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Portrait of a rock survivor

Meet Jack Russell's Great White

Jack Russell (center) leads Jack Russell’s Great White into Tacoma, Saturday night. Courtesy photo

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The band Great White all but invented the word "supergroup," which is remarkable given the fact that it only charted once in the U.S. That single, of course, was "Once Bitten, Twice Shy," baby, which hit #5 on Billboard and dominated the airwaves in 1989. Even that song was a cover, of a 1975 Ian Hunter single that hit #14 in the UK. The closer one looks at the history of Great White, the harder it is to establish the band's canonical musicians. Over the years, it's had more come-and-go members than Spin¨al Tap. It's probably fair to say, though, that the most memorable voice of Great White belongs to one guy: Jack Russell. Inspired by Robert Plant and Steven Tyler, the native Californian joined Mark Kendall in a band Kendall at first called Highway, then Livewire, then Wires, then Dante Fox. Kendall was a pale fellow with white hair; his friends called him Great White. That name superseded all others.

Russell was with the band he helped found for 15 years, then went solo for the album Shelter Me in 1996. He rejoined for two years, renaming the band Jack Russell's Great White in 2002. That was the incarnation that played the West Warwick, Rhode Island club The Station the night of Feb. 2, 2003, when a pyro effect gone wrong incinerated the room and killed a hundred people. In 2009, Russell quit Great White again after hurting his back in a bathroom fall, then created a touring band -- Jack Russell's Great White version 2.0 -- to distinguish it from Kendall's Great White, which kept on keepin' on by hiring a new singer after Russell's departure. Still with us? We know. It's confusing, and that, too, is in the nature of rock and roll.

Russell has teamed up with Steppenwolf member Danny Ironstone and his touring act, Legend of Steppenwolf, for a benefit show in Tacoma's intimate (500-seat) Cultura Event Center this Saturday. It's a chance to hear some of the most beloved radio blasters in the history of rock and roll -- "Born to Be Wild," "Magic Carpet Ride," and of course, "Once Bitten, Twice Shy" -- performed live. The headline acts are joined by Garden of Eden's Dan Crenshaw and Northwest bands One Sultry Day, Sin Circus and Thozz Guyzz. Tickets are cheap, and a great deal gets even better: Patrons who buy tickets online and happen to be in the military receive five dollars back at the door.

It's for a good cause, too: Thanks to Glen Bui, Steppenwolf touring guitarist and founder of the American Canine Foundation, the concert raises funds for the Auburn Valley Humane Society. In an email, Bui described the American Canine Foundation, "Throughout the years the foundation drafted animal cruelty laws to enhance existing laws in twenty-four states to increase penalties and allow for better enforcement to stop irresponsible dog ownership. We drafted amendments to Washington's Dangerous Dog law RCW 16.08.80-100 and also added language to the existing state animal cruelty law to make it illegal to sell dogs for fighting purposes."

If you miss this show, Legends of Steppenwolf plays another AVHS benefit show a week later at the Theatre at Auburn Mountainview.

Jack Russell's Great White and the Born To Be Wild Tour, 7 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 23, Cultura Event Center, 5602 S. Washington St., Tacoma, $36.18-$61.02, 253.444.2314

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