He wasn't the original drummer of the New York Dolls, but Jerry Nolan played on the only two studio albums issued during the Dolls' brief and volatile career. Born in 1946 in Brooklyn, NY, Nolan traveled around as a youngster due to his stepfather being a U.S. soldier. It was during a stay over in Hawaii that Nolan saw an early performance by Elvis Presley, which served as a musical inspiration for the future. As a teenager, Nolan began playing the drums as his family moved back to his birthplace (where Nolan also began serving in street gangs). The late '60s saw Nolan drum in his first bands, including a group that featured future N.Y. Doll Syl Sylvain, while befriending another local budding drummer, Peter Crisscoula (aka Peter Criss, who would later man the skins for Kiss).
Sylvain left his group with Nolan to form the Dolls, who by 1972 had built an incredible following in New York City with their androgynous image and trashy Stones-esque party rock. The group (which also included singer David Johansen, bassist Arthur Kane, drummer Billy Murcia, plus guitarists Johnny Thunders and Sylvain) was invited to open a series of shows for the Faces in England toward the end of 1972, despite the fact that they hadn't even signed a recording contract. But what should have been an exciting time for the group turned out to be a tragic one, as Murcia died mid-tour from asphyxiation. Broken hearted, the group returned home, but soon decided to carry on with Nolan taking Murcia's spot. The Dolls immediately signed on with Mercury Records, who issued a pair of releases over the next two years: 1973's self-titled debut and 1974's Too Much Too Soon. Although neither album sold particularly well, both have become certified rock classics over the years, inspiring countless bands of various musical genres (including '70s punk, '80s glam metal, etc.).
Nolan and Thunders left the group in 1975 (both were addicted to hard drugs and disillusioned with the Dolls' unfocused direction) and formed the Heartbreakers. The new group issued L.A.M.F. in 1977, which like the Dolls' albums went underappreciated upon its initial release, but has since become a punk classic. Once again, certain habits were hard to break, as drugs played a major part in breaking up this promising band after only a single release (Nolan and Thunders remained friends however, and would regroup the Heartbreakers for numerous reunion tours over the years, documented on such releases as Live at Max's Kansas City '79 and Live at the Lyceum Ballroom 1984). Nolan was subsequently a part of a series of bands/projects, including the Idols with former Doll Arthur Kane, backing Sid Vicious at a Max's Kansas City show (released as the Sid Sings and Never Mind the Reunion...Here's Sid Vicious albums), and a group called the London Cowboys, who released the album On Stage in 1985. Thunders died in April of 1991 due to a drug overdose, which left Nolan without his longtime partner in crime, and incredibly depressed (although Nolan did appear at a Thunders tribute concert in N.Y.C. alongside his former Doll and Heartbreaker bandmates). Toward the end of the same year, Nolan fell ill with bacterial meningitis and bacterial pneumonia, which led to a fatal stroke on January 14, 1992. ~ Greg Prato