Great White is an American hard rock band, formed in Los Angeles in 1978. 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 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 life as Dante Fox, playing their first gig in 1981 at The Troubadour in Hollywood. After recording several demos, the band took on Alan Niven as manager, Niven having worked for independent distributor Greenworld (which dealt with Mötley Crüe's debut self-release) in Torrance, California. 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. 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.... "Once Bitten..." was certified platinum in April 1988. The album featured the hits "Rock Me" 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 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 and with some larger bands, such as Bon Jovi.
In 1990 a heavy metal video called HARD N HEAVY containing music, concert footage and interviews was released. 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. for abused homeless children, the performance helped raise money for housing. Both bands shared the same manager.
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 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 — Hooked, which was certified gold, and Psycho City. In support of Hooked, Great White toured, completing a headline tour, a guest slot with 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 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 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 tour with Ratt, Poison, and L.A. Guns. The album featured the single "Rollin' Stoned", which managed to chart at #8 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks chart.
In a memo dated January 20, 2000 Mark Kendall announced he was leaving Great White, shortly thereafter both Audie Desbrow and Sean McNabb left Great White. 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 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, CA. Both Kendall and McNabb rejoined the band for the farewell show and a live CD entitled Thank You... Goodnight that was recorded and released by Knight Records. This CD would include 2 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.
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 at The Station night club in Rhode Island, 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.
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 July 22, kicking off a benefit tour for the survivors and victims of the fire. The band would tour 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 would cancel the second half of their summer tour. The "medical reasons" would prove 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 would prove to be the end of this version of Great White, as Jack Russell would enter rehabilitation and not perform again until 2007. Russell would use the year of 2006 to get sober and get a facelift that would be detailed on ExtraTV. Russell would later refer 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 reunited Great White began in a 2004 interview where 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... 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, Michael Lardie, Sean McNabb and Audie Desbow played their first date together in more than 5 years on January 27, 2007 at the Keyclub in Hollywood performing at the Harpseals.org Benefit Concert for the Seals 2007, and the band continued to tour throughout the rest of the year.
On the bands 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."
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).