The Herald, Sharon, Pa.


June 19, 2014

Recall Long(ing)ley

Great White to play acoustic show in town

SHARON — It’s been 11 years since Ty Longley and 99 others perished in a nightclub fire in West Warwick, R.I.

The pain from that event, which spawned lengthy criminal and civil court proceedings, remains strong for many people because it was a public tragedy.

Longley’s father, Pat, does not shy away from discussing the day his 31-year-old son was taken from him.

“There isn’t two days that it doesn’t come up,” said Pat Longley, of Hartford. “It doesn’t bother me. I don’t mind talking about it. He did things to make me proud.”

While many people have blamed Ty Longley’s band, Great White for the fire – the band’s pyrotechnics touched off the blaze, which spread quickly throughout the packed nightclub – Pat Longley is not one of them. Instead, he holds the club owners and officials responsible for overseeing the safety of the building at fault.

“They’re a good bunch,” he said of his son’s former band mates. “I hold nothing against them.”

Longley keeps in contact with present and former members of Great White, and welcomes their June 27 acoustic show at the Quaker Steak and Lube, Sharon.

“I’m glad to see them coming,” said Pat Longley, who tries to catch Great White or Jack Russell’s Great White whenever they play regionally.

The show will raise money for the Ty Longley Foundation, which typically passes on $500 to $600 a year to a local charity. This year, AWARE, Mercer County’s rape crisis agency will be the recipient. Community Food Warehouse; Joshua’s Haven, Sharon; and Animal Welfare League of Trumbull County have been past recipients.

Michael Lardie, who plays guitar and keyboards in Great White, said the band has played a number of benefits over the years, but raising money for the Longley Foundation is “very personal.”

He recalled Ty Longley as “a great spirit.”

“He was just a happy dude. He was low-key. He didn’t make a big deal about getting through life.”

Ty Longley, of Sharon and Brookfield, was “always playing guitar,” and performing live was “his place to shine,” Lardie said.

Ty Longley’s style meshed seamlessly with that of Mark Kendall, the lead guitarist for Great White, and his solos were “pretty much verbatim” what Kendall had recorded, Lardie said.

Lardie said he will enjoy reuniting with Pat Longley and Pat’s daughter, Audrey Dinger.

“He is so loving and so supportive of the music his son had the opportunity to be immersed in,” Lardie said of Pat Longley.

Lardie, who co-produced, co-wrote and engineered many of the band’s best known songs, is joined in Great White by Kendall, drummer Audie Desbrow, bassist Scott Snyder and vocalist Terry Ilous. Of those musicians, only Kendall, who was close to Ty Longley, was in the band in West Warwick.

The band has parted ways with original singer Jack Russell, and the sides fought in court over ownership of the band’s name. Lardie, Kendall and Desbrow won the rights to Great White, while Russell could bill himself as Jack Russell’s Great White.

Lardie said there is no chance of reuniting with Russell.

“He’s totally out of the picture,” Lardie said.

Pat Longley said he hopes those differences can someday be patched up.

“I’d love to see them back together and I understand why they’re not,” Pat Longley said.

Ilous first sang with the band in 2009, when Russell was on a health sabbatical.

“I heard something between his singing and Mark’s guitar playing,” Lardie said. “I thought, if we ever had a chance to work with this guy, this could be interesting.”

While Russell had one of the purest voices of the ’80s hair-metal bands – many find it reminiscent of Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant – Ilous gets the band closer to the grittier, looser feel of Humble Pie and Small Faces, bands that Lardie believes Great White is musically closer to.

Lardie said he viewed hair metal generally as a more pop-oriented endeavor, while bands such as Great White, Tesla and Cinderella were stylistically closer to the aforementioned British rock bands and Zeppelin.

“I think we outlived that,” he said of hair-metal tag.

The upcoming show will feature the band’s classics, including “Rock Me,” “Save Your Love,” “House of Broken Love” and “Once Bitten, Twice Shy,” mixed with some new songs and possibly some chestnuts from before the platinum-selling days, Lardie said.

“It still has lots of energy and it still rocks,” he said of the band’s acoustic shows, noting Great White was one of the first bands to appear in MTV’s “Unplugged.” “You really get a chance to hear the song structure. It is naked and it’s bare bones and you have to really play well to get the song across.”

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