Jack White Biography
Last updated: 05/01/2012 12:00:00 PM
Jack White (born John Anthony Gillis; July 9, 1975), often credited as Jack White III, is an American musician, record producer, and occasional actor, best known as the guitarist and lead vocalist for The White Stripes.
During the 1990s, White was a part-time musician in various underground bands in Detroit, while working by day as an upholsterer. White formed The White Stripes in 1997 with his ex-wife Meg White. The band went on to have a string of critically acclaimed albums, with their third, White Blood Cells, catapulting them to international stardom. He was ranked #17 on Rolling Stone's list of "The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time". White's popular and critical success with The White Stripes enabled him to collaborate as a solo artist with other renowned musicians, such as Beck, The Rolling Stones, Jeff Beck, Alicia Keys, Bob Dylan and Loretta Lynn, whose 2004 album Van Lear Rose he produced and performed on. In 2005, White became a founding member of the rock band The Raconteurs. In 2009, he became a founding member of his third group, The Dead Weather.
Childhood and early life
Of Scottish-Canadian and Polish descent, White, the youngest of ten children (seven sons, three daughters), was born in Detroit, Michigan, the son of Teresa and Gorman Gillis. His father and mother worked for the Archdiocese of Detroit, as the maintenance man and the Cardinal's secretary, respectively. White eventually became an altar boy, which landed him an uncredited role in the 1987 movie The Rosary Murders, filmed mainly at Holy Redeemer parish in southwest Detroit. As a child he was a fan of classical music.
Jack White began playing instruments (a drum) at the age of five. White grew up in a lower middle-class neighborhood in southwest Detroit. His musical preferences were not those of his classmates, who listened to electronica and hip hop. White, as a teenager, was already listening to the blues and 1960s rock that would influence him in The White Stripes, Son House and Blind Willie McTell being among his favorite blues musicians. He and his childhood friend, Dominic Suchyta, would listen to records in White's attic on weekends and began to record cover songs on an old 4-track reel to reel. At the time White was described as "a kid with short hair and braces". He has said in many interviews that Son House's "Grinnin In Your Face" to be his favorite song of all time.
In 2005 on 60 Minutes, White told Mike Wallace that his life could have turned out differently. "I'd got accepted to a seminary in Wisconsin, and I was gonna become a priest, but at the last second I thought, 'I?ll just go to public school... I had just gotten a new amplifier in my bedroom, and I didn?t think I was allowed to take it with me." At 15, White began a three-year upholstery apprenticeship with a family friend, Brian Muldoon. After working in various shops, White started a one-man business of his own, called Third Man Upholstery. The slogan of his business was "Your Furniture's Not Dead" and the color scheme was yellow and black ? including a yellow van, a yellow and black uniform and a yellow clipboard. While Third Man Upholstery never lacked business, White claims that it was not profitable, due to his complacency about money and his business practices that were perceived as unprofessional, including making bills out in crayon and writing poetry inside the furniture. Shortly thereafter, White landed his first professional gig as the drummer for the Detroit band Goober & the Peas. He also played in other local bands and also did solo shows. One memorable show circa 1994 was an opening slot for the band nova ovens at a coffee shop by the name of Planet Ant in Hamtramck. During this show he played a Silvertone Amp-in-Case Guitar and stomping out the rhythm on the small wooden stage.
The White Stripes
Main article: The White Stripes
At the O2 Wireless Festival in 2007
White formed The White Stripes along with Meg White in 1997. The band began its career as part of the Michigan garage rock underground music scene, playing with local bands such as Bantam Rooster, The Dirtbombs, The Paybacks, Rocket 455, and The Henchmen, among others. In 1998, The White Stripes were signed to Italy Records, a small and independent Detroit-based garage punk label, by Dave Buick. The band released its self-titled debut album in 1999, and a year later the album was followed up by the cult classic De Stijl. The album eventually peaked at #38 in Billboard Magazine's Top Independent Albums when the band had established their popularity.
