Mr. Big is an American rock group, formed in Los Angeles, California in 1988. The band is a quartet composed of Eric Martin (lead vocals), Paul Gilbert (guitar), Billy Sheehan (bass guitar), and Pat Torpey (drums); The band is noted especially for their musicianship, and scored a number of hits. Their songs were often marked by strong vocals and vocal harmonies. Their hits include "To Be with You" (a number one single in 15 countries in 1991) and "Green-Tinted Sixties Mind".
Mr. Big have remained active and popular for over two decades, despite internal conflicts and changing music trends. They broke up in 2002, but after requests from fans, they reunited in 2009; their first tour was in Japan, in June 2009. The band released What If..., their first album in 10 years, in January 2011.
The band takes its name from the song by Free, which was eventually covered by the band on their 1993 album, Bump Ahead.
After bass player Billy Sheehan left David Lee Roth's backing band in 1988, he began piecing together a new band with the help of Mike Varney from Shrapnel Records, a label specialized in the shredding genre. He recruited Eric Martin, of the rock-oriented Eric Martin Band and also soul-leaning solo artist, and soon thereafter added guitarist Gilbert and drummer Torpey. Gilbert was already a well-respected guitarist who had released two albums with his Los Angeles-based band Racer X. Torpey came to California from Arizona, and had previously recorded and toured with a number of high-profile artists, including Impellitteri, Stan Bush, Belinda Carlisle, Ted Nugent, The Knack and Jeff Paris (Who would later collaborate with Mr. Big in a songwriting capacity).
The newly formed band hired Herbie Herbert, the former manager of Journey, Europe, and Santana, to be their manager. By 1989, they signed with Atlantic Records and released their self-titled debut the same year. The record did not gain the band a mainstream rock audience stateside, but was a success in Japan. In June 1990, the group toured in America opening for Rush. In August 1990, two songs, "Strike Like Lightning" and "Shadows", performed by Mr. Big were exclusively released on the soundtrack album of the action film Navy SEALs.
Mr. Big's second album, 1991's Lean Into It, was a major commercial breakthrough, especially two ballads, "To Be with You" (number one song in fifteen countries) and "Just Take My Heart", as well as the song "Green-Tinted Sixties Mind". The cover features a picture of the train in the Montparnasse derailment. They toured the UK in April and May 1991 and again in 1992, releasing a live album, Mr. Big Live, in 1992. For three nights, they opened for Aerosmith at London's Wembley Arena.
In 1993, another ballad, a cover of Cat Stevens' "Wild World", (from their third album, Bump Ahead) peaked at No. 27 on the Billboard Hot 100. Although it is said that the band also contributed the soundtrack to the Sega Mega-CD release of The Amazing Spider-Man vs. The Kingpin, the songs actually featured Eric Martin with musicians hired by Sega.
They released Hey Man in 1996. The song "Take Cover" was included on the soundtrack to the cartoon series Mega Man.
Although the band never replicated its earlier success in the US market, their popularity continued to soar in Japan and in much of Asia. They continued to sell out tours in the Asian market, resulting in a number of live releases for the Japanese market.
Live At Budokan was one of those live release intended for the Japanese market only. By the time that album appeared the group had been put on ice as the individual band members became more engrossed in other projects; the band temporarily broke up in 1997.
Gilbert's departure and new line-up (1997–2002)
Gilbert left the band in 1997, and eventually reformed Racer X. Richie Kotzen, another Shrapnel artist and former guitarist for Poison, was brought in as a guitar player. Two studio albums were released by this lineup: Get Over It in 2000, and Actual Size in 2001. Get Over It was released on September 1999, in Japan, and yielded "Superfantastic," to lukewarm audience response. Mr. Big performed a twenty-date tour of Japan followed by a New Year's Eve 1999 show with Aerosmith at the Osaka Dome in Osaka. Get Over It was released in the US in March 2000, followed by a short club stint at "Roxy", California.
Several music videos for songs on Get Over It were recorded (for Electrified and Superfantastic), however the director claimed rights to the music videos and the videos were never released.
