White Lion is a glam-rock band that was formed in New York City in 1983 by Danish-born vocalist Mike Tramp and guitarist Vito Bratta. Mainly active in the 1980s and early 1990s, the band achieved double platinum status, with their #3 hit "When the Children Cry". White Lion disbanded in 1992, but was reformed again by Mike Tramp in 1999 with all new musicians.
Fighting to survive
After moving from Denmark to New York in 1982, 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 1983 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 picked up by RCA and released in Japan in 1984. The small US independent label Grand Slamm 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 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 failed to chart like the last two albums, although 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.
Unlike most bands of their genre, White Lion recorded occasional songs that addressed social or political issues such as apartheid ("Cry for Freedom") and the effect of divorce on children ("Broken Home"). The song "Little Fighter" was about the Rainbow Warrior, a ship owned by the environmental group Greenpeace that was illegally destroyed by French terrorists. This concern for political and social issues was also hinted at in the cover art to their album Big Game, which featured a lion's head hidden in tall grass with the White House in the background.
After White Lion
Mike Tramp went on to form Freak of Nature. Freak of Nature released three albums, Freak of Nature, Gathering of Freaks, and Outcasts. Mike Tramp went on as a solo artist. He has released four studio albums and one live album so far; Capricorn, Recovering the Wasted Years, More To Life Than This, and Songs I Left Behind as studio efforts, with Rock n' Roll Alive as his sole live album. Today, Tramp continues his solo career, recording and releasing his own music. Through his website, fans can find media from his solo career, as well as White Lion.
James LoMenzo and Greg D'Angelo joined Zakk Wylde's band, Lynyrd Skynhead in the mid 90's which became the band Pride & Glory when Greg D'Angelo was replaced by Brian Tichy. Pride & Glory released one album, then James LoMenzo left the band. James went on to record and tour with ex-Van Halen frontman David Lee Roth and toured with Zakk Wylde's band Black Label Society. In February 2006, James joined the legendary thrash band Megadeth on a permanent basis. Greg D'Angelo was the drummer for the band AntiProduct in 2006. Greg D'angelo is also filling in on drums for Britny Fox on 2007 US/European tour since their drummer Johnny Dee is unable to tour.
Vito Bratta stayed briefly with Atlantic Records to help produce an album for CPR, and later tried to form a new music group that never panned out. Sadly, despite a very dedicated worldwide following of guitar aficionados, Vito was not seen or heard from publicly since 1994 until his interview by Eddie Trunk live on February 16, 2007.
The New White Lion and legal issues
In 1999 Mike Tramp with new musicians released Remembering White Lion also released as The Last Roar and Ultimate White Lion which featured new versions of some of White Lion's classic songs and then in October 2003, Mike Tramp announced a White Lion reunion with the original line up. This statement was quickly denied by the other former members. Later Tramp said that Vito Bratta wanted nothing to do with a reunion. With summer festivals in Europe already booked, Tramp attempted to put together a "new White Lion" featuring former members James LoMenzo, and Jimmy DeGrasso, along with Warren DeMartini of Ratt. Vito Bratta filed suit claiming partial ownership of the name, and the tour was scrapped. Tramp later revealed that despite his willingness, "There will never be an original White Lion reunion".
In 2005, with legal battles finally out of the way, Mike Tramp again organized a group of unknown musicians and named the act Tramp's White Lion. 'TWL' (White Lion 2) played White Lion songs, touring and releasing a double-live CD entitled Tramp's White Lion: Rockin' The USA. In November and December 2006, Tramp's White Lion played several dates in Europe including Sweden, Norway, Spain, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium and Denmark. The UK dates with Crimes of Passion were abandoned due to illness.
On February 16, 2007, Vito appeared on "The Eddie Trunk" radio show in New York, stating that despite what Mike Tramp said, he had never turned down any offer to reform White Lion or refused a White Lion reunion, stating that what Mike Tramp had said was not true, but, rather, that at the time Mike had approached him, Vito's father was sick and dying and he could not leave him to do a reunion tour at that time. He added that he would still be open to the idea and has not closed the door to returning to the music industry again. Trunk also made it clear that Vito's involvement in the show was something that he had wanted to happen since White Lion first broke up in 1991. Vito took calls and answered questions from fans for almost 3 hours. On Friday April 6 and 7, 2007, at the L'Amours Reunion Shows in New York (the club that made White Lion), Vito made his first public musical appearances at both Friday and Saturday night's shows in over 15 years. Mike Tramp was not present.
Three weeks later Mike Tramp called the same show from Australia, speaking about Vito and the band's new album, including the tour dates that Tramp's White Lion had recently confirmed. Tramp said that he was thankful that Vito had finally answered fan's questions, the same questions he himself had been bombarded with over the past 15 years. He also stated that he felt uncomfortable answering on Vito's behalf, and that he was upset that Vito had withdrawn himself from the music industry.
A White Lion Definitive Collection album was released in 2007. Summer of 2007 Tour featuring Tramp's White Lion opening up for Poison and Ratt was canceled after threatened legal action by Bratta caused them to be dropped by the promoter.
This threatened legal action however did not stop the band from appearing at Rocklahoma in Pryor, Ok on July 13, 2007 with Poison, Ratt, Quiet Riot, Slaughter, Y&T,Gypsy pistoleros, Dirty Penny, Greg Leon Invasion and Zendozer. After this they also toured the US. A new studio album entitled "Return of the Pride" was released on March 14, 2008 (Frontiers Records and King Records April 9th, and April 29th in North America via Airline/Sony) (Sources : melodicrock.com and frontiers.it ).