They immediately hit it off as friends, and Sambora was invited to a rehearsal. By the time Bon Jovi arrived, the band was sounding better than ever and Sambora was hired on the spot.
Sambora has occasionally taken over as lead vocalist on some Bon Jovi songs, most notably "I'll Be There for You" and "These Days" when played live on the Bounce, Have a Nice Day and Lost Highway tours, while recently, on The Circle Tour, he has been performing Lay Your Hands On Me and Homebound Train. He has also performed "Stranger In This Town". One of the live performances of "Stranger In This Town", recorded during the Keep the Faith tour, was released on Bon Jovi's CD single "Dry County" in 1994.
Recent ventures have seen him compose television theme songs for both Entertainment Tonight and The Insider. He (along with Jon Bon Jovi) were part of the Ownership Group of the Philadelphia Soul, an Arena Football League football team.
Sambora made a cameo appearance in The Sims Superstar.
Sambora is featured on the track "Baby Rock Remix", from LL Cool J's upcoming album "Exit 13".
His first solo outing was Stranger in This Town in 1991, a blues-influenced album that was received well by many critics although commercially a relative flop partially due to the more adult tone of the record that was not instantly appealing to Bon Jovi fans. Eric Clapton played the lead guitar track on the song Mr Bluesman, backed by Sambora on acoustic guitars. He did a short US tour in support of the album, featuring Tony Levin (bass), Dave Amato (guitar), Crystal Taliefero (percussion) and Bon Jovi bandmates Tico Torres (drums) and Dave Bryan (keyboards). Ballad of Youth was released in the UK in summer 1991 and despite plugs from The Friday Rock Show on BBC Radio 1 the song barely skimmed the top 75.
Undiscovered Soul was Sambora's second solo album, released in 1998. The album was produced by Don Was. In support of Undiscovered Soul, Sambora toured Japan, Australia and Europe in the summer of 1998. The band featured Richie Supa (guitar), Ron Wikso (drums), Kasim Sulton (bass), Tommy Mandel (keyboards), Everett Bradley (percussion - Japan only), Gioia Bruno (percussion - Australia only) and Crystal Taliefero (percussion - Europe only).
He made a special guest appearance on Bo Diddley's 1996 album A Man Amongst Men, playing guitar on the tracks "Can I Walk You Home" and "Oops! Bo Diddley".
In 1999, Sambora appeared as a guest vocalist on the Stuart Smith album Stuart Smith's Heaven & Earth, performing a cover of the Deep Purple song "When a Blind Man Cries".
Sambora played on a recently released album called Lessons from a band called Message. The album was recorded in the early 1980s.
Sambora sings "Long Way Around" (background audio) during the final scene in the 1997 Steven Seagal action movie Fire Down Below and is featured on the movie's soundtrack.
Sambora also recorded the song "One Last Goodbye" on the soundtrack for the movie The Banger Sisters. He also covered Jimi Hendrix's "The Wind Cries Mary" for the soundtrack of The Adventures of Ford Fairlane, released in 1990.
His guitar work is also featured on the track "Misery" on Pink's 2001 album Missundaztood with Steven Tyler.
In 2004, Sanctuary Records released a self-titled album which had been recorded in 1978 by Shark Frenzy, documenting Sambora's first recorded material. The mix tapes had been damaged in a flood and it had taken band member Bruce Foster to remaster them for them to be released so many years later.
Sambora co-wrote several tracks and played guitar on Australian rock/pop artist Shannon Noll's third album, called Turn It Up. It was released in Australia September 15, 2007.
Sambora has been known to use a wide variety of equipment throughout his career. He has an extensive guitar collection, featuring more than 120 instruments.
