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“I was working in a hamburger joint… when he left, I had to clean up after him”: Joe Perry on the first time he met Steven Tyler

Joe Perry was working as a waiter in a fast food bar when Steven Tyler met him



The relationship between Aerosmith bandmates Joe Perry and Steven Tyler has been full of ups and downs and roundabouts, sometimes all in the same afternoon. But there was a point, long ago, when they were just two strangers getting to know each other. Perhaps they should have taken it as a sign that their friendship began with one watching the other making a mess he’d have to clear up, as Perry explained to Classic Rock’s Dave Everley. “The first time I met him, I didn’t really meet him so to speak,” said Perry. “I was working in a hamburger joint in the lake area in New Hampshire, and I did everything from cooking the French fries to sweeping the floor and taking out the trash. Steven’s family had a place up there and every summer he’d come up with one of his bands. I remember them rolling in and basically behaving like what they thought rock stars should do, which was throw food at each other. So when they left, I had to clean up after them.”

Despite that, the two became on nodding terms with each other and the next summer, Perry’s band with future Aerosmith bassist Tom Hamilton were playing at a club called The Barn with Tyler in the crowd. “That’s when I got formally introduced to Steven,” Perry recounted. “He’d heard that the Jeff Beck Group were looking for a new singer. A friend of ours asked if we’d be his back-up band while he did a demo.” 

At that point, Tyler was what Perry describes as a “singing drummer” and the trio hooked up to record a version of I’m Down by The Beatles. It went so well that Perry and Tyler stayed behind and jammed for a few hours afterwards, the point at which Perry thinks the future frontman had a lightbulb moment. “I think that’s when he saw something and I had. He said: “Yeah, I’ll come to Boston. But I don’t want to play drums, I want to be just the singer.” And I said: “That’s good, cos we’ve got this guy from New York called Joey Kramer who is thinking about being in the band…”

It was the start of a fruitful and tumultuous relationship that would put the pair on a path to superstardom. As for behaving how they thought rock stars were ought to? Yeah, well, they did a lot of that too, and soon got a nickname for their efforts.