80’s Hair Metal and the Origins of Rikki Lee Travolta

We all seem to have a bond to the music of our youth. While I enjoy music in a variety of genres, 80’s hair metal will always have a favored spot in my heart

It was a time of hook laden, hard rocking music by artists with wild names like Nikki Sixx of Mötley Crüe, Axl Rose of Guns n’ Roses, Sammy Serious of The Zeros, and Rikki Rockett of Poison. It was as much about image as it was about music.

People often query why the unique spelling of my name. In fact, the origins of Rikki Lee Travolta can be found in the annals of a heavy metal youth.

Since they came crashing into the music scene in 1986 with the release of Look What the Cat Dragged In, Poison has been one of my favorite musical acts. They still are.

The band features C.C. DeVille on guitar. C.C. is my favorite guitarist of all time. I’m not under any false allusions that C.C. is the best guitarist of all time, or even the best metal guitarist of all time. I leave the contenders for that title to the likes of Eddie Van Halen, Steve Vai, and Randy Rhoads.

Even though C.C. is not the best guitarist in terms of technique, he is the best in terms of putting on a show. Poison’s album Native Tongue featuring Ritchie Kotzen on lead guitar just never clicked with me. Kotzen was a more masterful guitarist than C.C., but he wasn’t exciting.

Poison lead singer Bret Michaels is also not a virtuoso. He has a very limited vocal range but he’s fun to listen to. He does more with what he has than most. I modeled much of my rock n’ roll on-stage persona on Bret Michaels mannerisms.

And, while I love Bobby Dall on bass, it is drummer Rikki Rockett that most captured my attention as a teen. He had cool hair, a cool name, and was a maestro on the drums. I was already a Ricky, but being a Rikki became my destiny once I was exposed to Poison.

While that covers the first part of the name Rikki Lee, where does the Lee come from? My middle name is actually Leroy, it got shortened to Lee due to another significant influence from the entertainment industry.

Many of my favorite actors are black – Michael Wright, Michael Dorn, Tony Todd, and Mario Van Peebles to name a few.

Van Peebles starred in a low budget black western film titled Posse. His character’s name was Jesse Lee and he was cool…cowboy cool. I’ve always fancied the name Jesse and even considered changing my name to Jesse Lee Travolta, but I really like being Rikki. So, I compromised and came up with the name Rikki Lee.

It’s interesting where names come from, isn’t it? Nikki Sixx, for example, started life off as Frank Feranna Jr. C.C. DeVille was originally named Bruce Johannesson. Those names don’t seem to fit the hyper adrenalin rock scene. Mötley Crüe and Poison simply wouldn’t be the same without the unique stage names of their principal members.

In the Native American culture, changing names is the norm. Children are given descriptive names, but these names change once the child reaches adolescence and again as they go through life. Their new names are typically reflective of their accomplishments. That is part of my culture.

I guess at the end of the day, my advice is to be who you want to be, not what your parents wanted you to be. When you look in the mirror, who do you see? Is the person in the reflection the person you want to be or the person someone else wants you to be? Be true to you.

Peace. Love. Trust.

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