Great White is an American hard rock band, formed in Los Angeles in 1977. The band gained popularity during the 1980s and early 1990s. The band released several albums in the late 1980s and gained airplay on MTV with music videos for songs like "Once Bitten, Twice Shy". The band reached their peak popularity with the album ...Twice Shy in 1989.
The band continued to release new material into the 1990s, although none of their material charted in the United States. In 2003, the band made headlines when The Station nightclub fire led to the deaths of 100 people in West Warwick, Rhode Island, including the band's guitarist Ty Longley, who had been a member of Jack Russell's solo band. In 2011 the band split with Jack Russell forming "Great White Featuring Jack Russell" and Terry Ilous fronted Great White. As of August 2007, Great White sold over 8 million records worldwide.
Vocalist Jack Russell met guitarist Mark Kendall in 1977, and Kendall asked Russell to join his band. They decided to form a band together and they called it Highway later changing it to Livewire and then played one final show as Wires. Then in 1979 Russell was arrested for shooting a live-in maid in a botched robbery attempt and sentenced to 8 years in prison. The band went its separate ways and Kendall was left to start over. He recruited bassist Don Costa (later a one-time member of Ozzy Osbourne) and drummer Tony Richards (later a member of W.A.S.P.). They auditioned several singers including John Bush from Armored Saint but finally settling on a female singer Lisa Baker. The name they decided to go with was Dante Fox. They played their first gig in 1979 with singer Lisa Baker and played around Orange County and the Los Angeles area for 6 months with Lisa, until she joined George Lynch's band Exciter. They then got a singer named Butch Say who was a spin off of Rob Halford. Later they found out that Russell was released from prison after only serving 18 months of his sentence and Russell talked Kendall into an audition and he got in the band by a 2 to 1 band vote. They played their first gig with Russell at The Troubadour in Hollywood, California.
After recording several demos, the band chose as manager Alan Niven, who had worked for the independent distributor Greenworld in Torrance, California and had dealt with Mötley Crüe's debut self-release. Niven suggested the name change from Dante Fox after seeing Kendall stick his head out of a car window driving by the Troubador and some kid in the crowd said there goes Great White, Kendall got the nickname due to his naturally white-blonde hair, white Fender Telecaster guitar, white jumpsuit, and white Capezio shoes. In 1982, the members by this time as Costa and Richards had left were, Mark Kendall, Jack Russell, drummer Gary Holland, and bassist Lorne Black. They were soon in the studio and they recorded and released a 5-song EP, Out of the Night, on the independent label Aegean formed by Niven. Niven then convinced the Los Angeles radio station KMET to begin adding songs from the EP to its playlist in heavy rotation. KLOS-FM soon did the same. The band suddenly went from drawing 100 people to a local club to drawing thousands in L.A. concert halls such as Perkins Palace in Pasadena, The Palace in Hollywood and the Country Club in Reseda. As an unsigned act, Great White headlined at Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia playing to 6,250 people. Near the end of 1983, EMI America signed the band and subsequently released Great White's eponymous debut album in early 1984. The band immediately toured the UK supporting Whitesnake's Slide It In tour and the entire US and Canada opening for Judas Priest's Defenders of the Faith tour. Shot in the Dark, their follow-up independent release, marked the arrival of drummer Audie Desbrow after the firing of Holland on December 27, 1984. By the time Capitol Records signed the band and reissued Shot in the Dark, keyboardist-guitarist Michael Lardie, who had played on that album as a session musician, had come aboard as a full member. After the release of Shot in the Dark, Great White hit the road with Dokken for 5 shows and was on the verge of even bigger success.
The band hit the mainstream in 1987 when they released Once Bitten..., which featured the hits "Rock Me" and "Save Your Love". Once Bitten... was certified platinum in April 1988.
The band followed up with ...Twice Shy in 1989. By this point, Great White had parted ways with Lorne Black and replaced him with bassist Tony Montana (a.k.a. Tony Cardenas). The album included their biggest hit, "Once Bitten, Twice Shy", a cover of a UK hit single by Ian Hunter. They received a Grammy Award nomination for Best Hard Rock Performance. The album was certified platinum in July 1989 and then double platinum in September of that same year. The model Bobbie Brown (also known for being in Warrant's "Cherry Pie" video) appeared in the video for "Once Bitten, Twice Shy". They finished off the 80s touring in support of ...Twice Shy as headliners and with some best known bands, such as Bon Jovi.
In 1990, the band featured in the heavy metal video series Hard 'N' Heavy containing music, concert footage and interviews. The video included Slash and Duff from Guns N' Roses appearing with the band at a Children of the Night Benefit concert in L.A., the performance helping to raise money for housing abused homeless children. Both bands shared the same manager, Alan Niven at the time.