In the 80s, Sambora mostly played Kramer, Jackson, Charvel and Hamer superstrats as well as modified and custom Les Paul models, such as his Rod Schoepfer model. In early-mid 1987, Kramer put out a Richie Sambora signature model with three humbuckers, pointy drooped headstock, gold hardware, star-shaped fingerboard inlays and a Floyd Rose Original locking tremolo, which quit production in 1989. Today it has been reissued by MusicYo, and is named "Jersey Star", no longer carrying Sambora's actual name. He had also used several other Kramer models, including a variety of custom ones ("one-offs"). His two most notable guitars from the Slippery When Wet album/tour were his Kramer Richie Sambora signature and a custom white Jackson with gold hardware and a Floyd Rose tremolo, HSS pickup configuration and a reversed Strat-like headstock and a star on the body and headstock. There is also another of his very famous guitars from Kramer, which is a Jersey Star signature double neck used on "Lay Your Hands On Me".
During the following years Sambora played various guitars, most notably a custom black Jackson, which featured only a humbucking pickup in the bridge position, Floyd Rose tremolo system and a maple neck and fretboard with a reversed Strat-like headstock, along with vintage Fenders and Gibsons.
In 1991, Fender issued a Richie Sambora signature Stratocaster model which featured an original Floyd Rose tremolo system and an HSS combination of DiMarzio PAF Pro humbucking and 2 Fender Texas Special single-coil pickups.
This guitar came in two versions; American and later in 1996, Japanese. US-made Sambora model featured an alder body with ash veneers and was available in Cherry Sunburst and Olympic White, while the Japanese version had an alder body with black paisley graphics (ltd) and a Snow White Finish. Other features included a one-piece maple neck/fingerboard with 22 frets and star-shaped position markers, as well as a 25dB active mid-boost circuit (US version only) with TBX (US & Japanese) tone controls and an active/passive push-button switch.
In the 1995 video 'Live in London', Sambora uses a custom orange burst double neck Fender Stratocaster with traditional maple neck with star inlays, locking tremolo (on the lower neck).He uses this guitar on the song 'Lay Your Hands On Me' on the London DVD.
In 1998 the model has been updated with a vintage-style tremolo, a set of Fender Hot Noiseless single-coils, no-load tone circuit and a 12dB active mid-boost with a push-button bypass selector.
There was also a Mexican-made standard version of the instrument, featuring a DiMarzio PAF humbucking pickup in the bridge position and two standard single-coils in the neck and middle positions. The guitar also sported a rosewood fingerboard with 21 frets and white dot inlays, as well as a Floyd Rose II locking bridge. Both the US and Mexican-made Sambora models were discontinued in 2002, though now there is a Fender Standard Series Stratocaster HSS Locking Tremolo with about the same specs as Sambora's own guitar, but its only available through Guitar Center. He still plays a variety of Fenders, apparently over 40 Stratocasters (mostly vintage, American Deluxe and Custom Shop models), such as the Telecaster doubleneck used on "Have a Nice Day." Sambora also has a '59 ash-body Telecaster used for these days on the current Lost Highway tour.
In the period of 2003-2006, he played a wide variety guitars on stage, including custom "Sambora" guitars built by his guitar tech Chris "Lumpy" Hofschneider, Zemaitis Guitars, Floyd Rose guitars, Zemaitis, Ovation, Taylor and Martin guitars, vintage and Custom Shop Gibson and Fender models, as well as guitars from his collection. One of the guitars built by his guitar tech features a fretboard made of both maple and rosewood, on an ash body with neck-through-body construction and a custom humbucking/single/single pickup layout. Currently, he mostly plays the custom black "Sambora" guitar (which is now a custom model called Sambora SA-2 for ESP), different models of Gibson Les Pauls and Fender Telecasters and Stratocasters (American Vintage, American Deluxe, Custom Shop and other models).
Sambora has used Ovation acoustic-electric guitars from the early 1980s until today. He played a custom-made doubleneck designed by his longtime guitar technician Gary "Gaz" Douglas which is featured on many "unplugged" versions of Bon Jovi songs such as "Wanted Dead Or Alive" and a variety of other Ovations, such as the Adamas hybrid wood/graphite model.
In 2000, Taylor started the production of a Richie Sambora signature model, a 6-string acoustic made of koa wood, called the RSSM. Only 100 were made all in the year of 2000. All of his double neck acoustics feature a 6 string neck on top and a 12 string neck on bottom, opposite of the normal manufacturing standard.
