tape and screws around with stuff," and that his songs are often both biographical and autobiographical.
At the 2004 Fashion Rocks! concert in New York, Rzeznik performed a duet version of the song Iris with Canadian pop singer Avril Lavigne. The Goo Goo Dolls also performed the song "Name" at a live concert with LeeAnn Rimes. Rzeznik also performed Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here" with Fred Durst from Limp Bizkit for the victims of September 11 as a tribute to the heroes.
On July 4, 2004, Rzeznik and his bandmates returned home to Buffalo and played a free show to give back to their loyal fans, over 60,000 of whom attended. The day quickly became a city triumph when rain came pouring down during their performance. It turned out to be one of the strongest rain storms of the year in Buffalo, but the Goo Goo Dolls did not stop playing. Rzeznik declared, "We're going to keep going until this shit stops". This performance was captured on DVD and CD for the public in the Goo Goo Dolls release Live in Buffalo: July 4th 2004.
Rzeznik also performed a version of U2's "All I Want is You" on the album Les Paul and Friends.
Rzeznik has used many different guitar brands and models over the years. On Superstar Car Wash, he endorsed ESP guitars. The liner notes of A Boy Named Goo list Epiphone as his guitar of choice. Since the late '90s, Rzeznik has been using Fender electric guitars. He has used many variations such as the Stratocaster, Telecaster, Jaguar and a "Halfcaster" (a Stratocaster cut in half). He also used Guild acoustic guitars on both the "Dizzy Up the Girl" and "Gutterflower" tours. Guild models used include several D-55s (unusually, most of his D-55s were built in Fender's Corona, California Shop), a black F65CE, multiple Peregrine/S7CE Customs (a Guild Custom Shop Model), a black Songbird/S4CE, and a black F47M. Live performances of this time sometimes showed the auxiliary guitarist, Greg Suran, using some Guild acoustics such as the DV-52 and F-47M in natural finishes.
Since beginning the "Let Love In" tour, Rzeznik has been experimenting with Gibson Les Paul guitars and semi-hollow body electric guitars. He also uses Taylor 800 and 900 series acoustic guitars while on tour. He has stated that the Taylor Expression System (9V version) is one of the only forms of acoustic guitar amplification that still let the guitars "sound like wood" when played through a house PA system.
Early studio footage from the Goo Goo Dolls' upcoming 9th studio album, Something for the Rest of Us shows John playing Taylor acoustics, in addition to Gibson acoustic and electric guitars.