Robert James “Bob” Ritchie was born on January 17, 1971 in Romeo, Michigan to William “Bill” Ritchie, a car dealer who owned several local dealerships, and Susan Ritchie. His family also owned a six-acre orchard and Robert regularly helped pick apples and cared for the family’s horses. He has three siblings. The two elder are brother William “Billy” Ritchie and sister Carol Ritchie; his younger sister, Jill Ritchie is an actress. Ritchie found small-town life dull; he became interested in rap music, learned how to breakdance and participated in talent shows in the Detroit area. At age eleven he joined a breakdance crew called the Furious Funkers, and taught himself to work a cheap belt-driven turntable. In high school, Ritchie DJed at parties for beer. He eventually joined Bo Wisdom of Groove Time Productions, in Mt. Clemens, Michigan to perform basement parties for $30 a night. He chose his stage name while performing at these venues; club goers dubbed him “Kid Rock” after they had enjoyed watching “that white kid rock.”
Ritchie eventually ran away to Mt. Clemens at 15 and stayed with his friend Chris Pouncy. He was forced by a local drug gang known as the “Best Friends” to sell drugs out of a car wash at which he worked. A man in the neighborhood organized a rap group to keep the neighborhood kids out of trouble.
It was composed of The Blackman (founder of the group), Champtown, KDC, Chris “Doc Roun-Cee” Pouncy and Bob. They were known as “The Beast Crew”. Rock befriended producer D-Nice of the legendary hip-hop group Boogie Down Productions. When Rock opened for BDP one night, D-Nice invited an A&R representative from Jive Records to see him perform. This meeting led to a demo deal, which developed into a full record contract.
Against his parents’ wishes, Rock signed the deal at age 17. Despite his new record deal, he had a falling out with The Beast Crew when he signed over fellow member Champtown (the two have since renewed their friendship). They left his vocals on the tracks of their debut underground album Chapter 1: He Don’t Want Us No More, against his wishes. Rock later became part of the Straight From The Underground Tour alongside several major rap artists, including Ice Cube, Too Short, D-Nice,Mac Dre, and Yo-Yo.
On December 30, 1990 Kid Rock released his debut album Grits Sandwiches for Breakfast. As noted by Insane Clown Posse member Violent J, this album made Kid Rock one of the two biggest rap stars in Detroit in 1990, along with localindependent rapper Esham. Though Jive Records did not push the album, it gained infamy when radio station WSUC-FM (90.5) of Cortland, New York was fined $23,700 by the FCC — then the largest fine against a radio station — for playing the song “Yo Da-Lin In the Valley”. The album sold an estimated 100,000 copies. Kid Rock’s career had begun to decline towards the end of 1990. Jive Records released Kid Rock from his contract in 1991. Once back in Detroit he became friends withUncle Kracker after battling his brother in a freestyle rapping competition; Uncle Kracker became Kid Rock’s DJ.
In late 1991 Kid Rock was picked up by an independent record label called Continuum Records. Though Insane Clown Posse’s Violent J disliked Kid Rock’s rapping style, he paid Kid Rock to appear on Insane Clown Posse’s first album, Carnival of Carnage in 1992, in an attempt to gain notice for the album. Kid Rock showed up to record the song “Is That You?” intoxicated, but re-recorded his vocals and record scratching the following day. In March 1993, Continuum released his second album The Polyfuze Method, which featured a more rap rock-oriented sound with Kid Rock teaching himself how to play several different instruments including guitar, drums, keyboard and organ. The album saw some local college radio success atCentral Michigan University with the tracks “Back From The Dead” and “Balls In Your Mouth”. He wanted “Prodigal Son” as the lead single but Jive refused and released “U Don’t Know Me” as the first single. It failed to chart, and the music video received little airplay on major music video channels. Kid Rock re-released “Back From The Dead” as a single to mainstream radio and produced the music video himself, but that too failed as a single. The album has sold approximately 15,000 copies.
