GREAT WHITE's MARK KENDALL On Split With JACK RUSSELL: He 'Was Just Unable To Perform'
January 26, 2021
GREAT WHITE guitarist Mark Kendall has once again said that he holds no ill will toward the band's original lead singer, Jack Russell.
Russell exited GREAT WHITE in December 2011 after he was unable to tour with the group due a series of injuries, including a perforated bowel and a shattered pelvis. Jack largely blamed these injuries on his alcohol and painkiller addictions as well as the prednisone drug he was prescribed.
Asked in a new chat with That Metal Interview if Russell was fired from GREAT WHITE, Kendall said (hear audio below): "No. He wasn't fired. In the almost 30 years that we worked together, I think we might have gotten in, like, two arguments. Seriously! I mean, we were blood brothers. What happened was his demons overcame him. We were out on tour. He was falling down, breaking bones. He was very sick with his addiction.
"I work with addicts daily," Mark continued. "I literally have worked one-on-one with over a hundred people in the last nine years. And there are people I've met that can get a DUI and they've got nine years sobriety today; it's, like, a DUI is plenty. And then, on the other part of the scale, there's a guy that loses his family, his job, his house, his cars — everything — and he still doesn't stop [drinking or using drugs].
"We tried everything, and Jack was just unable to perform. He was so sick, his body was just breaking down. He had a walker. We had to push him in airports in a wheelchair. He had to sit down at the shows. And it became so bad and he was so dopesick that he just could not continue. And I've been at his hospital bed, I've been at his bedside in rehab centers day after day after day, being as supportive as possible.
"We just [told him], 'Go get well. We'll get a singer to fill in. And just get yourself healthy.' And he kind of just was unable to return. He didn't wanna come back on those terms. So he just went out and found musicians that would play with him and [made] his own [version of] GREAT WHITE, which kind of turned into this lawsuit thing, which we hated.
"People that assemble together, they're called a band because it's a group of people," Mark continued. "So one guy can't just leave and just call himself the band. That was our point. So we kind of won the lawsuit, but we wanted him to have a way to make a living, because the people he worked with were accepting him the way he was. So we were fine with that. So we let him call himself JACK RUSSELL'S GREAT WHITE or whatever.
"It's unfortunate that the whole situation had to happen because he was not treating himself well. But I never have ever taken it personal, someone's addictions. They're not doing it to hurt me. Jack didn't do what he did to hurt me. He just had a difficult time, [because] the addiction is so damn powerful. Really, to get away from that, you just have to surrender — just drop to your knees and beg God. It's very difficult.
"So, that's what happened with that," Kendall added. "I think fans are a little confused. [They ask me,] 'Why don't you patch things up?' We've never even gotten in a fight before. There's nothing to patch up. He's unhealthy, and it's just that. And we're at the age now where you really don't wanna have all this drama.
"I don't know if you've ever been around somebody that's really high and you're not. It's like you're in two different worlds. 'Cause we're all sober and focused and everything. It's kind of like having a liability around. I mean, if you worked at a job, and there's people counting on you, and you've got one guy that just doesn't have it together, it just makes everything kind of crumble.
"So, that's how it was. We just said, 'Go get well, come back healthy and let's kick some ass.' And he was just not able to do that.
"We have all the love for him, and I always wish him the best of everything. I never have any ill will toward him or his addiction — nothing."
Russell sued his onetime bandmates in 2012 over their continued use of the GREAT WHITE name after Jack had taken a leave of absence from the band for medical reasons. A short time later, Russell was countersued by Kendall, rhythm guitarist/keyboardist Michael Lardie and drummer Audie Desbrow, claiming the vocalist's self-destructive behavior was damaging the GREAT WHITE name (they also alleged he was charging promoters less for his own touring version of GREAT WHITE). The parties settled in July 2013 without going to trial, with Russell now performing as JACK RUSSELL'S GREAT WHITE while the others are continuing as GREAT WHITE.
More than two years ago, GREAT WHITE announced the addition of new singer Mitch Malloy to the group's ranks. He replaced Terry Ilous, who was fired from the band in July 2018.
Earlier this month, Russell told "Rocking With Jam Man" that his split with GREAT WHITE "was very emotional. It still hurts a lot," he said. "Maybe it's like a divorce, 'cause you get to be brothers when you're playing in a band together, especially for many, many years. And then when that ends, it can be very traumatic on your spirit. That's what it was like when I split up with my old guys. That was really, really difficult. But what are you gonna do? You've gotta kind of go with the flow and just move on."
Asked if he thinks a band that replaces its longtime singer is essentially "just a cover band," Russell said: "Well [laughs], that's dangerous waters right there, my friend. Let me see how to answer that. You know, I hate to say it, but I do agree with you. I think the singer is the one part of the band that is unique. I mean, pretty much any guitar player that's good can play any other good guitar player's [parts] well enough to make it sound — it's indistinguishable. You go, 'Is that the original guitar player?' 'No, it's somebody else.' 'Oh, I couldn't tell.' But, obviously, each singer is gonna have his own sound that's uniquely of himself. My voice sounds different than anybody else's voice, so anything that I've done with GREAT WHITE sounds like GREAT WHITE. You take that element away, and it's a different band. So, the answer to you question — for the most part, putting it that way, yeah, I agree with you."