In 2001 the band released White Blood Cells. The album's stripped-down garage rock sound drew critical acclaim in the UK and soon afterward in the US, making The White Stripes one of the more acclaimed bands of 2002. The album was followed up in 2003 by the commercially. and critically successful Elephant. Allmusic wrote that the album "sounds even more pissed-off, paranoid and stunning than its predecessor ... darker and more difficult than White Blood Cells. " The album's first single, "Seven Nation Army, " is the band's most successful to date.
The band's fifth album, Get Behind Me Satan, was recorded in White's own home and marked a change in the band's musical direction, with piano-driven melodies and experimentation with marimba and a more rhythm based guitar playing by White. The band also released Aluminium, an avant-garde orchestral album containing past music written by White. The band's sixth album, Icky Thump, released in 2007, entered the UK Albums Chart at number one and debuted at number two on the Billboard 200. The album's sound also included more punk, garage and blues influences than its predecessor. In late 2007, the band announced the cancellation of 18 tour dates due to Meg White's acute anxiety problems.
White has revealed plans to release a seventh, as of yet untitled album in the summer of 2009. The band also made their first live appearance since Meg's anxiety problems in September 2007 on the final episode of Late Night with Conan O'Brien on February 20, 2009.
A documentary, The White Stripes: Under Great White Northern Lights, about the band's 2007 tour, in which they played a gig in every Canadian province and territory, is expected to close the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival.
In July 2007, The White Stripes made history by playing the shortest concert ever by only playing one note, in St John's, Newfoundland. They played a full show later that night at the Mile One Centre in downtown St. John's.
It was rumored that in 2003 White was featured on Electric Six's song "Danger! High Voltage". Both he and the Electric Six denied this, and the vocal work was credited officially to John S O'Leary. However, a recent radio interview with Tim Shaw on Kerrang! 105.2 in the UK had Electric Six lead singer Dick Valentine talking openly about White singing on this song as well as speculating on the amount of money he was paid ($60,000). Also, a Q magazine article stated that Jack White did in fact work with Electric Six on the song "Gay Bar".
Brendan Benson and Jack White
Main article: The Raconteurs
White formed The Raconteurs in 2005 along with Brendan Benson, Jack Lawrence and Patrick Keeler. The origin of the band was the song 'Steady, As She Goes' which White wrote along with Benson. This inspired them to create a full band with the addition of Lawrence and Keeler. The band came together in Detroit during 2005 and, for the remainder of the year, recorded when time allowed. The band's debut album Broken Boy Soldiers was recorded at Benson's home in Detroit. The band set out on tour to support the album, including eight dates as the opening act for Bob Dylan. The band released its second album, Consolers of the Lonely and its first single "Salute Your Solution" simultaneously in 2008. The tour included shows at Lollapallooza at Grant Park in Chicago, the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, Bonnaroo Music Festival, Austin City Limits Music Festival, T in the Park in Scotland, Oxegen festival in Ireland and The Open'er Festival in Poland. The album received a Grammy nomination for Best Rock Album.
The Dead Weather
Main article: The Dead Weather
Jack White and Alison Mosshart performing live with The Dead Weather at the Glastonbury Festival, June 26, 2009.
In early 2009, Jack White formed a new group called The Dead Weather with The Kills frontwoman Alison Mosshart. White takes drum and vocal duties, while The Raconteurs bassist Jack Lawrence and Queens of the Stone Age guitarist Dean Fertita round the four piece out.
The group debuted a handful of new tracks on March 11, 2009 in Nashville from their debut album "Horehound, " due July 13, 2009 in Europe and July 14, 2009 in North America, on White's Third Man Records label.
In 2008, White collaborated with Alicia Keys on the song "Another Way to Die", the theme song for the James Bond film Quantum of Solace.
In 2009 Jack White was featured in "It Might Get Loud", a film in which he, Jimmy Page, and The Edge come together to discuss the electric guitar and each artists' unique playing methods. White's first solo single, "Fly Farm Blues" was written and recorded in ten minutes during the filming of the movie, in August 2009. The single went on sale as a 7-inch vinyl record from Third Man Records and as a digital single available through iTunes on August 11.