He released an EP called Fire It Up in December 1993. The EP featured the song “I Am the Bullgod” which wouldn’t be a hit until six years later. Continuum didn’t see a future with Kid Rock after this and released him from his contract in 1994.
He moved back to Detroit where his on-again-off-again relationship with Kelly South resulted in a son, Robert James Ritchie Jr. Kid Rock released monthly demo tapes dubbed The Bootleg Series which featured demos of him and other up-and-coming rappers and garage rock bands in the Detroit area. Around the same time Kid Rock formed his back up band Twisted Brown Trucker, later recruiting Joseph “Joe C.” Calleja, whom he met at a 1994 concert in Roseville, Michigan, as part of the group. In 1995 Rock took a job as a janitor at Whiterooms Studios to pay studio fees. When he wasn’t working, Kid Rock recorded the material that eventually made up his fourth album, Early Mornin’ Stoned Pimp, which he released on his own label, Top Dog Records. During the recording process he met piano player Jimmie Bones, who soon joined the band. The album was released on February 12, 1996. A loan from his father aided the release and Kid Rock sold 6,000 copies from the trunk of his car, sometimes after his concerts.
Lava/Atlantic Records A&R man Andy Karp starting following Kid Rock’s career after seeing him in Cleveland in December 1996 and again in March 1997. Following a two song demo tape containing “Somebody’s Gotta Feel This” and “I Got One For Ya” [Jason Flom] supported Karp in signing Kid Rock for $100,000. However, when recording sessions began Atlantic wanted more of a rock sound and didn’t initially like “Cowboy,” “Devil Without A Cause” and “Only God Knows Why.” They asked Rock to take out the “I’m going platinum” line on the title track’s chorus, but he refused. While the conflict slowed down production, Devil Without a Cause was completed on schedule with Rock mostly playing all the instruments himself.
Devil Without a Cause to Cocky (1997–2002)
In 1997, Kid Rock added drummer/vocalist Stefanie Eulinberg to his band, joining Kenny Olson, Jason Krause, Jimmie Bones, Uncle Kracker, Misty Love, Shirley Hayden and Joe C.. On August 18, 1998, Atlantic released Devil Without a Causebehind the single “Welcome 2 The Party.” Kid Rock went on the Vans Warped Tour to support the album.Sales of “Welcome 2 The Party” and Devil were slow, though the 1998 Warped Tour in Northampton, Massachusetts stimulated regional interest in Massachusetts and New England. This led to substantial airplay in the summer and fall of 1998 on rock staples in Massachusetts WZLX and WAAF for the single “I Am The Bullgod.” In early December 1998, while DJ’ing at a club he met and became friends with MTV host Carson Daly, he talked Daly into getting him a performance on MTV. On December 28, 1998 he performed on MTV Fashionably Loudin Miami,FL creating a buzz from his performance, upstagging Jay-Z. In May his sales began taking off behind the third single “Bawitdaba” and by April 1999 Devil Without a Cause had achieved a gold disc. By June, Devil, as he predicted, went platinum. Kid Rock went on his first major tour, Limptropolis, opening for Limp Bizkit with Staind. He solidified his new superstardom with his Woodstock 1999 performance and on July 24, he was double platinum. The following single “Cowboy” was an even bigger hit. It was a mix of southern rock, country and rap that made the Top 40. It became WCW’s Jeff Jarrett’s theme song. Rock’s next single, the slow back porch blues ballad “Only God Knows Why”, was the biggest hit off the album charting at No 19 on the Billboard Hot 100. It was one of the first songs to use the autotune effect. By the time the final single “Wasting Time” was released, the album had sold 7 million copies. Devil Without A Cause was certified 11 times platinum by the RIAA on April 17, 2003.
Rock was nominated as Best New Artist at the 2000 Grammy Awards, but lost to Christina Aguilera. He was nominated for “Bawitdaba” for Best Hard Rock Performance, but lost to Metallica’s “Whiskey in the Jar.”
