Great White singer out to ‘prove everybody wrong’
“This is what I do. This is why God put me here: to be a singer. I fought and fought and fought to get back and I wasn’t going to take “no” for an answer.”
Jack Russell is no stranger to overcoming adversity in his storied career as vocalist for Great White, a band whose hit album, “…Twice Shy,” went 2x multi-platinum within six months of being released in April of 1989.
In the late 1970s, Russell served time in prison for his role in an armed robbery before permanently joining Great White.
In 2003, Russell was on stage performing at a venue in Rhode Island called the Station, when pyrotechnics sparked a fire in the ceiling, engulfing the building and killing 100 people.
In 2010, his body began to fail him after more than three decades of decadent life as a rock star, according to a press release issued last year by his band on their website. He was later diagnosed with a perforated bowel, which required him to be in the hospital for three months.
“My wife…she really pushed me to stay strong,” Russell said by phone while on the road in Sturgis, South Dakota. “There were times when I couldn’t even walk. I was literally 137 pounds, I had been in the hospital for three months with a colostomy bag and I came out and I couldn’t even stand up.”
“[My wife] had to pick me up, put me in the shower, wash me, change my bag, put me in the bed, feed me, clothe me, everything,” he said.
Russell did not want to go on disability and was determined to get back out on the road.
“I just pushed myself. I went to physical therapy, started going to the gym, just really really worked and worked and worked at it.”
As Russell recovered and began to show signs of being in shape for touring, he learned his bandmates drafted a laundry list of conditions he had to meet before returning to the band, most of them dealing with restricted drugs and alcohol use.
During a televised interview on VH1 Classic’s That Metal Show, Russell said the animosity between the two camps stemmed from him being injured and costing the band some money. On the television program, Russell relayed the info that his doctor told him, which was that he may be on pain medication for the rest of his life.
Finally, Russell said he would be taking the band name, Great White, and touring as “Jack Russell’s Great White.” Old band members have been touring under the original name, but with a new vocalist, Terry Ilous. Russell asked the band not tour under the name Great White and eventually sued his former band mates in March 2012.
However, various media outlets reported the band settled the lawsuit in July regarding usage of the name Great White. The two camps agreed to let both sides use their current touring names: “Great White” and “Jack Russell’s Great White.”
“I’m over it. I hold no grudges, man. I’m just glad it’s over. I’m glad we decided to agree to split the name because we all worked on it, we were all a big part of it and we all deserve to make a living off of it,” Russell told The UALR Forum.
Russell said this is not his first time stopping in Little Rock and in fact, he actually recalls the first time he and Great White performed in Arkansas in 1984:
“We were on our first tour in 1984. The tour manager is telling us about this girl in Little Rock, Connie [Hamzy, a local woman who wrote a book in the mid-90s, alleging her sexual encounters with roadies and famous rock stars when they performed in Little Rock]. And we’re going, ‘Oh yeah, the [Grand Funk Railroad] song,’ you know? We’re thinking: he’s pulling our leg, that’s not a real chick, that’s a song. And he goes ‘No, that’s a real chick.’”
“So, we pull up to the venue and there were like 20 guys standing outside in line in front of the tour bus door. And I looked at him and I go ‘Connie?’ He goes, ‘Yep.’ And I go, ‘God, you weren’t kidding!’”
“So, we got to meet later on and actually we sat and talked for a while. She was a second grade school teacher and she had a little protégé out with her that was going take over for her when she retired. She was a lovely woman, second grade school teacher, just a lovely woman. And she just liked doing what she did. She liked taking care of rock guys, you know? I guess she wrote a book and I guess Peter Frampton got the short end of the stick on that one and she was banned from all these shows after that.”
Jack said he’s thankful for the seemingly constant support from fans.
“I appreciate the fact that people want to come see you, especially after all these years. When you’re young, you think it’s never gonna end. You think you’re gonna be 25 for ever, you know? And all of a sudden you blink your eyes and you’re 50. And you’re like, ‘Wow, what happened to my career?”
“I just feel so fortunate to have the support of the fans and the promoters and everything else after all that I’ve been through,” Russell said.”
“Last year, a lot of folks took a lot of chances on me. The other side was saying a lot of negative stuff about me, like: he can’t pull it off, he’s not in good shape, he’s gonna cancel shows, his voice isn’t working, etc,” Russell said. “And, I had to go out and prove everybody wrong.”
Jack Russell’s Great White launched their current tour, “A Pirates Life,” in July and will make a stop in Little Rock on August 27 at The Revolution Music Room.