Jack White (born John Anthony Gillis; July 9, 1975) is an American musician, singer-songwriter, record producer, multi-instrumentalist, designer, director, writer, and actor. On April 24, 2012, White released his debut solo album, Blunderbuss, which received wide critical acclaim. His second studio album, Lazaretto, was released on June 10, 2014.
He has been ranked No. 17 on Rolling Stone's list of "The 100 Greatest Guitarists". White's popular and critical success with The White Stripes enabled him to collaborate as a solo artist with other renowned musicians, such as Beck, the Rolling Stones, Jeff Beck, Alicia Keys, Bob Dylan, Wanda Jackson, Electric Six, and Loretta Lynn, whose 2004 album Van Lear Rose he produced and performed on. In 2006, White became a founding member of the rock band the Raconteurs. In 2009, he became a founding member and drummer of his third commercially successful group, the Dead Weather. He was awarded the title of "Nashville Music City Ambassador" by the Nashville mayor Karl Dean in 2011. He is a board member of the Library of Congress' National Recording Preservation Foundation, a music historian, collector and philanthropist, as well as an advocate for analog technology and recording techniques.
John Anthony Gillis was born in Detroit, Michigan, the youngest of ten children (six brothers, three sisters) of Teresa (née Bandyk) and Gorman M. Gillis, His mother's family was Polish, while his father had Scottish-Canadian ancestry. He grew up in a Catholic family. His father and mother worked for the Archdiocese of Detroit, as the Building Maintenance Superintendent and secretary in the Cardinal's office, respectively. White eventually became an altar boy, which landed him an uncredited role in the 1987 movie The Rosary Murders, filmed mainly at Holy Redeemer parish in southwest Detroit. As a child, he was a fan of classical music. He attended Cass Technical High School in Detroit.
He began playing the drums at the age of six. As a teenager, White was already listening to the blues and 1960s rock that would influence him in The White Stripes, Son House and Blind Willie McTell being among his favorite blues musicians. He and his childhood friend, Dominic Suchyta (NKA Dominic Davis), would listen to records in White's attic on weekends and began to record cover songs on an old four-track reel to reel tape machine. At the time White was described as "a kid with short hair and braces". He has said in many interviews that Son House's "Grinnin' In Your Face" is his favorite song of all time.
In 2005 on 60 Minutes, White told Mike Wallace that his life could have turned out differently. "I'd got accepted to a seminary in Wisconsin, and I was gonna become a priest, but at the last second I thought, 'I'll just go to public school.' I had just gotten a new amplifier in my bedroom, and I didn't think I was allowed to take it with me." At 15, White began a three-year upholstery apprenticeship with a family friend, Brian Muldoon. White credits Muldoon with exposing him to punk music and pushing him to play music with Muldoon as a band: "He played drums, well I guess I'll play guitar then." The two recorded an album, Makers of High Grade Suites, as the Upholsterers. White later started a one-man business of his own, Third Man Upholstery. The slogan of his business was "Your Furniture's Not Dead" and the color scheme was yellow and black—including a yellow van, a yellow-and-black uniform, and a yellow clipboard. Although Third Man Upholstery never lacked business, White claims that it was unprofitable, because of his complacency about money and his business practices that were perceived as unprofessional, including making bills out in crayon and writing poetry inside the furniture. Shortly thereafter, White landed his first professional gig, as the drummer for the Detroit band Goober & the Peas. He also played in other local bands and did solo shows.
The White Stripes
White formed The White Stripes in 1997, along with Meg White. The band began its career as part of the Michigan garage rock underground music scene, playing with local bands such as Bantam Rooster, the Dirtbombs, the Paybacks, Rocket 455, and the Henchmen, among others. In 1998, the White Stripes were signed to Italy Records, a small and independent Detroit-based garage punk label, by Dave Buick. The band released its self-titled debut album in 1999, and a year later the album was followed up by the cult classic De Stijl. The album eventually peaked at No. 38 in Billboard's Independent Albums chart when the band had established their popularity. While performing and in music videos, Jack and Meg are very recognisable visually: they dress only in red, white, and black.