After reacquiring the rights to his early material in 2000, Rock released The History of Rock, a collection of remixed and re-recorded songs from The Polyfuze Method and Early Mornin Stoned Pimp. “American Bad Ass”, one of two new tracks, was released as a single. It sampled the Metallica track “Sad But True”. It was used in the WWE as the Undertaker’s theme song for his new “biker from hell” gimmick. The song was used for TV promos for the movies G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra andBattleship, released in 2009 and 2012, respectively.
On May 27 Kid Rock appeared on Saturday Night Live performing “American Bad Ass” and an acoustic version of “Only God Knows Why” that featured Phish’s Trey Anastasio and was arranged by country singer David Allan Coe. Kid Rock joined Phish later in the year in Las Vegas, Nevada, for a set of cover songs.
From June 30 to August 22, 2000, Kid Rock joined the Summer Sanitarium Tour with Metallica, Korn, Powerman 5000, and System of a Down. Kid Rock filled in for James Hetfield of Metallica, singing vocals on the songs “Enter Sandman”, “Sad But True”, and “Nothing Else Matters” and the turntables for “Fuel”, for three shows after Hetfield injured his spine riding a jet ski on Lake Lanier the day before the July 7 Atlanta concert. Kid Rock would go on “The History Of Rock Tour” from August to September of that year.
On November 16, 2000, Joseph “Joe C” Calleja died in his sleep from Coeliac disease in Taylor, Michigan. The disease stunted his growth and forced him to take 60 pills a day. Joe C’s final song was “Cool Daddy Cool” for the Osmosis Jones soundtrack. The band made a cameo in the movie as the band playing in the club scene. Kid Rock was referred to as Kidney Rock to go along with the cartoon aspect of being a cell in the body of the main character, Frank (played by Bill Murray).
On the 2001 American Bad Ass Tour, in which David Allan Coe performed as an opening act for Kid Rock was the subject of criticism from journalist Neil Strauss, who alleged that Coe’s songs were racist.
In early 2001, Rock inducted Aerosmith into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and performed “Sweet Emotion” at the induction ceremony. The same year, Rock landed his first acting role in the David Spade comedy Joe Dirt.
“American Bad Ass” was nominated for Best Hard Rock Performance at the 2001 Grammy Awards, losing out to Rage Against The Machine’s “Guerrilla Radio”. The History of Rock would go on to be certified double platinum.
In November, Kid Rock released Cocky, which was marketed as the official follow up to Devil Without a Cause. With the era of rap metal on the decline, Kid Rock included several southern rock and country ballads on the album. The first single, “Forever”, featured his standard brash rap-rock sound, but lacked the selling power of Devil Without A Cause. The songs “Lonely Road of Faith”and “You Never Met a Motherfucker Quite Like Me” were released as singles, but were only minor hits, and the album struggled to reach platinum a year later. Rock then had problems with the release of “Picture”, a country-influenced duet with Sheryl Crow: His label felt it was wrong for his image, and was not keen to spend more money promoting a flagging album; then, when they agreed to release it, Sheryl Crow’s label initially refused to give permission. Rock, meanwhile, made a radio version with Allison Moorer, which was gaining airplay. Crow’s label caved and their version was finally released. When “Picture” was released it introduced Kid Rock to a wider audience, and was ultimately the most successful single on the album. The song would chart at number 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 17 on country radio. The song remains his most successful pop song in the U.S. to date.
On December 14, 2001, CMT aired an episode of Crossroads featuring Rock with Hank Williams, Jr. The episode drew 2.1 million viewers, a record on CMT. He would perform for troops in January 2002 on an MTV USO Special at Germany’sRamstein Air Base along with Ja Rule and Jennifer Lopez.
At the end of 2002, Uncle Kracker left the band to pursue a solo career, and Detroit underground rapper Paradime replaced him. Kid Rock made his second movie, Biker Boyz, with Laurence Fishbourne.
