Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers, also known as The Heartbreakers, were an American proto-punk band, formed in New York in May, 1975. The band spearheaded the first wave of punk rock.


In May of 1975, Johnny Thunders (vocals/guitar) and Jerry Nolan (drums) quit the New York Dolls, the same week that Richard Hell (vocals/bass) left Television. Their first gig was on May 31st of that year, at the Coventry, a rock club in Queens. The trio soon adding Walter Lure (guitar/vocals), who had played with a glam-punk band called the Demons.

In 1976 Hell left the group and was replaced by Billy Rath. Hell went on to form his own band, Richard Hell & The Voidoids.

Arriving for a European tour just as the UK punk scene was building momentum, the Heartbreakers developed a following in and around London. The band's members and image were widely associated with drug use, specifically heroin. The Sex Pistols invited the band to open for them on the ill-fated Anarchy Tour. They briefly signed with Track Records. Their debut, and only studio album, L.A.M.F., was poorly received. The release of the album created conflict within the band, due to the poor quality of the recording and difficulty in the mastering process. Several band members left at this point. The band reformed in 1979 for a few farewell shows at Max's Kansas City with drummer Ty Stix sitting in for Nolan. These shows recorded and released under the title Live at Max's Kansas City '79. The Heartbreakers' song, "London Boys", is a swipe at the Sex Pistols, in response to the Pistols' "New York", a put-down of the New York Dolls.

After their initial break up, the band reformed occasionally to play at New York clubs. Live shows often consisted of songs performed with the New York Dolls or taken from Thunders' solo career. Rath had left in 1985 and was replaced by Tony Coiro. Johnny Thunders died in 1991. The last time the Heartbreakers played was at Johnny Thunders Memorial Concert with Walter Lure, Jerry Nolan, Tony Coiro and Joey Pinter playing in place of Thunders. The line up, which included Lure, Joey Pinter, Tony Coiro, and Jeff West released Rent Party in 1994. Lure subsequently worked on Wall St. but still performs with his current Waldos lineup in NYC. He also travels around the globe playing when his day job allows the time for it. In 2007 Walter Lure teamed up with Belgian punk rocker Dee Jaywalker and went on a short European tour which resulted in a live album, released on Nicotine Records.

Nolan died in 1992. Hell rarely plays music live, concentrating instead on writing and spoken-word performances. Billy Rath currently lives in New Jersey and played with Walter Lure at the Max's Kansas City Reunion in September 2010.