In 2001 the band released White Blood Cells. The album's stripped-down garage rock sound drew critical acclaim in the UK and soon afterward in the US, making The White Stripes one of the more acclaimed bands of 2002. The album was followed up in 2003 by the commercially and critically successful Elephant. Allmusic wrote that the album "sounds even more pissed-off, paranoid and stunning than its predecessor ... darker and more difficult than White Blood Cells. " The album's first single, "Seven Nation Army", was the band's most successful.
The band's fifth album, Get Behind Me Satan, was recorded in White's own home and marked a change in the band's musical direction, with piano-driven melodies and experimentation with marimba and a more rhythm-based guitar playing by White. The band's sixth album Icky Thump, released in 2007, entered the UK Albums Chart at number one and debuted at number two on the Billboard 200. The album's sound also included more punk, garage and blues influences than its predecessor. In late 2007, the band announced the cancellation of 18 tour dates due to Meg White's acute anxiety problems.
White had revealed plans to release a seventh, yet-untitled album in the summer of 2009. However, this never materialized. The band also made their first live appearance since Meg's anxiety problems in September 2007 on the final episode of Late Night with Conan O'Brien on February 20, 2009.
A documentary, The White Stripes: Under Great White Northern Lights, about the band's 2007 tour, in which they played a gig in every Canadian province and territory, appeared in the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival.
In July 2007, The White Stripes made history by playing the shortest concert ever only playing one note, in St John's, Newfoundland. They played a full show later that night at the Mile One Centre in downtown St. John's.
On February 2, 2011, it was reported on the main page of whitestripes.com that the duo had decided to part ways. White stated that it was not due to health issues or artistic differences but there were a "myriad of reasons".
White formed The Raconteurs in 2005 along with Brendan Benson, Jack Lawrence and Patrick Keeler. The origin of the band was the song 'Steady, As She Goes' which White wrote along with Benson. This inspired them to create a full band with the addition of Lawrence and Keeler. The band came together in Detroit during 2005 and, for the remainder of the year, recorded when time allowed. The band's debut album Broken Boy Soldiers was recorded at Benson's home in Detroit. The band set out on tour to support the album, including eight dates as the opening act for Bob Dylan. The group's second album, Consolers of the Lonely, and its first single, "Salute Your Solution", were released simultaneously in 2008. The album received a Grammy nomination.
The Dead Weather
In early 2009, Jack White formed a new group called the Dead Weather with the Kills' frontwoman Alison Mosshart. White takes drum and vocal duties, while the Raconteurs bassist Jack Lawrence and Queens of the Stone Age keyboardist and guitarist Dean Fertita round the four piece out.
The group debuted a handful of new tracks on March 11, 2009 in Nashville from their debut album Horehound, which came out July 13, 2009 in Europe and July 14, 2009 in North America, on White's Third Man Records label.
On October 16, 2009, Mosshart confirmed that the second album was "halfway done". The first single "Die by the Drop" was released on March 30, 2010. The new album, Sea of Cowards was released on May 7 in Ireland, then on May 11, 2010, in the U.S. and May 10 in the United Kingdom, and again, on White's Third Man Records.
It was rumored that in 2003 White had collaborated with Electric Six for their song "Danger! High Voltage." Both he and the Electric Six denied this, and the vocal work was credited officially to John S O'Leary. However, in a recent radio interview with Tim Shaw on Kerrang! 105.2 in the UK, Electric Six lead singer Dick Valentine talking openly about White singing on this song as well as speculating on the amount of money he was paid ($60,000). Also, a Q magazine article stated that Jack White did in fact work with Electric Six on the song "Gay Bar".
In 2008, White collaborated with Alicia Keys on the song "Another Way to Die", the theme song for the James Bond film Quantum of Solace.
He appeared in the movie Cold Mountain as a character named Georgia and performed five songs for the Cold Mountain soundtrack: "Sittin' on Top of the World", "Wayfaring Stranger", "Never Far Away", "Christmas Time Soon Will Be Over" and "Great High Mountain."
In 2009, Jack White was featured in It Might Get Loud, a film in which he, Jimmy Page, and The Edge come together to discuss the electric guitar and each artist's different playing methods. White's first solo single, "Fly Farm Blues," was written and recorded in 10 minutes during the filming of the movie in August. The single went on sale as a 7-inch vinyl record from Third Man Records and as a digital single available through iTunes on August 11.
