JEROME • Sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll. Great White has seen it all.
The band was formed the American way, in a southern California garage, in 1978, and music television helped propel hits like “Once Bitten, Twice Shy” through its peak in 1989.
“I don’t remember much from the late ’80s, but I do remember rocking to that song,” said fan Kari Rodriguez, 47, of Twin Falls.
Rodriguez can’t wait for Great White lead singer Jack Russell’s March 30 concert at Diamondz in Jerome. But Rodriguez was disappointed to find out that his original band won’t be playing together. Instead, he’s with a new lineup of musicians.
Russell is fighting a legal battle with Great White co-founder Mark Kendall and longtime band members Michael Lardie and Audie Desbrow over who has the legal rights to the band’s name.
To keep confusion at bay, Russell’s new band is going as Jack Russell’s Great White until the matter is resolved, Russell said during a telephone interview Monday.
“It’s sad that over a few bucks — we’re not talking a lot of money — that these guys would throw away years of friendship — we were brothers — over this,” Russell said. “This is my band. I started it, and these guys were only in it because I invited them in.”
Russell, 51, admits to letting things get out of hand. He has battled addictions, including prescription pain pills.
In 2009, Russell broke his femur onstage.
“I finished the show, sitting on a stool. I had lost a lot of blood and could have died. My management was saying they were on my side but also said if I took any time off my career would be over. My options seemed to be to take the time off and let my body heal at the expense of killing my career or taking a bunch of pills and getting back on stage,” Russell said. “Looking back, it was stupid. I took the pills.”
Today, Russell said, he hasn’t been healthier. “My mind is clear, I’m in the best shape I’ve been in in years and my voice is in good shape. I feel great.”
His former band mates continue touring under the Great White name, and they released a statement after Russell announced he would begin touring with a new band lineup early this year. Their statement, at Greatwhiterocks.com, said they were fed up with Russell’s drug use and had required weekly urinalysis as a condition of his playing with them.
“It was getting pretty totalitarian,” Russell said but wouldn’t comment further, saying he wanted to take the higher road when speaking of his estranged band mates.
“I’ll always have love for them, but that was becoming a toxic environment,” Russell said. “I had to do something different and move on.”
As he has in the past, his current tour will likely be a world tour.
Saying he’s sober again, Russell doesn’t want to mess up. His band — Matthew Johnson on lead guitar and keyboards; Dario Seixas, bass guitar; Derick Pontier, drums; and Robby Lochner, lead guitar — is full of talent.
“They are virtuosos,” Russell said. “The music has never sounded better.”
Diamondz owner Greg Dodson agrees.
“Great White is one of the most underrated bands in rock today,” Dodson said. “They’ve got all of the hits, and more of the talent, than many bands out there filling stadiums today. These guys have had some very intense highs, and some very tragic lows, throughout their 30-plus-year career. This new lineup has sold out virtually every show on the tour, and Diamondz will not be an exception.”