A Brief History of '80s Rockers Great White

Great White 2012, with new vocalist Terry Ilous (center)
Great White 2012, with new vocalist Terry Ilous (center) | Source
Great White's new studio album, ELATION, was released on May 22, 2012.. but Jack Russell wasn't happy about it.
Great White's new studio album, ELATION, was released on May 22, 2012.. but Jack Russell wasn't happy about it. | Source

Great White are true hard rock survivors, managing to ride out both the intoxicating highs and the destructive lows of the music business. The California blues-rockers, formed in the late '70s by vocalist Jack Russell and guitarist Mark Kendall, released their debut Out of the Night EP in 1982. Great White quickly became known as a dependable live act and their steady climb through the '80s hard rock ranks was boosted by tours opening for luminaries like Whitesnake, KISS and Judas Priest. Their perseverance was finally rewarded when Great White struck multi-platinum with 1989's ...Twice Shy album. Twice Shy's success was powered mainly by their rendition of the Ian Hunter classic "Once Bitten, Twice Shy" which became a monster radio and MTV hit in the summer of 1989, reaching #5 on the Billboard singles chart and eventually becoming one of Great White's signature tunes (even though it was a cover song). When the "hair metal" hard rock style began to fall out of popular favor in the early 1990s, Great White continued to be a dependable recording and touring machine, releasing albums like Psycho City (1992), Let It Rock (1996) and Can't Get There From Here (1999) while regularly appearing onstage at nightclubs and retro-rock festivals around the world.

Great White might still be remembered merely as "the guys who did that 'my my my' song" today if it weren't for the disaster that took place when they appeared at the Station Nightclub in February of 2003. Less than a minute into the first song of the band's set at this small nightspot in West Warwick, Rhode Island, sparks thrown by an onstage pyrotechnic device ignited foam soundproofing that covered the club's walls, sparking a fast moving inferno that burned the club to the ground and killed one hundred people, including Great White guitarist Ty Longley. After several years of finger-pointing and legal wrangling to determine who was to blame for the fire, the band's camp agreed to pay $1 million to a fund set up for survivors of the blaze and their families in exchange for no admission of wrong doing, while Station Nightclub co-owner Michael Derderian and Great White tour manager Daniel Biechele were sentenced to prison time for their roles in the tragedy.

Jack Russell's Great White
Jack Russell's Great White | Source

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  • "Great White" with Terry Ilous on vocals
  • "Jack Russell's Great White"
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Movin' On...?

Great White returned to business with 2007's Back to the Rhythm album, which was their first studio release in eight years. 2009's Rising album soon followed. The albums received positive reviews, the band was back on the road and Great White seemed to be firing on all cylinders again... until things suddenly started to get seriously weird. Jack Russell was sidelined in 2010 when he faced major surgery for a perforated bowel (ouch!). Rather than cancel their tour plans, Great White - with Russell's apparent blessing - tapped former Warrant vocalist Jani Lane to fill in on vocals throughout that summer. When Russell's health problems persisted and more recuperation time was needed, former XYZ vocalist Terry Ilous was brought in to fulfill further touring responsibilities. (Jani Lane tragically passed away in 2011.)

Things started to get very murky within the Great White camp sometime in 2011. While Jack Russell continued his recovery, the band carried on playing shows with Terry Ilous as their still-supposedly-temporary frontman and fans waited to see when Jack Russell would return to the fold. However, in late 2011, Jack Russell suddenly released a statement to the press that he would soon be coming back "with my band Great White and a BRAND NEW lineup"... which, obviously, came as surprising news to the rest of Great White. They fired back with a press release of their own, stating that while they had "eagerly awaited" Jack's return to Great White, his constant battles with sobriety had prevented that from happening. They further claimed that Jack Russell "does not have the right to start his own Great White or use the name" and threatened any promoters who booked Jack's band with legal litigation.

As if things weren't ugly enough already, Great White announced that they would be releasing a new album in May of 2012 on Frontiers Records. Titled Elation, it would be their first album without Jack Russell on the mic. Russell filed a lawsuit against his former band mates in March of 2012, saying that he was "fired" from the band and that the group's name - which he claims to own - was "stolen" from him while he recovered from surgery, and therefore they have no business releasing an album using the "Great White" name. Predictably, the band fired back with their own 30 page (!) counterclaim in April of 2012, accusing Russell of "profiting from wrongful association" with the Great White name by forming his own band, as well as running down a laundry list of Russell's alleged drug and alcohol related problems that irreparably damaged his and the band's reputations. "House of Broken Love," indeed.

Great White - "(I've Got) Something For You" from ELATION

Can't Get There From Here?

So here's how things stand as of this moment: both sides continue to face off like Old West gunslingers, each waiting to see who will make the next move. Great White's Elation was released on May 22nd via Frontiers Records, and both bands were very active during the Summer 2012 concert season. Great White's itinerary included slots at the "M3" retro-rock festival in Maryland on May 12th alongside such '80s luminaries as Night Ranger, Ratt, Queensryche, Dokken, and Stryper. Meanwhile, Jack Russell's Great White headlined a Summer tour dubbed "America Rocks" with Faster Pussycat, the BulletBoys, Pretty Boy Floyd and Lillian Axe. The Terry Ilous fronted Great White kicked off 2013 with the release of a live album entitled 30 Years - Live on the Sunset Strip. As of early 2014, Jack Russell's version of the band is supposedly working on new music, though no release date has been announced for the material. Both versions of "Great White" continue to tour.

It'll be interesting to see where these two "Great Whites" will go from here. I'm betting that in the end, the winners will be... the lawyers!