In November 2010, producer Danger Mouse announced that White had been recruited for his collaboration with Daniele Luppi entitled Rome along with Norah Jones. White provided vocals to three songs on the album: "The Rose with the Broken Neck," "Two Against One" and "The World."
The song "You Know That I Know", finished and performed by White, was featured on The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams, released on October 4, 2011.
On January 30, 2012 White released "Love Interruption" as the first single off his debut, self-produced solo album, Blunderbuss, which was released on April 24, 2012. On March 3, 2012, he appeared on Saturday Night Live as the musical guest, with Lindsay Lohan hosting.
He played selected dates in the summer of 2012, with festivals such as the Firefly Music Festival, Radio 1's Hackney Weekend, Sasquatch! Music Festival, Fuji Rock Festival in Japan, one of the biggest festivals in the world, Rock Werchter in Belgium, and later in the year he headlined Austin City Limits Music Festival. For his solo shows, White tours with two bands. One, The Peacocks, is all-female and consists of Ruby Amanfu, Carla Azar, Lillie Mae Rische, Maggie Bjorklund, Brooke Waggoner, and alternating bassists Bryn Davies and Catherine Popper. The other, The Buzzards, is all-male and consists of Daru Jones, Dominic Davis, Fats Kaplin, Ikey Owens, and Cory Younts.
On April 1, 2014 Jack White announced his second solo album, Lazaretto, which was released on June 10, 2014. He simultaneously released the first single off the album, "High Ball Stepper."
Musical equipment and sound
In live settings, White plays two 1965 JB Hutto Montgomery Airline guitars (one which he received from a New York fan–Frank Anselmo), a three pickup Airline Town & Country (used on tour with the Raconteurs and in the "Steady As She Goes" music video), a Harmony Rocket, a 1970s-era Crestwood Astral II, 1950s-era Kay Hollowbody (given to him by his brother in return for a favor), a Gretsch White Penguin (as seen in the music video for Icky Thump), and a custom Gretsch Rancher Falcon acoustic guitar. When playing with the Raconteurs, White usually plays two custom Gretsch-styled copies of the Duo Jet double-cutaway guitar, which were made in collaboration with his Seattle luthier, Randy Parsons. His main guitar is dubbed the Triple Jet, which is made of copper and features a Gretsch logo from 1912. For their first tour, White also played Gretsch Anniversary Jr. with a Bigsby vibrato tailpiece and three Filtertron pickups. He also uses a Gretsch Rancher acoustic guitar and he now uses a custom Gretsch Anniversary Jr. with two cutaways, a built-in retractable microphone, and a theremin next to the Bigsby. White has dubbed this one the "Triple Green Machine". Also, he plays occasionally with his Gretsch Rancher, a Gibson J-160E. Also, he plays a Gretsch Duo Jet in Cadillac Green. Recently, he has featured his latest Gretsch, a custom white Billy Gibbons/Bo Diddley signature Gretsch Jupiter Thunderbird in the music video for "Another Way to Die", this guitar is also used on his concerts with the Dead Weather, but he also uses a black left-handed one since Sea of Cowards came out. He has also been known to play Fender Telecasters, featuring one in the music video for Loretta Lynn's "Portland, Oregon."
White uses numerous effects to create his live sound, most notably a DigiTech Whammy WH-4 to create the rapid modulations in pitch he uses in his solos. In concert with an MXR Micro Amp and custom Electro-Harmonix Big Muff Distortion/Sustainer, White can produce a very distinctive sound. In 2005, for the single "Blue Orchid," White employed a new Electro-Harmonix creation, the Polyphonic Octave Generator (POG). Similar to (but more versatile than) the Whammy IV, the POG lets the user mix in several octave effects into one along with the dry signal. All of the pedals that he uses live have been professionally painted red to match his red/black/white color scheme (with the exception of his Whammy and the other pedals that are already red). He plugs this setup into a 1970s Fender Twin Reverb and two 100-Watt Sears Silvertone 1485 6×10 amplifiers. With the Raconteurs, he has many more unusual pedals. And also, for the Raconteurs' 2008 tour, he had all of his pedals copper plated by Analog Man.
