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Formed in the early '80s by vocalist Jack Russell and guitarist Mark Kendall, Great White were regulars of the L.A. club scene, playing their Led Zeppelin- and AC/DC-influenced metal to a quickly growing fan base. Local radio play and more gigging helped sell 20,000 copies of their independent releases, the Out of the Night EP and the full-length Shot in the Dark, both released in 1983.
The EMI label took notice, signed the band, and released its self-titled, major-label debut a year later. Shot in the Dark would be reissued by the label in 1987, the same year as the new album Once Bitten... appeared with the hit single "Rock Me." The album went platinum, but 1989's ...Twice Shy took things even further thanks in no small part to the massive success of the single "Once Bitten Twice Shy," a cover of a Mott the Hoople song written by Mott member Ian Hunter.
Long tours with Ratt and a co-headlined tour with Tesla kept the band out of the studio until 1991 when the polished Hooked appeared with two different album covers, one a provocative side shot of a mermaid hanging off an anchor in mid-air and one less scandalous with the mermaid still submerged. Hooked went gold while their 1992 follow-up, Psycho City, sold less, leading to EMI saying goodbye to the band with the 1993 compilation The Best of Great White.
Sail Away from 1994 found the band on Zoo, while 1996's Let It Rock was released by Imago. A live set of cover tunes featuring the work of their favorite band appeared as Great Zeppelin: A Tribute to Led Zeppelin, released by Cleopatra in 1999. That same year, Can't Get There from Here on the Portrait label gave fans their first taste of Russell's new writing partnership with longtime friend and former Night Ranger member Jack Blades. Another set of covers formed the 2002 Cleopatra album Recover, but this time the choices were surprising, with the Cult's "Love Removal Machine" and X's "Burning House of Love" getting the Great White treatment.
Forgotten by the mainstream, they were brought back into the limelight when pyrotechnics used by the band sparked a fire in a Rhode Island nightclub on February 20, 2003, killing 100 people, including the band's guitarist, Ty Longley. The 2004 reissue of Recover drew some media attention, since the Horizon label had given it a new and now morbid title, Burning House of Love. Trials concerning the fire continued on into 2006 as questions concerning who authorized the pyrotechnics were being investigated. The band spent the rest of the year touring and playing some benefit concerts for victims of the fire. In early 2007 they began celebrating their 25th anniversary with some West Coast shows that were tied to the release of VH1 Classic Presents: Metal Mania - Stripped, Vol. 3 and in the summer they released a new studio album, Back to the Rhythm. ~ David Jeffries