Jack Russell's Great White - "Rock Me" (Live)

Get Bitten...

GREAT WHITE select discography:

Out of the Night (EP) - Aegean, 1982 (reissued in 1987 as On Your Knees)

Great White - EMI/Capitol, 1984

Shot in the Dark - Capitol, 1986

Once Bitten - Capitol, 1987

Recovery: Live! - Enigma, 1988

...Twice Shy - Capitol, 1989

Hooked - Capitol, 1991

Psycho City - Capitol, 1992

Sail Away - Zoo Entertainment, 1994

Stage (live) - Zoo Entertainment, 1995

Let It Rock - Imago, 1996

Can't Get There From Here - Portrait, 1999

Great Zeppelin: A Tribute to Led Zeppelin (live)- Deadline, 1999

Back to the Rhythm - Shrapnel, 2007

Rising - Shrapnel, 2009

Elation - Frontiers, 2012

30 Years - Live from the Sunset Strip - Frontiers, 2013

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Comments 23 comments

AlphaMale 4 years ago

Great idea skipping the awful "Rising" in your piece!! great stuff dude!!


FatFreddysCat profile image

FatFreddysCat 4 years ago from The Garden State Author

Thanx Alpha. Not a fan of the "Rising" album huh? I did mention it in the discography list at the end, that should count for something. :) Thanks for stopping by!


Pat Boone 4 years ago

Hmmm... I wonder if there will be any songs on the new album I'd like to cover?


FatFreddysCat profile image

FatFreddysCat 4 years ago from The Garden State Author

Pat Boone, everybody! Let's give him a hand, he's "in a Metal Mood!"


Pat Boone 4 years ago

Thank you, thank you!


FatFreddysCat profile image

FatFreddysCat 4 years ago from The Garden State Author

Updated with a YouTube clip of a track from the new Great White album, and a live clip of Jack Russell's Great White performing the classic "Rock Me"


FreedomMetal profile image

FreedomMetal 4 years ago from Somewhere In Time

Excellent Hub! I will be seeing the Mark Kendall Great White on Saturday at the M3 Festival - should be interesting! Also on the line up at the M3 Dokken and Lynch Mob, I imagine George and Don will be ignoring each other backstage....


FreedomMetal profile image

FreedomMetal 4 years ago from Somewhere In Time

BTW....new Hub name for me, you can probably guess my other hub name by the picture (just don't post my other name - trying to keep this one separate from that online identity)


FatFreddysCat profile image

FatFreddysCat 4 years ago from The Garden State Author

Thanks for the comments Freedom... enjoy the festival, and don't worry, your secret identity is safe with me. Haha


FreedomMetal profile image

FreedomMetal 4 years ago from Somewhere In Time

LOL!!!! Thanks - feel free to stop by my hub, although I doubt my output will be as prolific as your hub output!


Georgie Lowery profile image

Georgie Lowery 4 years ago from Slaton, Texas USA

It's a shame that it's come to this for a great rock and roll band. I hope they resolve their issues and I really hope that Jack Russel gets his act together.

Great hub!


FatFreddysCat profile image

FatFreddysCat 4 years ago from The Garden State Author

Thanx Georgie.


OldWitchcraft profile image

OldWitchcraft 4 years ago from The Atmosphere

Great hub! Very enjoyable. Voting up and accolades.


FatFreddysCat profile image

FatFreddysCat 4 years ago from The Garden State Author

Thanx O.W.!


FatFreddysCat profile image

FatFreddysCat 4 years ago from The Garden State Author

Updated to include Great White's new video "(I've Got) Something For You" from the ELATION album...


mike 3 years ago

Late '80's and early '90's were boobs.

Bring in the lawyers and watch time pass by.


FatFreddysCat profile image

FatFreddysCat 3 years ago from The Garden State Author

Updated!


troy 3 years ago

he lookes bored as hell no feeling anymore,


FatFreddysCat profile image

FatFreddysCat 3 years ago from The Garden State Author

I understand that Jack Russell and his former band mates have settled their dispute over the G.W. name... Kendall and the rest of the "original" band get to keep the "Great White" monicker and Russell will perform as "Jack Russell's Great White" from now on.


Suhail and my dog profile image

Suhail and my dog 2 years ago from Mississauga, ON

I don't know how I missed reading this article? But an awesome one on a great blues based, melodious hard rock band that I have been listening to since 1983 and that has refused to change its heart come storm or high water.

No one can match the wailings of Jack Russell and the guitar of Mark Kendall and the latter is definitely underrated. When most of the hard rock bands were quitting or busy making their sound heavier to compete with the Grunge, GW went the other way and stuck with its roots making its music more bluesy and more melodious.

I distinctly recall that their ballad 'House of Broken Love' was still enjoying airtime on a Chicago's hard rock channel alongside Nirvana's songs in 1993 (I was studying at NWU in Evanston and I used to hate their cutting out the last guitar piece)

I don't mind having two Great Whites now. The more the better I guess :-) But I think I like Terry Ilous and Mark Kendall combination better on Elation.


FatFreddysCat profile image

FatFreddysCat 2 years ago from The Garden State Author

Hey there Suhail a-m-d: Glad you enjoyed it. I recently heard that Jack Russell's version of Great White has an album of its own in the works that will be released sometime soon.


Suhail and my dog profile image

Suhail and my dog 2 years ago from Mississauga, ON

I will be waiting for it.


FatFreddysCat profile image

FatFreddysCat 2 years ago from The Garden State Author

Updated

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