Since Sambora has been known to use his favourite Martin acoustic, among others, on a lot of recordings, Martin guitars put out two of Sambora's signature models in 2006, a 6-string and a 12-strings, based on his mentioned favourite 1930 Martin OM-45. He has also been seen using a Yamaha double neck acoustic at specific live shows.
Sambora also used Gibson and Guild acoustics, particularly a Guild F-50 12-string, which he used on the song "Wanted Dead or Alive". He acquired this guitar directly from the Guild factory due to it having a finish flaw.
For most of the 80s and early-mid 90s, he used Marshall amplifiers, particularly the JCM800 models with 4x12" speaker cabinets and a variety of rack and pedal units (including effects). During his Stranger in This Town tour, Sambora used 2 Marshall JCM800 2203 heads and a Fender amp head (model not specified), with 3 4x12" Marshall cabinets. In 1995, Sambora started using Fender ToneMasters with Fender ToneMaster 4x12" speaker cabinets, following the These Days Tour. On tour, he used up to 12 cabinets on stage. For the studio sessions of his second solo album, Undiscovered Soul, he also used a Fender Bassman 4x10" combo and a Vox AC30. On the tour, he used Fender ToneMasters, a Marshall amp head, a Vox amp head and a VHT Pitbull in combination with Fender ToneMaster 4x12" and 2x12" speaker cabinets. In 2000, Sambora started using the Marshall JCM2000 DSL series (both on the tour and recording sessions of Crush). The song "It's My Life" was also recorded with a Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier. He has also used the Marshall DSL series on the Bounce tour, as well as a Hughes & Kettner amp, occasionally. During their Have a Nice Day tour, Sambora used Diezel and Divided by 13 amplification and custom made 4x12" speaker cabinets. During the studio recording sessions of the Lost Highway album, he used Matchless, Bogner Ecstasy and Diezel Herbert amps. In 2007, he started appearing on stage with 2 halfstacks, again featuring Marshall JCM2000 DSL amplifiers and custom made 4x12" cabinets.
In late 2007, Sambora became an endorsee of The ESP Guitar Company, and a new Richie Sambora signature model, the LTD SA-2, is being debuted at the 2008 Winter NAMM show.
In 2008, Sambora began to use a Matthias Jabs Mastercaster, along with vintage guitars, such as a 1958 Gibson ES-335, and a 1954 Gibson Les Paul Junior.
According to "Young Guitar" (Japanese magazine), Richie Sambora use (during the Tokyo show in 2008) an A/B box, Frampton Talkbox, Jimi Hendrix Dunlop Wah, Keeley Sd-1, Stock SD-1, Roger Mayer Octavia (butane paintjob), Boss CH-1, EHX Electric Mistress Deluxe. He also uses a MIDI rig.
Sambora is also a self taught musician of other instruments including: mandolin, sitar, ukulele, bass, banjo, piano, keyboards, drums, flute, trumpet, saxophone, accordion, bouzouki, mandocello, and others.
Over the years, Sambora has been an ardent fundraiser for many charities, such as Dream Street, the Steve Young Forever Young Foundation and Michael J Fox's Parkinson's disease charity. He has donated money privately to various cancer charities since the death of his beloved father, especially with recognition to both hospitals his father was treated at, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and M D Anderson. Sambora's fundraising with the charity Stand Up For a Cure allowed for three mobile full service hospital units to be brought to the streets of New York, two of which were named after his parents respectively. These units will help to serve the community and help those afflicted with cancer as well as educate the public about the risks.
In May 2004, Richie Sambora was bestowed with an Honorary Doctorate of Letters by Kean University where he attended the awards ceremony and gave a speech of acceptance. He attended Kean University as a freshman, but then dropped out to pursue a career as a professional guitarist and session musician.
Sambora and Jon Bon Jovi were inducted in the Songwriters Hall of Fame on June 18, 2009. They were introduced by platinum-selling singer-songwriter-guitarist Chris Daughtry, who performed a rocking rendition of "I’ll Be There For You."