Kid Rock to Rock n Roll Jesus (2003–2009)
In 2003, Kid Rock returned with an eponymous album, almost stripping away the accustomed rap metal sound he had created, opting for southern rock and several country ballads in the wake of “Picture”‘s success. The album’s lead single was a cover of Bad Company’s “Feel Like Makin’ Love”. A media blitz accompanied the single capped off by the VH-1 special called A Kid Rock Christmas, which aired on December 14, 2003. He would release “Cold and Empty”, “Jackson, Mississippi” and “I Am” to minor success on radio. The David Allan Coe-penned “Single Father”, became his second charting country song, although like the other singles it was minor hit at #50. The album would go on to go platinum.
Kid Rock was involved in the halftime show controversy at Super Bowl XXXVIII in Houston, Texas on February 1, 2004. He was criticized by the Veterans of Foreign Wars for desecrating the American flag, by wearing one slit in the middle as aponcho.
The following month, Kid inducted Bob Seger into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In September 2005, Kid Rock filled in for Johnny Van Zant, the lead singer of Lynyrd Skynyrd, on the band’s hit “Sweet Home Alabama” at the Hurricane Katrinabenefit concert.
He performed “Erotica”, the theme song for Spike TV’s Stripperella. He also lent his voice to a few episodes.
On February 28, 2006, Kid Rock released his first live album, Live Trucker, comprising songs from his homestead performances in Clarkston (on September 1, 2000, and August 26 through August 28, 2004), and Detroit’s Cobo Hall (March 26, 2004). The album contained the last two performances of Joe C. on “Devil Without a Cause” and “Early Mornin’ Stoned Pimp,” as well as Rock performing a duet with country star Gretchen Wilson on “Picture.”
He brought Bob Seger back from semi-retirement during his pre-Super Bowl concerts on February 2 and 3, 2006 in Detroit. The two performed a version of Seger’s “Rock ‘n’ Roll Never Forgets” on both nights. Kid Rock would appear on Bob Seger’s album Face the Promise, on a Vince Gill cover of “Real Mean Bottle,” a tribute to country legend Merle Haggard. He would make a cameo in the movie Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector and appeared in an episode of CSI: New York in 2006.
He inducted Lynyrd Skynyrd into the 2006 Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame and performed “Sweet Home Alabama” with them.
Rock n Roll Jesus was released on October 9, 2007, becoming Kid Rock’s first album to go number 1, selling 172,000 copies in its first week. He made the cover of Rolling Stone magazine for the second time, and appeared for the first time on Larry King Live to discuss the new album.
The album’s first two singles were successful on rock radio in “So Hott” and “Amen”. The album’s third single “All Summer Long”, became a global hit. It utilized a mash up of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama” and Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves of London”. “All Summer Long” would chart at No. 23 on the Billboard Hot 100. Kid Rock and Lynyrd Skynyrd would make joint live performances of “All Summer Long” and “Sweet Home Alabama” on both CBS Fashion Rocks and Good Morning America they would then go on two summer tours together “Rock N Rebel’s I” and “Rock N Rebel’s II”. Lil Wayne become the first hip hop act ever to perform ( although Kid Rock started as a rapper) at the CMA Awards when he played gutair on “All Summer Long”. The week before the two performed together on the same song with Lil Wayne doing a freestyle mid song.”Rock n Roll Jesus” returned to the Top 10 for 17 straight weeks. “Roll On”, “Rock N Roll Jesus” and “Blue Jeans And A Rosary” were the albums remaining singles, all were minor hits.
In 2008, Kid Rock recorded “Warrior” for a National Guard advertising campaign.
Kid Rock performed on VH1’s Storytellers on November 27, 2008, giving an insight to how he wrote some of his hit songs. On April 5, 2009 he performed a 5-song medley at WrestleMania XXV.
He was nominated for Best Rock Album and Best Male Pop/Rock Performance for “All Summer Long” at the 2009 Grammys. He lost to Coldplay’s Viva La Vida for the former award, and to John Mayer’s “Say” for the latter. He achieved his first country award winning for Best Wide Open Country Video for “All Summer Long” at the 2009 CMT Awards. On July 3, 2009 “Rock N Roll Jesus” was certified triple platinum by the RIAA. Two weeks later, Kid Rock performed at Comerica Park on July 17 and 18, 2009.