The band continued into the next decade performing the song "House of Broken Love" at the American Music Awards in January 1990. In March, Great White embarked on their first tour of Japan. They returned to the United States for the Memorial Day weekend festival dubbed The World Series of Rock, which featured Whitesnake, Skid Row, Bad English, and Hericane Alice. Great White recorded two more albums for Capitol Records, Hooked, which was certified gold, and Psycho City. In support of Hooked, Great White did a tour as headliner along with German metal band Scorpions opening and traveled to Europe and Japan. During this tour Mark Kendall was hospitalized for a hiatal hernia for 3 weeks and then returned. Guitarist Al Pitrelli was asked to fill in for Mark during his absence. Psycho City was followed by a US tour with Kiss.
Capitol issued the compilation The Best of Great White: 1986–1992 in 1993, when Great White had already departed the label to begin work on their next studio release, Sail Away. Before the release of the album, Great White spent seven months on the road headlining clubs. According to Lardie, it was "the longest stint we ever did without a break." Great White kept up the pace once Sail Away was released on Zoo Records in 1994, touring the US several times over the following year and a half. Their next release, Let It Rock, was released in 1996 through yet another label, Imago Records.
In 1999, the band released Can't Get There from Here and embarked on a tour with Ratt, Poison, and L.A. Guns. The album featured the single "Rollin' Stoned", which managed to chart at No. 8 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks chart.
In a memo dated 20 January 2000 Mark Kendall announced he was leaving Great White. Shortly thereafter both Audie Desbrow and Sean McNabb left Great White. Kendall was replaced by guitarist Matthew Johnson. Desbrow, clearly very unhappy with the financial state of the band and Russell's addiction problems posted a tirade on his website lambasting Jack Russell while claiming to have been "fired" from Great White. Meanwhile, it was rumored that Sean McNabb was fired for going to management and asking to see the accounting books, but the truth was, he was policing Russell's drug use and Jack wasn't into it. The band announced plans to begin work on a new album in late 2000. Early in the process, some of the new songs were played for John Kalodner at Columbia Records. It was mutually agreed that the band needed a break and wanted to do outside projects. Kendall went on to make 2 solo albums and Russell also made a solo record. They subsequently left Columbia Records, work on the new album was discontinued. On 5 November 2001 Jack Russell announced the end of Great White, stating that he was moving on, and that Great White would play one final farewell show on 31 December 2001 at the Galaxy Theatre in Santa Ana, CA. Both Kendall and McNabb rejoined the band for the farewell show, recorded for a live CD titled Thank You...Goodnight! released by Knight Records. The live album includes two new tracks, "Back to the Rhythm" and "Play On" from their discontinued studio sessions, both of which would ultimately wind up on their reunion album Back to the Rhythm in 2007.
Fake White (2002–2005)
In late 2002, in part due to his failure to attract good audiences while on the road with his solo band, Jack Russell contacted Kendall, who himself was struggling to gain an audience on his own. Kendall agreed to play some dates with Russell's band, allowing Russell to use the name Great White once again. Billed as "Jack Russell's Great White," the tour was to consist primarily of classic songs from the Great White catalog with some of Russell's solo work mixed in. Eventually, more dates were added and the tour extended through the early months of 2003.
The band returned to the national spotlight on 20 February 2003. At the beginning of a Jack Russell's Great White performance at The Station night club in Rhode Island, pyrotechnics used by the band's crew created a spray of sparks that ignited the foam soundproofing material in the ceiling around the stage. One hundred people, including guitarist Ty Longley, died in the fire that followed. In 2008, the band agreed to pay $1 million to survivors and victims' relatives of the fire while admitting to no wrongdoing. This amount also covers former tour manager Daniel Biechele along with the band members, record label, and management as it existed at the time of the fire. The settlement was the maximum allowed under the band's insurance plan. On the two-year anniversary of the fire, Jack Russell and Mark Kendall from Great White, along with Great White's attorney, Ed McPherson, appeared on Larry King Live with three of the victims of the fire and the father of Ty Longley, to discuss some of the healing that had taken place over the previous two years and some of the permanent scars that remained. Victims had previously received $3.8 million raised by United Way of America.
Though the media referred to the band as "Great White" following the tragedy in Rhode Island, the band was officially performing under the moniker of "Jack Russell's Great White" at the time of the incident. In fact, prior to the fire, the band's official website posted a message stating that Great White had not re-formed. It's unclear when the band began officially going by "Great White" again.
