Great White is a hard rock band that formed in 1978 in Los Angeles, California, United States. The band was popular during the late 80s, when their cover of Ian Hunter's "Once Bitten, Twice Shy" became a Top 5 hit in the United States. The band's only constant members have been Jack Russell (vocals) and Mark Kendall (guitar), with the exception of a period between 2000 and 2001 in which Kendall did not perform with the band.
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 the band for three years. Great White made a comeback in 2007 with the release of a new album and an accompanying tour
Great White started their career as Dante Fox, playing their first gig in 1981 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 singer Jack Russell introduce Mark Kendall (guitarist) during his solo as "Mark Kendall, the Great White", due to his natually white-blonde hair, white Fender Telecaster guitar, white jumpsuit, and white Capezio shoes. In 1982, founding members Mark Kendall, Jack Russell, drummer Gary Holland, and bassist Lorne Black 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. By the time Capitol Records signed the band and reissued Shot in the Dark, keyboardist-guitarist Michael Lardie had come aboard. After the release of Shot in the Dark, Great White hit the road with Dokken 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. 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 tour, had a guest slot with German metal band Scorpions and travelled to Europe and Japan. 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.
n 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 posted a tirade on his website lambasting Jack Russell and Michael Lardie, 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. Despite only having one original member left, 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 "magic was gone" and the band decided their heart was not in the recording process. They subsequently left Columbia Records and discontinued work on the new album. 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 entitled 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.
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 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 the band's 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. 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. He would later detail a particular low point of being caught by his ex-wife smoking crack in a laundry room. 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."
Talk of a reunion of Great White began in a 2004 interview, where Jack Russell told to Metal Express Radio: "I spoke with Michael , 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 Audie 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 the band's recent tour in the UK, vocalist Jack Russell commented that "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".