In this interview, Great White guitarist Mark Kendall, discusses their new album and why they have recently remixed the album Elation with famed studio wizard George Tutko. Kendall also discusses the early Sunset Strip rock scene, including the when he saw Van Halen in concert for the price of one dollar:
You have the live album out, as well, that was recorded at the Key Club.
The Key Club used to be called Gazzarri’s. Van Halen used to play there. It was most known for cover bands and Van Halen played covers back then. They might sneak one original in now and then, but they were mostly cover songs. It was incredible as they were the best band around. They had a big musician type following.
The first time I saw them play, they played three blocks from my house and I paid one dollar to get in. A friend of mine told me I had to check out this new guitar player. I walked to the gig and paid my one dollar. When I walked in Alex was doing a drum solo and Roth was blowing in a tube to his floor tom to make the pitch go up and down; that was my very first experience with Van Halen.
You could tell right away they were amazing. He didn’t have the whammy bar going on back then. I think he was playing a Les Paul Jr. He played outside of the box even back then. If they played a Cream song or a Robin Trower song, Eddie would play a solo his own way, with his classic sound. He could play the original solos note-for-note, but he would also do his own thing. In fact, I heard that Eddie would do the first solo just like the record, and on the second one, he would do his own Eddie type of solo. No matter what songs they covered it always sounded like Van Halen. They had something going on. It was neat to watch it grow. We were in our little band and we had a dream, but you had never seen it happen for anybody. When they got a record deal I was the happiest guy on earth, as I saw that it could really happen. It was no longer a pipe dream, as I knew if you worked hard and got out there then you could really make it happen.
Did you ever play Gazzarri’s?
I only played there one time. It was before Jack [Russel] was in the band. It was Dante Fox, but we had another singer. When I first got together with Jack, he got into a little bit of trouble and got sent off to teenager prison, if you will. When that happened, everyone took off and I had no band. I put ads out and got a bass player and I auditioned a few drummers, but they were terrible. I ended up calling my old drummer back, who was Tony Richards. He ended up being in W.A.S.P. We got rid of him later on for other reasons.
We had a chick singer in the band back then. George Lynch stole our chick singer from us. George was in a band called Exciter and he was at some club where we played and he saw her, and she was really good, and he stole her out of our band. Now, I didn’t have a singer. We got this other guy and he was good. He was like a Rob Halford type of guy. We were pretty heavy then.
They had a Sunday night gig at Gazzarri’s and we played there for that gig. It was an all original special type of gig. I only played there that one night and they actually painted a mural of me next to Eddie Van Halen, Huey Lewis and Nikki Sixx. Jim Morrison was up there too. For them to include me in that was pretty neat.
We started out playing in backyards like Van Halen did. We ended up having some originals and we wanted to bring it to Hollywood and play the Troubadour, the Whisky A Go Go and the Starwood. We played all of those places. It was the legendary Sunset Strip.