John Genzale was born July 15, 1952, and grew up in Jackson Heights, NY. He was of second generation Italian descent. As a youngster he played baseball but could not join the Little League as it required the presence of the youth's father. Under the name "Johnny Volume", Genzale began performing music at Quintano High School with "Johnny and the Jaywalkers."
In 1968 he started going to the Fillmore East on weekends and later a West Village bar on Bleecker Street, Nobodys. He got a job as a salesclerk at Da Nazz leather shop on Bleecker. It was on Bleecker Street that he met future Dolls Arthur Kane and Billy Murcia. He joined their band, "Actress", which eventually became the New York Dolls when David and Syl joined in 1971.
At this time John Genzale renamed himself Johnny Thunders, after a comic book of the same name.
They recorded two critically acclaimed but commercially unsuccessful albums, The New York Dolls and Too Much Too Soon. The band was managed, for a short time, by Malcolm McLaren and was an inspiration for the Sex Pistols.
In 1975 The original line-up for the Dolls broke up. Their early recordings are still in print today and continue to influence young bands with their trash/glam/punk attitude.
Many rumors surround Thunders' death at the St. Peter House in New Orleans, Louisiana in April 1991.