White also produces a "fake" bass tone by playing the Kay Hollowbody and JB Hutto Montgomery Airline guitars through a Whammy IV set to one octave down for a very thick, low, rumbling sound, which he uses most notably on the songs "Seven Nation Army" and "The Hardest Button to Button" during live performances.
On occasion, White also plays other instruments, such as a Black Gibson F-4 mandolin ("Little Ghost"), piano (on most tracks from Get Behind Me Satan, and various others), and an electric piano on such tracks as "The Air Near My Fingers" and "I'm Finding it Harder to be a Gentleman". White also plays percussion instruments such as the marimba (as on "The Nurse"), drums and tambourine. For the White Stripes' 2007 tour, he played a custom-finish Hammond A-100 organ with a Leslie 3300 speaker, which was subsequently loaned to Bob Dylan, and currently resides at Third Man Studios. On Broken Boy Soldiers, he is credited as playing the album's synths and organ; however, bandmate Brendan Benson also received credit for these instruments and it is unclear who played on which song.
With the Dead Weather, White plays a custom Ludwig Classic Maple kit in Black Oyster Pearl. The sizes consist of the following: 16×26 kick, 5×16 snare (primary) 12×14 marching snare (secondary), 7×16 rack tom 14×16 floor tom, two 16×16 floor toms, Paiste 2002 24" crash, 24" ride and two 16" crashes as hi-hats. For the 2009 Full Flash Blank tour, White used a drum head with the Three Brides of Dracula on the front, but in 2010, White employed a new drum head, upon the release of Sea of Cowards, which has an image of The Third Man himself: Harry Lime attempting to escape certain capture in the sewers of Vienna. During the American leg of the 2010 tour, White switched his drum head again featuring a picture of himself in the guise he wore on the cover of Sea of Cowards. This drum head is called Sam Kay by some fans, referring to the insert inside of the 12" LP.
In 2010, White added an acoustic guitar to his collection named Veronica Lake. It is a custom white Gretsch Rancher with a gold double pickguard and a picture of Veronica Lake on the back. He is currently playing it with his band The Dead Weather. It is the newest addition to "Jack's Girlfriends" which already include Claudette Colbert that he plays In the Raconteurs, and Rita Hayworth that he plays in the White Stripes.
In his introduction in the documentary film, It Might Get Loud, White showcases his minimalist style and ingenuity by constructing a rudimentary guitar in a pastoral setting. The "guitar" was built out of a plank of wood, two nails, a glass Coke bottle, a guitar string, and a pickup. He ends the demonstration by saying, "Who says you need to buy a guitar?"
An important aspect of the sound of White's recordings comes from the fact that they are recorded on analog equipment. White has long been a proponent of analog equipment and the associated working methods, stating in a 2012 interview, "I love analogue because of what it makes you do. Digital recording gives you all this freedom, all these options to change the sounds that you are putting down, and those are for the most part not good choices to have for an artist," and "Mechanics are always going to provide inherent little flaws and tiny little specks and hisses that will add to the idea of something beautiful, something romantic. Perfection, making things perfectly in time and perfectly free of extraneous noise, is not something to aspire to! Why would anyone to aspire to such a thing?".
White founded his own studio, Third Man, in 2009, and its main pieces of equipment are a Neve desk and two Studer A800 2-inch 8-track tape recorders. His solo album, Blunderbuss, and the material he releases on his Third Man label are recorded at his own studio. He explained, "For the longest time I did not want to have my own studio gear, mostly because with the White Stripes I wanted to have the constriction of going into a studio and having a set time of 10 days or two weeks to finish an album, and using whatever gear they happen to have there. After 10 to 15 years of recording like that I felt that it was finally time for me to have my own place to produce music, and have exactly what I want in there: the exact tape machines, the exact microphones, the exact amplifiers that I like, and so on."
White has been married twice and divorced twice. He has two children. He is protective of his family's privacy and gives few details of his private life. He states that he does not consider it relevant to his art, saying "It's the same thing as asking Michelangelo, 'What kind of shoes do you wear?'...In the end, it doesn't really matter ... the only thing that's going to be left is our records and photos."