Born Free through Rebel Soul (2009–present)
In April 2010 Kid Rock started a spring cruise dubbed “The Chillin The Most Cruise”. Then he followed that up by hosting the CMT Awards in June and performed “Cowboy”, “Bawitdaba” and “Good Ol Boys” with Hank Williams Jr, Trace Adkins, Martina McBride, Kellie Pickler, Randy Houser, Zac Brown and Jamey Johnson.
Kid Rock released Born Free on November 16, 2010 and it debuted at Number 5 selling 189,000 copies in its first week. The album was produced by Rick Rubin and featured David Hidalgo and Matt Sweeneyon guitar as well as Chad Smith on drums and Benmont Tench on keyboard and piano. The album became his first album without a parental advisory sticker on it. The album’s title track was released as its first single, peaking at Number 14 on the mainstream rock charts and no 31 on the active rock charts. It also charted at 52 on country and 39 on the adult pop charts. It was the theme song to the 2010 MLB playoffs on TBS as well as WWE’s Tribute To The Troops Special. The album reached gold status on December 15, 2010. The follow up single was “God Bless Saturday”, which peaked at 37 on the mainstream rock charts. It is the secondary theme song for College Gameday on ESPN. The third single was “Collide”, which featured Sheryl Crow and Bob Seger. Rock and Seger then went on a joint tour together as the song peaked at 26 on the adult pop chart and 51 on the country charts. The next single, a cover of James Boland’s “Purple Sky”, failed to chart. In November 2011, Kid Rock released “Care”, a protest song about current politics in D.C. There were multiple versions released for the single. The album version feat. Martina McBride and T.I., the international single featuring Mary J. Blige. The music video was shot with Pistol Annie’s Angeleena Pressley. The single peaked at number 26 on the Adult Contemporary charts and number 58 on the country chart. He released the EP Racing Father Time in the Detroit area along with the album. It included remixes of “Slow My Roll” and “Lonely Road Of Faith”, along with “The Midwest Fall” and “Forty”. Born Free went platinum in July 2011.
On January 15, 2011 Kid Rock celebrated his 40th birthday with a performance at Ford Field in Detroit. The marathon concert featured Uncle Kracker, Peter Wolfe, Reverend Run, Sheryl Crow, Cindy Crawford, Jimmie Johnson and Anita Baker.
He also returned to Comerica Park on August 12 and 13. In December he went a 12-city club tour and donated proceeds to various charities in each city to support his single “Care”. Kid Rock became the first musician to play in a recorded concert for television at Elvis Presley’s Graceland on November 28, 2011 when PBS taped an episode for their album Live from the Artists Den. He performed “Born Free” at a Michigan Rally for Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney in February. On May 12, 2012 he performed a benefit concert with the Detroit Orchestra, and raised $1 million.
On December 7, 2011 Kid Rock joined Metallica on-stage at The Fillmore San Francisco during the 30 Years of Metallica celebration (Day 2) to perform Seger’s “Turn the Page”. On April 14, 2012 he joined Travis McCoy, Black Thought, ?uestlove andThe Roots in performing a medley of Beastie Boys songs at the 2012 Rock N Roll Hall Of Fame ceremony.
Kid Rock recorded “In Detroit” as part of the NFL’s promotion with Pepsi called “Pepsi Anthems” in August 2012. It was recorded as the theme song for the Detroit Lions. Kid Rock released the album Rebel Soul on November 19, 2012, with “Let’s Ride” as its lead single. This was his first mainstream album available for download from iTunes. A music video for the explicit “Cucci Galore” was released to You Tube.He performed at several Mitt Romney rallies leading up to the Presidental Election.Nascar heavily promoted the album during the Race For The Chase, which ended in a live performance of “Let’s Ride”. He also performed “Chickens In The Pen ” and ” All Summer Long” on Good Morning America.