MARK KENDALL On Deadly GREAT WHITE Concert Fire: 'It Was The Most Horrific Thing'

October 7, 2022

GREAT WHITE guitarist Mark Kendall spoke to the "Sally Steele Rocks! Show" about the deadly blaze on February 20, 2003 in Rhode Island caused by pyrotechnics at a concert by the now-former GREAT WHITE singer Jack Russell. At the time of the fire, the group that was on the road was called JACK RUSSELL'S GREAT WHITE. Kendall, who founded the band with Russell in 1982, later said he was asked to join Russell and his solo band on the tour to help boost attendance.

"I think people misunderstood, thinking GREAT WHITE uses pyro," Kendall told "Sally Steele Rocks! Show". "Because we've never used it before. And the main reason is we're not a spectacle kind of band. We just want… Give us a lot of lights, maybe a little fog on the ballad and girls backstage. That's pretty much the end of GREAT WHITE. We don't go blow stuff up and whatnot. So it was kind of strange. But it was [Jack's] solo thing. All the merchandise he had was all Jack RussellJack Russell CD, Jack Russell t-shirt, picture behind us…"

According to Kendall, the tour was initially billed just "the Jack Russell 'For You' tour," named after Jack's second solo album, which came out in 2002. "And when I went out there, not even realizing… After I did three or four shows, I saw a flyer that said 'Jack Russell's GREAT WHITE,'" Mark recalled. "And I even called the manager, I go, 'You're calling it 'Jack Russell's GREAT WHITE'?' I go, 'Whatever. That's cool.' But the night of the accident, they actually put 'GREAT WHITE' on the marquee, and I think that's where the confusion came. But I didn't know anyone in [Jack's solo] band; I just met 'em for the first time [on that tour]."

Russell's bandmate Ty Longley (guitar) was one of the people who perished in The Station blaze, which became the fourth deadliest fire in U.S. history.

In 2008, the band agreed to pay $1 million to survivors and families of the victims of the fire.

"It was just an awful experience," Mark said. "I talked to my pastor. Man, it was the most horrific thing. I'm very close with everybody in Rhode Island. We're constantly in contact on Facebook. It was just an awful night."

Elaborating on what he saw that tragic evening, Kendall said: "It was very mild looking [at first], but I felt heat and I never felt heat before with this stuff, and so I knew there was something wrong. So I went out through the back door to get out of everybody's way so they could put it out. I thought maybe they'd have a fire extinguisher. 'Cause I saw on the wall it was just a very small part of the foam [that] had caught fire, and I thought for sure they would just put it out. But when they opened the doors… This whole place was lined with this black foam stuff, and come to find out later — of course I didn't know it then — but the fire marshal said it was equal to 13 gallons of gasoline on the wall or something. So when they opened doors, the backdraft or whatever made it just go up. And it was just horrific, man. I don't like to think about it."

The fire at The Station nightclub in West Warwick began in an overcrowded club when pyrotechnics from Russell's GREAT WHITE ignited illegal soundproofing foam lining the club's walls.

"I've seen so many video tapes of pyro shooting off in that club with the foam — bigger stuff than we had — and it never happened," Jack told Psycho Babble TV a few years ago." Why it happened that night… Who knows? I mean, it's like a plane crash — it takes all these little things to fall in line for that one big thing to happen. So [the movie] gave me the opportunity to talk about how I felt and for me to apologize. Not a guilty apology, but because I just…

"I mean, I feel horrible that it happened," he continued. "I lost a lot of friends that night — a lot of friends. People that I didn't even know were even there. And people have said, 'Well, he's not remorseful.' And they've gotta understand, when all this went down, my legal team, they said, 'You cannot ever say you're sorry, because it implies guilt.' And I'm, like, 'But I am sorry.' [And they told me], 'But you can't say it.'"

According to Russell, at least one "really beautiful" thing came out of the tragedy. "There was a man named Joe; they call him 'The Lizard Man,'" Jack said. "He was the worst, most badly burned of all the people. And he met his wife in the fire and they had a beautiful son. And his comment was, 'If this wouldn't have happened, I wouldn't have met the love of my life.'"

"America's Deadliest Concert: The Guest List", a documentary about the GREAT WHITE concert fire, received its premiere this past February via Reelz. The film is based in part on John Barylick's narrative non-fiction work "Killer Show: The Station Nightclub Fire, America's Deadliest Rock Concert". It includes interviews with Russell, Dee Snider (TWISTED SISTER),Don Dokken (DOKKEN),Lita Ford and Michael Sweet (STRYPER).

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.

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.

Find more on Great white
  • facebook
  • twitter
  • reddit
  • email

Comments Disclaimer And Information

BLABBERMOUTH.NET uses the Facebook Comments plugin to let people comment on content on the site using their Facebook account. The comments reside on Facebook servers and are not stored on BLABBERMOUTH.NET. To comment on a BLABBERMOUTH.NET story or review, you must be logged in to an active personal account on Facebook. Once you're logged in, you will be able to comment. User comments or postings do not reflect the viewpoint of BLABBERMOUTH.NET and BLABBERMOUTH.NET does not endorse, or guarantee the accuracy of, any user comment. To report spam or any abusive, obscene, defamatory, racist, homophobic or threatening comments, or anything that may violate any applicable laws, use the "Report to Facebook" and "Mark as spam" links that appear next to the comments themselves. To do so, click the downward arrow on the top-right corner of the Facebook comment (the arrow is invisible until you roll over it) and select the appropriate action. You can also send an e-mail to blabbermouthinbox(@) with pertinent details. BLABBERMOUTH.NET reserves the right to "hide" comments that may be considered offensive, illegal or inappropriate and to "ban" users that violate the site's Terms Of Service. Hidden comments will still appear to the user and to the user's Facebook friends. If a new comment is published from a "banned" user or contains a blacklisted word, this comment will automatically have limited visibility (the "banned" user's comments will only be visible to the user and the user's Facebook friends).