Mark Kendall is the lead guitarist and a founding member of the hard rock band Great White. 30 years after founding the band in Los Angeles, Mark and company have sold over 10 million records worldwide and continue to record and tour. Elation is the band’s twelfth studio album and the first to feature vocalist Terry Ilous.
Great White might have been lumped into the Hair Metal category back in the ’80s, but Mark Kendall’s incredible guitar playing and his love for the blues gave the band its distinct sound, which has enabled the band’s music to truly stand the test of time and keep a loyal fan base hungry for more, even after 30 years.
The new album undeniably has the Great White signatures. “Feeling So Much Better” has a harder side to it, while “Shotgun Willies” sounds like classic GW. “Hard to Say Goodbye” boasts incredibly great songwriting that showcases the vocal abilities of new singer Terry Ilous. He’s no Jack Russell, and that’s ok, because what’s most important is that the core of Great White is still together and stronger than ever.
I had the chance to chat with Mark Kendall, and he was kind enough to share some remarkably interesting stories from the his fruitful career so far.
Great White started in LA back in 1982. Can you tell me what the vibe was on the Sunset Strip at that time?
The scene was really electric. It was really healthy in the early ’80s, apart from ’81 when New Wave started coming through a bit. There was really something happening in Hollywood. I was going up there a lot because there was always someone playing: Motley Crue, Ratt, Dokken. Back a little bit before that is when Van Halen got their record deal, and that’s when we all said, wow, this is possible.
I followed them a bit because I saw them when I was a teenager in a backyard somewhere. I was inspired not only because they were the best band around at the time, but also by their work ethic. They played more than anyone. I could relate because Great White also followed that trend for a while when we played a ton of shows for free just to get our name out.
Great White was one of the first bands to do MTV’s Unplugged. I remember seeing you perform “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You,” and it was stunning.
We got the call and were asked to come in and record on the same day that Don Henley and Damn Yankees were doing their shows. There’s an interesting story here though, because my manager called me the night before and told me to learn Zeppelin’s “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You.” This wasn’t like learning “Johnny B Goode” or something because it has a pretty crazy arrangement.
We had never even played this song, and I said to him, you mean we’re not even going to rehearse it? He said, no just go over it in the dressing room. So, that’s what we did. We went over it in the dressing room and played it once at soundcheck before we did it live.
If you notice at the end of the video I start to smile as I knew that we were going to make it through the song. MTV had the video in very heavy rotation after that, as in multiple times a day, and it really took off for us.
When you were recording “Once Bitten Twice Shy,” did you have any idea what kind of impact it would have?
Our manager came to us with the idea to cover the song since Twice Shy was the obvious follow-up to Once Bitten. We thought the song was good, but we didn’t think that it would really take off like it did. We didn’t really think it would be a big single or anything at the time.
The record company chose it as the first single, and we knew that we had a few other back up singles on the record just in case. After the single took off, we were nominated for a Grammy, and it sold millions.
Did Ian Hunter reach out to you guys afterward?
It was really such a strange coincidence. Way before we ever decided to cover the song, he actually rode on our tour bus with us to one of our shows and was just hanging out. I believe it was around 1979 in New York.
Then we ran into him again in 1984. We were touring with Judas Priest, and we needed a drum riser. Our sound guy knew Ian and said that he had a drum riser at his house. So, we went over and picked it up. What’s funny is that neither of these meetings had anything to do with us covering that song.
Are you big fan of vinyl?
I love listening to vinyl; it really brings back great memories. I mean, shopping for records used to be an all-day event. I remember getting Physical Graffiti, and my friend had this entire set up where we put the speakers up in the window, sat out on the patio, and looked at the artwork, read the lyrics, and just listened. I just love that era, and as far as the quality, I loved it.
I still have the very first three records that I ever owned in my life. When I was nine years old and I got my first guitar, my father bought me The Doors’ Strange Days, Jimi Hendrix’s Are You Experienced, and Cream’s Disreali Gears.
Sex Pistols vs. The Clash…
I would go with the Sex Pistols because Johnny Rotten had such passion for his music, and his delivery was so powerful. To me, his entire being was put on this earth to do what he’s doing. It’s like punk rock was his whole world.
It reminds me of this singer years ago who my friend Tracy G [Dio guitarist] told me about. He was the singer of a band called World War III. The guy’s name was Mandy Lion, and he truly lived the part. This guy wore the leather pants all hours of the day and never stopped pursuing what he loved. That’s what I think of when I hear The Sex Pistols.
Great White’s brand new release Elation is in stores now via Frontiers Records. The band is also on tour, and we’ll be catching the show in Anaheim next Friday at The City Grove. Stay tuned for exclusive photos and a full review right here at TVD.
Great White Tour Dates:
Fri 05/31/13 – Anaheim, CA – City National Grove Of Anaheim
Sat 06/01/13 – Salt Lake City, UT – Harley Davidson Of Salt Lake City
Fri 06/07/13 – Vernal, UT – Western Park Amphitheater
Sat 06/08/13 – Lancaster, CA – Antelope Valley Fairgrounds
Sat 06/15/13 – Rothbury, MI – Double JJ Resort
Fri 06/21/13 – Deadwood, SD – Deadwood Mountain Grand Hotel & Casino
Sat 06/22/13 – Sheridan, WY – Trails End Concert Park
Thu 06/27/13 – Santa Ynez, CA – Chumash Casino
Sat 06/29/13 – Brainerd, MN – Brainerd International Raceway
Wed 07/03/13 – Del Mar, CA – Del Mar Fairgrounds
Sat 07/06/13 – Hollister, CA – Guerra Cellars
Thu 07/11/13 – Gettysburg, PA – Granite Hill Campground
Fri 07/12/13 – Kankakee, IL – Kankakee Valley District Park
Sat 07/13/13 – Streetsboro, OH – Z-Plex @ Stringz & Wingz
Thu 07/18/13 – Oshkosh, WI – Ford Festival Park
Sat 07/20/13 – Waukesha, WI – Waukesha County Fairgrounds
Fri 07/26/13 – Akron, NY – Concert Cove Amphitheater at Brauns Bar
Sat 07/27/13 – Mattawa, ON – Voyageur Days Festival Grounds
Sun 07/28/13 – Saint Catharines, ON – Barracuda Pretty
Thu 08/01/13 – Englewood, NJ – Bergen Performing Arts Ctr.
Fri 08/02/13 – Detroit, MI – Renaissance Center
Sat 08/03/13 – McMinnville, OR – Yamhill County Fair & Rodeo
Sat 08/10/13 – Stuart, FL – Stuart Speedway
Thu 08/15/13 – Escanaba, MI – State Fairgrounds
Fri 08/16/13 – Laredo, TX – Laredo Energy Arena
Sat 08/17/13 – Beaumont, TX – Ford Park
Thu 08/22/13 – Saginaw, MI – Arena at Dow Event Center
Sun 09/01/13 – Omaha, NE – CenturyLink Center Omaha
Sat 10/26/13 – Calgary, AB – Deerfoot Inn & Casino
Sat 04/19/14 – Calgary, AB – Deerfoot Inn & Casino