Great White played their first full show following the Rhode Island tragedy on 22 July, starting a benefit tour for the survivors and victims of the fire. The band toured until 2005 to raise funds for the Station Family Fund, which had been set up to help the victims of the tragedy. In late 2005, citing "medical reasons", the band canceled the second half of their summer tour. The "medical reasons" turned out to be Jack Russell's addictions to alcohol and cocaine. This was the end of this version of Great White, as Jack Russell entered rehabilitation and did not perform again until 2007. Russell used the year of 2006 to get sober and get a facelift that was detailed on ExtraTV. Russell later referred to this incarnation of Great White as "Fake White", saying "It still sounded like Great White, but not – almost like we were doing a cover of ourselves."
Back to the Rhythm (2006–2008)
Talk of a reunion of Great White began in a 2004 interview, where Jack Russell told Metal Express Radio: "I spoke with Michael [Lardie], we threw that around a bit, and thought that sounds like a cool idea, it'd be fun. I'm pretty positive it's gonna happen... probably next year (...) We talked to some other people, and [former drummer] Audie [Desbrow] would not be a person I would want to play with ever again in my life. There were some bridges burned there that I just can’t forgive, and I’m a very forgiving person. I just can’t let that one go. I have to stand up for myself..." Russell's stance towards Desbrow seemed to have changed course by 2006 when he told Mitch Lafon: "I talked to Michael Lardie the other day and he is into doing it. I just want to get hold of Tony Montana and Audie Desbrow. I think that would be very special for our 25th anniversary tour to have the same guys... we haven't played together in a very long time." Later in 2006, guitarist Mark Kendall officially announced that Great White had re-formed its classic lineup. The re-formed lineup of Russell, Kendall, Lardie, McNabb and Desbrow played their first date together in more than 5 years on 27 January 2007 at the Keyclub in Hollywood performing in the Harpseals.org Benefit Concert for the Seals 2007. The band continued to tour throughout the rest of the year.
During a tour in the UK, vocalist Jack Russell commented, "I think I'm enjoying it more now than the last time we were over, I think the older you get, at least for me anyway, you appreciate more and more. This is the twilight of our career at best, and any time we get after this is icing on the cake, it's a gift. It's been 25 or 26 years now since the band became Great White, and I've been playing with my guitarist since '78 when I was 17 years old, I'm 47 now, so that's 30 years."
In 2008, bassist Sean McNabb left Great White to concentrate on a career in theater and acting. McNabb was promptly replaced with Scott Snyder (Ramos, Accomplice). McNabb is now a member of Dokken.
Great White released their latest album, Rising, on 13 March 2009 in Europe via Frontiers Records and on 21 April in the US.
In 2010, Jani Lane of Warrant filled in for Jack Russell, while Russell recuperated from surgery after suffering a perforated bowel. Terry Ilous (XYZ) replaced Jack Russell at the Coach House during the summer of 2010 and Paul Shortino (Rough Cutt, Quiet Riot, King Kobra) filled in for Russell when Great White performed at Stockholm Rock Out Festival in September.
In December 2011, Jack Russell, having recovered from his health issues, formed a new incarnation of Great White with a brand-new lineup under the name of "Jack Russell's Great White." The other band members have voiced their strong objection to this move and said that "Jack Russell does not have the right to start his own Great White or use the name without our names in the lineup. We will litigate any promoter that books ‘Jack Russell's Great White’ or uses any logo featuring the name Great White.". In September 2013, the courts finally reached a decision declaring that legally Jack Russell can tour, and use the name "Jack Russell's Great White" with his own band; while the other original members along with new lead singer Terry Ilous [XYZ], will continue to use the official name "Great White".
On 18 March 2012 Great White announced their first new album with singer Terry Ilous,Elation, to be released in May that year, as well as a live album ( Great White: 30 years - Live On the Sunset Strip), and concert DVD of the band's 30th-anniversary show at the Key Club in Hollywood on 22 March.
In July 2013 Bassist Dario Seixas left "Jack Russell's Great White" and was replaced by former bassist Tony Montana.
Lorne Black, the former bassist of Great White, died on September 27, 2013.
- Great White (album) (1984)
- Shot in the Dark (1986)
- Once Bitten... (1987)
- ...Twice Shy (1989)
- Hooked (1991)
- Psycho City (1992)
- Sail Away (1994)
- Let it Rock (1996)
- Can't Get There from Here (1999)
- Back to the Rhythm (2007)
- Rising (2009)
- Elation (2012)
- Great White Official Website
- Jack Russell's Great White Official Website
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Image from Discogs