John (his real name: John Bongiovi Jr.) spent most of his adolescence skipping school to opt for music activities instead, and ended up playing in local bands with friends and his cousin Tony Bongiovi, who owned the then famous New York recording studio, The Power Station. As a result, his academic records displayed poor grades. By the time he was 16, John Bongiovi was playing clubs. It was not long before he joined up with keyboardist David Bryan (his real name: David Bryan Rashbaum), who played with him in a ten-piece rhythm and blues band called Atlantic City Expressway. John also performed with bands calledThe Rest, The Lechers and John Bongiovi and the Wild Ones.
When he was seventeen, John was working sweeping floors at his cousin Tony Bongiovi's recording studio. In 1980, when Meco was there recording Christmas in the Stars: The Star Wars Christmas Album, Bongiovi recommended Bon Jovi for the song "R2-D2 We Wish You A Merry Christmas." This became his first professional recording (credited as John Bongiovi, Jon's actual name). He left in 1983 when he got a record deal. Bon Jovi recorded a song, Runaway, one of a few songs John wrote during his bus travels from Sayreville to The Power Station. He went to several record companies, including Atlantic Records andMercury (PolyGram), but they all turned him down.
He visited major rock station WAPP 103.5FM "The Apple" in New York City. He spoke directly to the promotion director John Lassman, who accepted the song "Runaway" for inclusion on the station's compilation album of local homegrown talent. Bon Jovi was initially reluctant to have it included but eventually gave them the song on which Bon Jovi had used studio musicians to play on the track. The studio musicians who helped record "Runaway" – known as The All Star Review – were guitarist Tim Pierce, keyboardist Roy Bittan, drummer Frankie LaRocka, and bassist Hugh McDonald.
Runaway became a local hit on the charts. Along the way, Mercury gave Bon Jovi a recording contract in 1983, and to promote Runaway, Bon Jovi called up Richie Sambora, David Bryan, Tico Torresand Alec John Such and formed a band. After Bon Jovi claimed he wanted a group name (and rejecting "Johnny Lightning"), one of the group suggested "Bon Jovi", slightly changing the spelling of Jon's last name.