Jack Russell on his home in Redondo Beach. Photo by Jaymz Eberly (EberlyPhoto.com)
You don’t know Jack!
What you know about Jack Russell: You know the very popular 1987 MTV video, “Once Bitten, Twice Shy,” by Great White. “I hated that song — I don’t know why that was a hit,” he says, preferring ‘Rock Me’ instead. He’s struggled with drugs and alcohol his whole life, yet he’s now 5 months sober.
You may know about the tragic 2003 fire during a Great White concert in a small Rhode Island club, killing 100 people, including Ty Longley, the band’s guitarist of three years.
And you may also know that Russell and former band members recently engaged in a legal battle over the “Great White” trademark. “I founded the band in 1978…. Obviously, I’m not gonna go down without a fight. This is my baby. This is my vision, my creation. This is my whole life’s work.”
What you don’t: He’s a local. He lives in Redondo Beach, on a 45-foot yacht. He married the nurse who cared for him for 7 months. He lives with Heather on the boat, and he’s a SCUBA diver. “One of the best places I’ve dove is Bahia delos Angeles, 400 miles south of the border on the Cortez side…. I fish for Mako sharks…. The sea is my church…. I’m really a normal guy. I’m not a rock star 24/7. I smell like fish and diesel fuel. I fix my own stuff. I work on my own boat.”
Russell, now 51, grew up influenced by singers Robert Plant and Steven Tyler. He became a vocalist for many bands in his high school and early-performing years. “Before I wanted to become a rock star, I wanted to be an archeologist. And now I’m a dinosaur.”
He reports that when he was six his parents gave him the Beatles “HELP” album. “I heard it, and I was like, this is what I’m gonna be.” So he wasn’t surprised when he heard his song “Out of the Night” on KMET radio for the first time at age 21.
Things he’s lost: He’s lost 5 inches of height due to 20 years of prednisone use, compressing his spine. “I used to be 5’ 11. I’ve [also] lost a couple of stupidly high notes, stuff I haven’t used since I was a kid, like in the early ‘80s where it was cool to sing as high as you possibly could . . . notes only the dogs could hear.
“I just lost a good friend of mine to this disease [alcoholism],Jani Lanefrom Warrant, who died the same day [August 11, 2011] I had my surgery to repair a shattered pelvis. I was dead. I died. I was flat-lined on the table from sepsis from a bowel perforation. I was in a coma for 5 days. . . . Steven Tyler from Aerosmith called me a couple days later and said, ‘Dude, what are you doing?’ He’s always been my sober coach. That really woke me up. I’m just so happy to be sober.”
"Hey! We're on a boat!" (Jack and Anna Cox) Photo by Jaymz Eberly
What he wants you to know: “Being a decent human being, good songwriter, good singer, just a loving, caring person — that’s what I want to be known for.”
Though he last played a show in August 2010, plans are for a global tour starting this February playing “mostly just classic Great White, some solo stuff…. We’re going all over the world. We’ve got offers from Europe,Australia,Japan,South America. I’m excited about this.”
Now fully recovered from his recent medical setbacks, Russell has given his new, reconstituted band a slightly different name to avoid confusion with the old group – Great White, featuring Jack Russell. “Right now I think the biggest misconception is that I’m not ready to go back on the road…. [But] you can tell I’m not crippled here. The rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated. I’m lucid. I’m sober. I feel great. I am ready to go back on the road…. Once people see me on stage, they’ll go, ‘Oh, well, there you go.’”
The show: Jack Russell and his new band lineup will be playing at Delzano’s Saturday, Jan. 14, at 11:45 p.m. Get there early. This annual event, featuring 13 live bands plus comedy and karaoke at Delzano’s, Naja’s Place and Louie Luey’s, begins at 3 p.m. and is presented by the National Association of Music Merchants, and Rock-n-Roll GangStar apparel. Free before 8 p.m., $5 after. 21 and over. There’ll be a “grip n grin” [autograph time] after the show. “It’s great to be playing in my old neighborhood. It’s awesome…. If there was a slip, I could drive my boat up and make a real [grand] entrance.”