Welcome to day 14 of a 30-day tribute to the history of Duluth's favorite
It's time you all heard the story of Johnny Heartless.
Heartless had a connection to the band even before he joined as he was Double Barrel's sister's ex-husband's brother. A Duluth native and son of a prominent policeman, he was weaned on classic rock and metal and spent his formative years learning Black Sabbath songs and dreaming of being a rock star.
Bone Appetit formally got introduced to Heartless because they needed jobs to support their drinking, and learned via Barrel's sister that he was owner and operator of the Pike Lake Domino's Pizza. Hot Rod was the first to take a job at the store, and a fast friendship formed between the two over their love of 80's metal. Double Barrel, Richie Gunns, and even manager Max Blast would eventually end up on Heartless' payroll at Domino's.
In early 2001, an idea was hatched to have Johnny make a guest appearance with the band and cover one of his favorite songs, Judas Priest's "Living After Midnight" at an upcoming show at the Norshor Theater.
You can view a video of that performance, and Heartless' dramatic entrance below:
Needless to say the cheering crowds and bright lights had a profound impact on Heartless, and like a strong drug, he was hooked after one time. He made a few other appearances with band before joining full time as 3rd guitarist. His presence and BC Rich guitar didn't make Bone Appetit sound any better, but certainly thicker, or perhaps just more grating. Shortly after the departure of Blade Phillips, when Sudden Death took over the bass, Heartless moved up a rung to become Richie's sonic wingman.
It can be said with confidence that Johnny Heartless loved Bone Appetit, and no one else had as much enthusiasm about the band than he. Long hours spent in the Pike Lake Domino's kitchen meant his bandmate employees would be greeted at the start of each shift with a new harebrained scheme or bombastic stage theatric. For a time it seemed Heartless lived and breathed Bone Appetit. His confidence, despite their obvious ability, led him to believe that the band was undoubtedly on the road to stardom.
Johnny was fortunate to be in Bone Appetit during its (arguable) heyday and participated in some of their most memorable shows including the 7th St Entry showcase, the gourmet-catered Norshor event, as well as the Wade Stadium show. He was also a part of several recording sessions, notably the band's ill-fated attempt to record themselves in the vacant office building connected to Domino's. It seemed Johnny's rock n' roll dreams were finally coming true.
Like any good rock n' roll story, there is one person in every band who is asked to leave amid disappointment, drama and hurt feelings. In the story of Bone Appetit, that person is Johnny Heartless.
It'd be hard to pinpoint when the other four members of Bone Appetit started to feel that Heartless' time was running short. Perhaps his boundless enthusiasm and seemingly unrealistic vision for the band finally caught up with reality. Perhaps it was his desire to create and sell various Johnny Heartless-themed merchandise; or his boisterous claims that he was responsible for the crowds the band was drawing, or would draw.
As Bone Appetit began to record their debut album with Eric Swanson in the summer of 2002, his guitar playing came under fire when it was possible to listen directly to and dissect his performances. The band made up their mind at this point.
His official dismissal occurred at a Roundabout Records show that same summer. It was a difficult moment for everyone involved, most certainly for Heartless. It was handled about as delicately as you could imagine Bone Appetit capable of handling such a thing (it was ugly).
In the aftermath, contact with his former bandmates was confined to a biting e-mail back-and-forth unfit for publication here. Johnny's firing also led to a rather spirited debate in the public forum highlighted by the following Ripsaw mentions; first being the band's announcement, then followed the next week by Heartless' stinging rebuttal. Various threats were made as well regarding his plans to form a new and better band that would best Bone Appetit at their own game.
Thankfully though time heals all, or at least most wounds. Today finds Johnny Heartless and his family still living in Duluth, although he has since moved on and up from his days with Domino's.
Love, Lust, and Rock n' Roll
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BONE APPETIT will play
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at 12:30AM at RT Quinlan's.
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