July 23, 2010
By David Huff
Great White - Rock 'N America 2010
Celebrating 30 Years
This coming November, the second week in fact, Great White singer Jack Russell and guitarist Mark Kendall will celebrate their 30th anniversary together – as musical collaborators. Their journey started out with a phone call Kendall placed to Russell back in 1977, asking him simply if he’d be interested in joining his band. Russell passed the audition, but two of Kendall’s band members did not. To keep his new singer, the guitarist literally had to fire himself from his own band, and start all over.
Great White rose out of the smoldering ashes of Dante Fox. So did Russell’s emotional baggage. High on angel dust in late 1979, the singer shot a man in a busted drug deal. Great White, apparently, was over before it even began, or so Mark Kendall thought. Several weeks d into the studio to cut another album, the company rerecorded all the tracks, repackaged it, and released it around the country. “On Your Knees” was sent to radio, and it became a minor hit for the band.
Great White’s real debut for Capitol came in 1986 with the release of Shot In The Dark. The album contained three singles that would become classic songs for the group, “Shake Me,” “Face The Day” and the title track. The album would eventually go platinum and set the stage for Great White’s dramatic breakthrough recording, Once Bitten.
There was trouble on the horizon almost immediately. Russell’s continuing dalliance with drugs saw him arrested again by the police and charged with possession of a controlled substance. With his past drug felony conviction involving a gun, Russell was facing mandatory hard time in prison. Kendall was at an absolute loss knowing his partner was about to be sent away for 20 years. As it turns out, fate took the matter into its own hands. Russell was placed on probation with an astonished D.A. looking on. The singer’s file containing his past record didn’t arrive at the judge’s chamber until the next day. Furious about letting Russell off with a slap on the wrist, the singer was summoned back into court. In not so many words, the judge spelled out the singer’s fate if he ever was arrested again. Three strikes and you’re out. Russell got the message loud and clear.
With drugs now a thing in the past for Russell, he returned to Great White with a renewed sense of urgency. The first order of business was to scrap all the music the band had written for the next album but one, “Save All Your Love.” As Kendall explained it, the songs sounded too much like a heavy metal Journey. With only a month remaining until they were scheduled to go into the studio, Great White returned to their blues rock origins. The first songs to come out of their jam sessions were “Rock Me,” “Lady Red Light” and “Mistreater.” Exactly thirty days after they had abandoned one album, another one had risen in its place. One Bitten would sell over two million units fueled by the aforementioned singles.
Great White continued their momentum with the 1989 release Twice Shy. It would contain their group’s biggest hit to date, a cover of Ian Hunter’s “Once Bitten, Twice Shy.” Three other cuts from the album, “Mista Bone,” “The Angel Song” and “House Of Broken Love” would also propel Twice Shy past the double platinum mark. A rotating double headline tour with Tesla saw the band sell out arenas across the country.
Great White recorded two more albums for Capitol — ‘91s Hooked, which was certified gold, and the following year’s Psycho City, which is to this day considered by many to be their most underrated effort. Capitol issued a Best Of compilation in 1993 ending their association with the band. Great White would only release two more studio albums the rest of the decade, Sail Away and Let It Rock, but continued a grueling tour pace year in and year out. Finally, in a memo dated January 20, 2000 Mark Kendall announced he was leaving Great White.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 him 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, Russell dropped his name from the marquee in time for Jack and Mark to celebrate their humble beginnings as Great White in 2007.
Mark Kendall-Lead Guitar