Musical equipment and sound
Jack White uses numerous effects to create his live sound, most notably a Digitech Whammy WH-1 to create the rapid modulations in pitch he uses in his solos. The guitars he uses live are two 1965 JB Hutto Montgomery Airlines (one which he received from a fan), y, a three pickup Airline Town & Country, a Harmony Rocket, a 1970s-era Crestwood Astral II, 1950s-era Kay Hollowbody, a Gretsch White Penguin(as seen in the music video for Icky Thump), and a custom Gretsch Rancher Falcon acoustic guitar. When playing with the Raconteurs, White usually plays two custom Gretsch-styled copies of the Duo Jet double-cutaway guitar, one of which, dubbed the Triple Jet, is his main guitar that is made of copper and features a Gretsch logo from 1912. For their first tour, Jack also played Gretsch Anniversary Jr. w/ Bigsby with three Filtertron pickups. He also uses a Gretsch Rancher acoustic guitar and he now uses a custom Gretsch Anniversary Jr. with two cutaways, a built-in retractable microphone, and a theremin next to the Bigsby. Jack has dubbed this one the "Triple Green Machine". Also, he plays occasionally with his Gretsch Rancher, a Gibson J-160E. Also, he plays a Gretsch Duo Jet in Cadillac Green. Recently, he has featured his latest Gretsch, a custom white Billy Gibbons/Bo Diddley signature Gretsch Jupiter Thunderbird in the music video for "Another Way to Die", this guitar is also used on his concerts with The Dead Weather. He has also been known to play a variety of Fender Telecasters, featuring one in the music video for Loretta Lynn's "Portland, Oregon. "
In concert with an MXR Micro-Amp and custom Electro-Harmonix Big Muff Distortion/Sustainer, White can produce a very distinctive sound. In 2005, for the single "Blue Orchid", White employed the use of a new Electro-Harmonix creation, the Polyphonic Octave Generator (POG). Similar to (but more versatile than) the Whammy IV, the POG lets the user mix in several octave effects into one along with the dry signal. He also has three Zvex Tremolo Probes, that are hand painted black. All of the pedals that he uses live have been professionally painted red to match his red/black/white color scheme (with the exception of his Whammy and the other pedals that are already red). He plugs this setup into a 1970s Fender Twin Reverb and two 100-Watt Sears Silvertone 6x10 combo amplifiers. With the Raconteurs, he has many more unusual pedals. And also, for the Raconteurs' 2008 tour, he had all of his pedals copper plated by Analogman.
White also produces a "fake" bass tone by playing the Kay Hollowbody and JB Hutto Montgomery Airline guitars through a Whammy IV set to one octave down for a very thick, low, rumbling sound, which he uses most notably on the songs "Seven Nation Army" and "The Hardest Button to Button" during live performances.
On occasion, White also plays other instruments, such as a Black Gibson F-4 mandolin ("Little Ghost"), piano (on most tracks from Get Behind Me Satan, and various others), an electric piano on such tracks as "The Air Near My Fingers" and "I'm Finding it Harder to be a Gentleman", and finally the Moog Little Phatty on tracks like Icky Thump. White also plays percussion instruments such as the marimba (as on "The Nurse"), drums and tambourine. On Broken Boy Soldiers, he is credited as playing the album's synths and organ; however, bandmate Brendan Benson also received credit for these instruments and it is unclear who played on which song.
White plays power chords with a different technique than most musicians. Instead of using his ring finger to fret the higher notes, Jack uses his little finger. This is because of a car accident in which his left index finger was injured and also the fact that his brothers would never teach him the proper way to do so, which he explains in an appearance with the Raconteurs on the show In the Attic.
Drummer Meg White is Jack White's ex-wife.
