White Lion History
Fighting to survive
After moving from Denmark to New York in 1983, vocalist Mike Tramp (ex-Mabel,ex-Studs) met Brooklyn guitarist Vito Bratta (ex-Dreamer) and decided to form a band. The two recruited drummer Nicki Capozzi and bassist Felix Robinson (formerly of Angel) and named the group White Lion.
White Lion was signed by Elektra Records in 1984 and recorded their debut Fight to Survive. However, Elektra was unhappy with the final recording, and after refusing to release the album, terminated their contract.
Both Capozzi and Robinson soon left the band. Nicki Capozzi was replaced by former Anthrax drummer Greg D’Angelo, and Felix Robinson was replaced by bassist Dave Spitz (brother of Anthrax guitarist Dan Spitz). Within a month of joining, however, Dave Spitz left to play bass with Black Sabbath and was replaced by James LoMenzo.
The album Fight to Survive was eventually re-recorded with new line-up & picked up by RCA and released in Japan in 1984. The small US independent label Grand Slam records finally released Fight To Survive in the US on November 9, 1985. A few months later, Grand Slam records went bankrupt.
In early 1986, White Lion, with a fictitious “female” member, had a brief part in the Tom Hanks/Shelley Long movie The Money Pit.
The road to success
Early in 1987, the band was signed by Atlantic Records (which ironically is a sister label to Elektra) and on June 21, 1987, their breakthrough album, Pride, was released. The first single, “Wait”, was released on June 1, 1987, but did not make waves for nearly seven months.
The Pride tour started in July 1987 as White Lion opened for Ace Frehley’s 80s band Frehley’s Comet. The next year and a half was filled with constant touring, opening for such bands as Aerosmith, Ozzy Osbourne, Stryper, KISS and in January 1988 White Lion landed the opening slot for AC/DC on their Blow Up Your Video American tour.
While touring with AC/DC, the Pride album and “Wait” single finally charted, due in no small part to MTV airing the “Wait” music video in regular rotation – nearly seven months after the single’s release. “Wait” hit #8 on the singles chart, while Pride hit #11 on the album charts. Pride would remain on the top 200 Billboard album charts for a full year.
In August 1988, the album’s second single “Tell Me” hit #58. Around the time this single was released, White Lion played at the Ritz club in New York City. Like Guns N’ Roses, Great White and a few others before them, White Lion’s show at the Ritz was filmed and later aired on MTV.
The Pride album’s third single, a gentle acoustic ballad titled “When the Children Cry”, made it all the way to #3 with heavy MTV rotation, making Pride one of about 20 hard rock albums to ever have multiple top 10 hits.
The success of “When the Children Cry” would eventually push sales of Pride over the two million mark. In addition, Vito Bratta was recognized for his instrumental talents by racking up Best New Guitarist awards with both Guitar World magazine and Guitar For The Practicing Musician magazine.
In the spring of 1989, the Pride tour finally ended, but rather than take a break, they instead chose to record the next album, a decision the group later came to regret due to the effects of fatigue from heavy touring on the final product.
Life after MTV
In August 1989, White Lion released their third album, Big Game, a musically eclectic follow-up to Pride that featured the singles “Little Fighter” (which peaked at #52), “Cry for Freedom” (did not chart), and a cover of Golden Earring’s “Radar Love” (which peaked at #59). The album quickly went gold, but without a hit single, slowly declined, with a peak of #19 on the album charts.
After two years of writing and recording, the new album, Mane Attraction was released. During the recording sessions for this album, their record company allowed the band to make exactly the album they wanted to. As a result, the album is usually viewed as a mixed effort, where the band is trying to do too many things at once. The album charted at #61. This may also be due to the general public’s shifting tastes towards grunge.
Greg D’Angelo and James LoMenzo left the band soon after the album’s release, citing “musical differences”, but White Lion carried on with bassist Tommy T-Bone Caradonna and drummer Jimmy DeGrasso (Megadeth, Alice Cooper, Suicidal Tendencies, Y&T, Fiona). After briefly touring in support of Mane Attraction, Tramp and Bratta decided to call it a day, their last show being held in Boston at the Channel in September 1991.