The Hair Is Shorter, but the Career Goes On and On: Jon Bon Jovi on Longevity, Jersey and Outselling Justin Bieber

Bon Jovi's tour has outsold Kanye, Katy and Justin -- combined.

ByLara Spencer and Elizabeth Stuart
July 29, 2011, 1:38 PM

Aug. 1, 2011— -- The first topic that arises in an interview with Jon Bon Jovi -- if the interviewer is female -- is, of course, the hair. The music must wait.

The story of the singer's iconically feathery mane leads back to Bon Jovi's father, a marine turned hairstylist. "He created it," Bon Jovi said in an interview with ABC News' Lara Spencer.

Bon Jovi, 49, went on to make an important distinction: "[My hair] was very famous, but you know what? Bono had a mullet. I never had a mullet. Mel Gibson had a mullet. … I was Cousin It. I just had a big ball of hair. … Fortunately I still have it. … There's no weave in there, baby."

The rock superstar was being escorted by five police motorcycles from Newark, N.J., to New York City. He had been in Newark fulfilling his role as the only celebrity on President Obama's White House Council for Community Solutions, something he prides himself on almost as much as his roots in the Garden State.

"New Jersey shaped who and what I am. Growing up in Jersey gave you all the advantages of New York, but you were in its shadow. Anyone who's come from here will tell you that same story. … It dates back to Sinatra. Anybody -- Jerry Lewis, Abbott and Costello -- they all had to fight for what they did, and this is where they came from," Bon Jovi said.

Bon Jovi, the band, is beginning the European leg of its "Circle" tour following 16 months of concerts throughout the United States. After three decades, they are still thrilling fans and selling out arenas with their 1980s' anthems like "You Give Love a Bad Name."

The tour was the top-grossing tour of 2010, bringing in more than $200 million and easily outselling some of the biggest current names in music. It has been more successful than the tours of Kanye West, Katy Perry and Justin Bieber put together.

"Yeah, that's not even the same league," Bon Jovi said.

He explained longevity in the music business via an analogy: "Everyone else is here for what we call a cup of coffee. … When you become Billy Joel and Elton John, or U2" -- or Bon Jovi -- "then you sit around and you're enjoying dessert."

Bon Jovi said he has always been this confident. Now it's backed up by numbers. When he was starting out and hoping for his first break, it was backed up by sheer determination -- and a catchy rock song.

"I went to a radio station on Long Island in 1982, and thank goodness for me, it was so new that there was no receptionist. So the DJ opened up his booth, and took my tape and listened to it and thought it was a hit song," he said.

He had sent the tape -- containing the song "Runaway" -- to record companies for nearly a year, with no response. "This guy was on the air at a new station, and he loved music. So he answered the door when a kid knocked on it."

The band has stuck together through each other's good times -- like keyboardist David Bryan winning a Tony in 2010 for the musical "Memphis" -- and stumbles. The day of the interview, Bon Jovi was going to see guitarist Richie Sambora, who had just been released from rehab.

Bon Jovi likened the relationship to brotherhood. "It's a very close relationship when you're in a band for that many years. … You've experienced things together that you didn't experience with your own siblings or your spouse. You've lived in a cocoon that only the other members of that organization have lived in," he said.

Bon Jovi Has Streamlined Hair and Clothes

Still, brothers can fight and go years without speaking. Further explaining the band's success, Bon Jovi switched his analogy to football. "Everybody has the same dream. Everybody believed. Everybody still followed the quarterback, and, you know, knew what integral role they were playing within the team."

Bon Jovi's personal life has had the successful longevity his music has. He's been married for 22 years to his high school sweetheart, Dorothea. They have four kids, including a daughter who is off to college in the fall. She's just about the same age her dad was when he started singing hits like "Livin' on a Prayer" and "Wanted Dead or Alive," which still get standing ovations today.

With his 50th birthday a few months away, Bon Jovi has been expanding his efforts beyond the rock star lifestyle. The White House council is one example. His Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation has helped build hundreds of houses for poor families, and he frequently performs at charity events for organizations such as the New York Police Department.

After 30 years in and out of hotel rooms, Bon Jovi has learned to streamline. This applies to his famous hair, now much shorter, as well as his clothing.

"I carry one bag -- [fewer] than everyone else in the band ever did. … I'm a guy. Guys will take one pair of jeans, five T-shirts and three pair of socks and that'll get you by for 10 weeks. When I'm on stage, I hope they're washing these jeans once a week, because that's about it!"

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