Marriage to Meg White
A topic of intrigue has been the actual relationship between Jack and Meg White. In early interviews, the pair presented themselves as siblings, two of ten. The Flaming Lips touch on this in their song "Thank You Jack White (for the Fiber-Optic Jesus That You Gave Me)" released on their 2003 EP Fight Test. However, the Detroit Free Press produced copies of both a marriage license and divorce certificate, confirming Jack and Meg's history as a married couple. Neither addresses the truth officially and over time, they have become less verbal about the origins of their relationship. Jack White has said, though, that siblings are "mated for life", thus such relationships distract less from the music. Jack mentions them being brother and sister in the documentary Under Great White Northern Lights. They were married on September 21, 1996, and were divorced on March 24, 2000. He took her last name.
Relationship with Renée Zellweger
In 2003, White made his acting debut in Mutant Swinger from Mars, and had a brief but highly publicized romantic relationship with actress Renée Zellweger, whom he met during the filming of Cold Mountain. That summer, the couple were in a car accident in which White broke his left index finger and was forced to reschedule much of the summer tour. He posted the footage of his finger surgery on the web for fans. White and Zellweger's breakup became public in December 2004.
Marriage to Karen Elson
White met British model Karen Elson (twin sister of Kate Elson) when she appeared in The White Stripes music video for "Blue Orchid". The video's director, Floria Sigismondi, noted "you sensed an energy between them". They married on June 1, 2005, in Manaus, Brazil. The wedding took place in a canoe on the Amazon River and was officiated by a shaman. A Roman Catholic priest later convalidated their marriage. Manager Ian Montone was the best man and Meg White was the maid of honor. Official wedding announcements stated that "it was the first marriage" for both. On May 2, 2006, the couple had a daughter, Scarlett Teresa White. Their second child, Henry Lee White, was born on August 7, 2007. The White family resided in Brentwood, Tennessee, a suburb south of Nashville, where Elson managed a vintage clothing store called Venus & Mars. The couple announced their divorce in June 2011, throwing a divorce party to celebrate their sixth anniversary and the "making and breaking of the sacred union of marriage," according to the invitation sent to guests.
Aggravated assault charge
On December 13, 2003, White was involved in an altercation with Jason Stollsteimer, lead singer of the Von Bondies, at the Magic Stick, a Detroit club. White was charged with misdemeanor aggravated assault. He pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of assault and battery, and was fined $750 (including court costs), and was sentenced to take anger management classes.
On July 22, 2013, a Nashville judge barred White from having "any contact with Karen Elson whatsoever except as it relates to parenting time with the parties' minor children."
A counter-motion by White's attorney Cathy Speers Johnson was filed on August 2, 2013, stating that "The reason for filing this response is that Mr. White does not want to be portrayed as something he is not, violent toward his wife and children."
White is often referred to as eccentric. For instance, he has an obsession with the number three. On November 7, 2005, it was widely reported that White had changed his name to "Three Quid" (quid is British slang for pound sterling). However, most reports indicated that this would only last until the end of the tour.
The Detroit Masonic Temple was nearly foreclosed on in 2013 after it was revealed that owners owed $142,000 in back taxes. In June 2013, it was revealed that the entire bill was footed by White. To thank him for the donation, the temple has decided to rename its second largest theater the Jack White Theater.
Awards & nominations
White has won eight Grammy Awards.