In 2001, Mr. Big released Actual Size in Asia. The CD sat on the charts in the number three spot and "Shine", the first single, was number one. The song was also used as the ending theme for the anime series Hellsing.
However, tension had developed between Billy Sheehan and the other members when Billy began touring with Steve Vai. Eric Martin, Richie Kotzen, and Pat Torpey decided to write songs without Billy, and Billy was only given credit for two songs on Actual Size. Eric Martin and the others were also upset with Billy Sheehan's attitude during the recording of the Shine music video. This was when Eric Martin and the others decided the only way to keep moving forward was to fire Billy Sheehan. Without Sheehan and Gilbert Mr. Big's fan base shrank dramatically forcing Eric Martin and the others to ask Billy Sheehan if he would like to rejoin the band. Sheehan agreed to rejoin the band, however only for the farewell tour.
Mr. Big disbanded in 2002 after a farewell tour.
Reunion and What If... (2009–present)
A near Mr. Big "one-off" reunion took place on May 13, 2008, in Los Angeles at the House Of Blues when Paul Gilbert was joined on stage by Pat Torpey, Richie Kotzen and Billy Sheehan for renditions of Humble Pie's '30 Days In The Hole' and original Mr. Big composition 'Daddy, Brother, Lover, Little Boy'. Reportedly, the three had such an amazing time that they decided to contact Eric Martin a few days later, and a reunion of the four original members (Paul, Eric, Pat, and Billy) was put into motion.
On February 1, 2009, a radio announcement for "Koh Sakai’s Burrn Presents: Heavy Metal Syndicate" contained a short message from Mr. Big, announcing the reunion of the original Mr. Big line-up to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of their début album. A press conference in Japan in February generated much excitement, and a tour of the country starting in June was announced, with shows in ten locations (including the Budokan). They held their first reunion concert outside Japan at Rock Cafe in Tallinn, Estonia on September 2009 continuing their tour.
Warner Music Japan released remastered copies of their four studio albums, as well as a greatest hits CD and DVD. There are two bonus studio songs on the album, new track "Next Time Around", and a cover of Argent's "Hold Your Head Up".
Mr. Big toured India in October 2009 as part of the Reunion Tour, playing to huge crowds at Bangalore, Dimapur, and Shillong.
In September 2010, Mr. Big recorded a seventh album with producer Kevin Shirley at a Los Angeles-area studio. The album was released in Japan on December 15, 2010, in Europe on January 21, 2011 and in the US in February 2011. What If... is their first album of new material in nearly 10 years. The band also toured in support of the album. The tour to support the album kicked off at The House of Blues, in Hollywood, California on April 2, 2011 and ended at Rockout Festival in Istanbul, Turkey on October 2011. The band also appeared at Download Festival on June 2011.
As part of the album release, the group created a music video for the song "Undertow". Directed by Vicente and Fernando Cordero, it featured the band in an industrial park.
On May 10, 2011, Mr. Big performed at the Araneta Coliseum in Manila, Philippines. The band performed most of the songs from Lean Into It, and introduced a couple of songs from What If. Additionally the group toured the UK and Europe, with both Gilbert and Sheehan performing solos at the majority of shows.
- Eric Martin – lead vocals (1988–2002, 2009–present)
- Pat Torpey – drums, percussion, backing vocals (1988–2002, 2009–present)
- Billy Sheehan – bass guitar, backing vocals (1988–2002, 2009–present)
- Paul Gilbert – guitar, backing vocals (1988–1997, 2009–present)
- Richie Kotzen – guitar, backing vocals (1999–2002)
- Live And Kickin (1992)
- Live (Live in San Francisco) (1992)
- Group Portrait (1993)
- Lean Into It (1993)
- Big, Bigger, Biggest! The Best Of Mr. Big (Greatest Video Hits) (1997)
- Farewell Live In Japan (2002)
- Back To Budokan (2009)
- Official Mr. Big site
- Music Radar Interview with Billy Sheehan, Feb. 2009
- Music Radar Interview with Paul Gilbert, Apr. 2009
- Big Music Geek Interview with Billy Sheehan, Apr. 2009
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Image from Discogs