Great White is an American blues-based rock and heavy metal band, which formed in 1981 in Los Angeles, California under the name Dante Fox. Their sound is notable for its similarities to Led Zeppelin: Great White singer Jack Russell’s vocals are often also very similar to Robert Plant’s distinctive wail. Musically, they are known primarily for their hit “Once Bitten, Twice Shy”, a cover version of a song written by Ian Hunter. In 2003, Great White received attention due to their involvement in The Station nightclub fire, which led to the deaths of 100 people in West Warwick, Rhode Island.
After recording several demos, they took on Alan Niven as manager. Greenworld released Great White’s eponymous debut in 1984. Shot in the Dark, their follow-up independent release, marked the arrival of drummer Audie Desbrow who replaced original drummer Gary Holland. 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 was certified platinum in april 1988. The album featured some relatively successful hit songs - “Rock Me”, “Lady Red Light”, and “Save Your Love”.
The band followed up with ...Twice Shy in 1989. The album included their biggest hit, “Once Bitten, Twice Shy” for which they received a Grammy Award nomination for Best Hard Rock Performance. The album was certified platinum in July 1989 and 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” and with some larger bands, such as Bon Jovi.
In 1990 a heavy metal video called “Hard ‘n’ Heavy”, containing interviews, music and concert footage was released. The video included Slash and Duff from GNR, appearing with the band at a “Children of the Night” Benefit concert in L.A.,which helped raise money for housing for abused homeless children.
The band continued into the next decade performing “House of Broken Love” on the American Music Awards in January 1990. That spring, Great White embarked on their first tour of Japan. They soon returned stateside for the Memorial Day weekend festival, dubbed The World Series of Rock, which featured Whitesnake, Skid Row, Bad English, and Hurricane Alice. Great White recorded two more albums for Capitol - Hooked, which was certified gold, and Psycho City, which is to this day considered by many to be their most underrated effort. In support of Hooked, Great White toured, completing a headline tour, a guest slot with the Scorpions, and trips to Europe and Japan. Psycho City was followed by a U.S. tour with KISS.
Although Capitol issued a Best of compilation in 1993, Great White had already departed the label to begin work on their next studio release, Sail Away. Great White spent a grueling seven straight 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 country several times over the following year and a half. Their next release, Let It Rock, was released through yet another label, Imago, in 1996.
In 1999 the band released Can’t Get There From Here and embarked on a successful tour with Ratt, Poison, and LA Guns. The album featured the single “Rollin’ Stoned”, which managed to chart on the adult rock charts.
In January 2000 Mark Kendall announced he was leaving Great White; shortly thereafter both Audie Desbrow and Sean McNabb left Great White. 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 follow-up album. On November 5, 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 December 31, 2001 at the Galaxy Theatre in Santa Ana, California. Both Kendall and McNabb rejoined the band for the farewell show and a live CD entitled Thank You . . . Goodnight was recorded and released by Knight Records. This CD would include 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.
Tragically, the band returned to the national spotlight on February 20, 2003. Pyrotechnics used by the band’s crew created a spray of sparks that ignited the foam soundproofing material behind the stage. One hundred people who were at The Station night club in Rhode Island, including the band’s guitarist Ty Longley, died from the blaze.
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 reformed. It’s unclear when the band began officially going by Great White again, but it is possible that the intense media coverage surrounding Great White caused the band to simply return to their original name in order to avoid confusion during the tours that followed.
Talk of a reunited Great White began in a 2004 interview as Jack Russell told Metal Express, “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.” The reformed lineup of Russell, Kendall, Michael Lardie, Sean McNabb and Audie Desbow played their first date together in over five years on January 27, 2007 at the Keyclub in Hollywood, California, performing at the Harpseals.org Benefit Concert for the Seals 2007.
In 2006 Kendall and Russell wrote fifteen songs for Great White’s comeback album, Back to the Rhythm. The album was recorded in just three weeks in March 2007 and was mixed, produced and engineered by Michael Lardie, with all members contributing to the final mix.
Russell described the comeback album saying “The record’s really eclectic, as the last one was, but it kind of explores the whole realm of where Great White has been throughout its musical career. One song’s almost a step back. I don’t mean in like a negative way…just kind of a step back, kind of a look at where we came from. It’s pretty cool. I’m kind of excited about it, so I think people will dig it. If you’re a Great White fan then you’ll love it.”
“The new songs sound fresh to me, very Great White, but with an approach of what we sound like in a live performance situation,” explains Michael Lardie. “Kendall and I are having fun channeling our Stones’ roots and playing off each other in the Richards/Woods tradition.” Drummer Audie Desbrow says, “The songs are very eclectic. Some songs sound as if they were from the 1984 era of Great White. There are a couple of songs on the new record that are very vintage Great White. I don’t think this could have been achieved if we hadn’t split up for all this time.”
The love and passion for their music has never faltered. Re-charged and re-focused, Great White channels their raw, sweet and all-at-once dangerous sound into their soon-to-be released new collection. Set to come out in May 2012 on Frontiers Records, Elation (2012) is the band’s twelfth studio album. Elation thrives on Great White’s signature grit and blues-hued sound, only marked with a new synergy.
Featuring original members, Mark Kendall (guitar), Michael Lardie (guitar, keyboards), Audie Desbrow (drums) and joined by lead singer Terry Ilous and bassist Scott Snyder, the group emerged unscathed from late 2011 band member changes. Elation is just the recording of what live audiences will see and hear from a band on a new mission.