GREAT WHITE (1981–PRESENT). Jack Russell (vocals), Mark Kendall (guitar), Michael Lardie (keyboards/guitar), Tony Montana (bass), Audie Desbrow (drums).
Most active during the height of the pop metal boom in Los Angeles in the midand late-1980s, Great White were in fact much more old school, tapping into the blues-infused tradition of classic rock bands like Bad Company, Mott the Hoople, and Led Zeppelin. Still, they fit in with the other bands of the era because of their solid musicianship, songwriting, and frontman Jack Russell’s distinct and powerful vocals, which were reminiscent of those of Robert Plant.
Having formed in the early 1980s by Russell and guitarist Mark Kendall, the band built up a following on the Los Angeles club circuit, playing their original blend of blues-based metal. Shrewdly managed by Alan Nivens (who would go on to guide the career of Guns N’ Roses), the band released a series of independent recordings in 1983, an EP entitled Out of the Night, and the album Shot in the Dark. On the basis of their club following and local radio airplay, the band was able to sell some 20,000 copies of the recordings. Impressed with the band’s sales, EMI signed the band, releasing their self-titled album in 1984. In 1987 the label re-released Shot in the Dark, and later that same year released the new Once Bitten.… The latter album produced the hit single “Rock Me.” By now, the band consisted of drummer Audie Desbrow, keyboardist-guitarist Michael Lardie, and bassist Tony Montana, in addition to Russell and Kendall.
In 1989, the band released Once Bitten’s follow-up, Twice Shy, which proved to be the band’s breakthrough record. Featuring the hit single and video, a cover of Mott the Hoople’s “Once Bitten, Twice Shy,” it proved to be a massive success for the band. The band supported the album with extended tours with Ratt and Tesla, not returning to the studio until 1991’s Hooked. The album was a modest success, selling half a million copies. When their subsequent album Psycho City sold even fewer copies, EMI dropped the band, only issuing a best of collection in 1993.
The band reluctantly found themselves back in the national spotlight under tragic circumstances, when a pyrotechnical display in their show set the nightclub they were performing on fire in February 2003. One hundred people were killed in the blaze, including guitarist Ty Longley. The remaining band members were forced to deal with legal issues related to the pyrotechnics, and the band subsequently performed a series of benefits for the families of the victims.
By 2007, the original lineup had reunited for a series of 25th anniversary shows, and later that summer they released an album of new material entitled Back to the Rhythm.
Discography: On Your Knees (Enigma, 1982); Great White (EMI America, 1984); Once Bitten… (Capitol, 1987); Shot in the Dark (Razor & Tie, 1987); Recovery: Live! (Enigma, 1988); …Twice Shy (Capitol, 1989); Live in London (Alex, 1990); Desert Moon (Capitol, 1991); Hooked (Capitol, 1991); Psycho City (Capitol, 1992); Sail Away (Zoo, 1994); Stage [live] (Volcano, 1996); Let It Rock (Imago, 1996); Great Zeppelin: A Tribute to Led Zeppelin (Deadline, 1999); Can’t Get There from Here (Sony, 1999); Gallery (Axe Killer, 2001); Recover [live] (Cleopatra, 2002); Thank You Goodnight [live] (Knight, 2002); Great White Salutes Led Zeppelin (Legacy Entertainment, 2005); Once Bitten, Twice Live (Sidewinder Music, 2006); Back to the Rhythm (Shrapnel, 2007).