Solo backing bands
- Male backing band
- Daru Jones - drums
- Dominic Davis - bass
- Fats Kaplin - pedal steel guitar, fiddle, mandolin, theremin
- Ikey Owens - B3 organ, piano, keyboards
- Cory Younts - mandolin, harmonica, piano, keyboards, percussion, background vocals
- Female backing band
- Carla Azar - drums
- Catherine Popper - bass
- Maggie Bjorklund - pedal steel guitar, acoustic guitar
- Brooke Waggoner - piano, B3 organ, keyboards
- Lillie Mae Rische - fiddle, mandolin, background vocals
- Ruby Amanfu - vocals
Solo studio albums
Other charted songs
- The White Stripes (1999) – The White Stripes
- De Stijl (2000) – The White Stripes
- Soledad Brothers (2000) – Soledad Brothers
- White Blood Cells (2001) – The White Stripes
- Lack of Communication (2001) – the Von Bondies
- Do Rabbits Wonder? (2003) – Whirlwind Heat
- Elephant (2003) – The White Stripes
- Van Lear Rose (2004) – Loretta Lynn
- Get Behind Me Satan (2005) – The White Stripes
- Red and Black EP (2005) – The Muldoons
- Sewed Soles (2005) – The Greenhornes
- Broken Boy Soldiers (2006) – the Raconteurs
- Icky Thump (2007) – The White Stripes
- Consolers of the Lonely (2008) – The Raconteurs
- Horehound (2009) – The Dead Weather
- The Wind Did Move/Last Kind Words (2009) – Dexter Romweber Duo
- I Like My Mice (Dead)/Spider Bite (2009) – Mildred and the Mice
- My House of Peace (2009) – Rachelle Garniez
- Bohemian Grove/Atheist Funeral (2009) – Dan Sartain
- C'Mon And Ride/After Party (2009) – Transit
- Fly Farm Blues (2009) – Solo
- Gastown/River Song (2009) – Smoke Fairies
- Fame #9/BP Fallon Interview/I Believe In Elvis Presley (2009) – BP Fallon
- You Know I'm No Good/Shakin' All Over (2010) – Wanda Jackson
- What Can I Do/Lies (2010) – The Black Belles
- Sea of Cowards (2010) – The Dead Weather
- The Ghost Who Walks (2010) – Karen Elson
- Under Great White Northern Lights (2010) – The White Stripes
- Third Man Live: Dex Romweber Duo (2010) – Dex Romweber Duo
- Third Man Live: The Raconteurs (2010) – The Raconteurs
- Third Man Live: Nobunny (2010) – Nobunny
- And They Call Me Mad/Conan O'Brien Interview (2010) – Conan O'Brien
- The Party Ain't Over (2011) – Wanda Jackson
- "Charlene II (I'm Over You)" (2011) – The Black Belles and Stephen Colbert
- "Leck mich im Arsch" (2011) – Insane Clown Posse, adaptation of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, with JEFF the Brotherhood
- Live at Third Man Records: Jerry Lee Lewis (2011) – Jerry Lee Lewis
- Blunderbuss (2012) – Solo
- Lazaretto (2014) – Solo
- Cold Mountain (2003) – "Wayfaring Stranger", "Sittin' on Top of the World", "Never Far Away", "Christmas Time Will Soon Be Over", "Great High Mountain"
- Quantum of Solace (2008) – "Another Way to Die" (with Alicia Keys)
- Shine a Light (2008) – "Loving Cup" (with The Rolling Stones)
- It Might Get Loud (2009) – "Fly Farm Blues"
- The Great Gatsby (2013) – "Love Is Blindness"
- Rome by Danger Mouse and Daniele Luppi (2011) – "The Rose with the Broken Neck", "Two Against One" and "The World"
- The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams by various artists (2011) – "You Know That I Know"
- AHK-toong BAY-bi Covered by various artists (2011) – "Love Is Blindness"
- The Rosary Murders (1987) – uncredited altar boy
- Mutant Swinger from Mars (2003) – Mikey
- Cold Mountain (2003) – Georgia
- Coffee and Cigarettes (2003) – Himself
- Under Blackpool Lights (2004) – Himself
- The Fearless Freaks (2005) – Himself
- Walk Hard (2007) – Elvis Presley
- Shine a Light (2008) – Himself
- It Might Get Loud (2009) – Himself
- Under Great White Northern Lights (2010) – Himself
- Conan O'Brien Can't Stop (2011) – Himself
- American Pickers (2012) – Himself
- Portlandia, Season 3, Episode 1 (2012) – Himself
- Official website
- Third Man Records
- Whitestripes.com, official site of The White Stripes
- TheRaconteurs.com, official site of The Raconteurs
- Thedeadweather.com, official site of The Dead Weather
- The Jack White Archives, Original fan site for all things Jack White
- "Jack White's Women Problem," The Atlantic, April 2012
- Jack White at the Internet Movie Database
- Jack White collected news and commentary at The Guardian
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Image from Discogs