White gives few interviews and reveals few details of his private life. He states that he does not consider it relevant to his art, saying "It's the same thing as asking Michelangelo, 'What kind of shoes do you wear?'...In the end, it doesn't really matter ... the only thing that's going to be left is our records and photos."
A topic of intrigue has been the actual relationship between Jack and Meg White. In early interviews, the pair presented themselves as siblings, two of ten. The Flaming Lips touch on this in their song "Thank You Jack White (for the Fiber-Optic Jesus That You Gave Me)" released on their 2003 EP Fight Test. However, the Detroit Free Press produced copies of both a marriage license and divorce certificate, confirming Jack and Meg's history as a married couple. Neither addresses the truth officially and over time, they have become less verbal about the origins of their relationship. Jack White has said, though, that siblings are "mated for life", and thus such relationships distract less from the music.
In the early 1990s, Meg White worked as a bartender at Memphis Smoke, a bar in downtown Royal Oak (a Detroit suburb), where she first met musician/songwriter John Anthony "Jack" Gillis. They were married on September 21, 1996 and were divorced on March 24, 2000. In his characteristically unorthodox fashion, Gillis took her last name.
White is often called eccentric. For instance, he has an obsession with the number three. On November 7, 2005, it was widely reported that White had changed his name to "Three Quid" (quid is British slang for pound sterling). However, most reports indicated that this would only last until the end of the tour. When asked about this in a UK radio interview, he claimed that "it's all a money thing... it's all about money".
On December 13, 2003, White was involved in an altercation with Jason Stollsteimer (lead singer of The Von Bondies) at the Magic Stick, a Detroit club. White was charged with misdemeanor aggravated assault. He pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of assault and battery, and was fined $750 (including court costs), and was sentenced to take anger management classes.
In 2003, White made his acting debut in Mutant Swinger from Mars, and had a brief but highly publicized romantic relationship with actress Ren?e Zellweger, whom he met during the filming of Cold Mountain. That summer, the couple were in a car accident in which White broke his left index finger and was forced to reschedule much of the summer tour. He posted the footage of his finger surgery on the web for fans. White and Zellweger's breakup became public in December 2004.
White met British model Karen Elson (twin sister of Kate Elson) when she appeared in The White Stripes music video for "Blue Orchid". The video's director, Floria Sigismondi, noted "you sensed an energy between them". They married on June 1, 2005 in Manaus, Brazil. The wedding took place in a canoe on the Amazon River and was officiated by a shaman. A Roman Catholic priest later blessed the ceremony. Manager Ian Montone was the best man and Meg White was the maid of honor. Official wedding announcements stated that "it was the first marriage" for both. On May 2, 2006, the couple had a daughter, Scarlett Teresa White. Their second child, Henry Lee White, was born on August 7, 2007. In the announcement, White's publicist confirmed that the children's last name was White, not Gillis. The surname caused a minor stir among fans and in the media; considering the origin of the White name is Jack's first wife/ex-wife The White family all reside in Nashville, Tennessee. where Elson manages vintage clothes store Venus & Mars.
In 2006, it was revealed in the Sunday Times Rich List that White and his British wife Elson had a joint fortune of at least ?20 million (US$37 million). This ranked them at seventh place in the list of entertainers under age 30 who were born or live in the United Kingdom, ahead of the likes of Orlando Bloom and Kate Winslet.
The White Stripes dress only in red, white, and black.
Cold Mountain (2003)
"Sittin' on Top of the World" (Walter Vinson; Lonnie Chatmon)
"Never Far Away"
"Christmas Time Will Soon Be Over"
"Great High Mountain"
"Here Comes the Fuzz" (2003) ? with Freeway, Nikka Costa and Mark Ronson - from the album Here Comes the Fuzz by Mark Ronson
Van Lear Rose (2004) ? Loretta Lynn
"Little Red Shoes" (also wrote)
"Go It Alone" (2005) ? from the Beck album Guero
"Another Way to Die" (2008) ? with Alicia Keys
"Loving Cup" (2008) ? with The Rolling Stones on Shine a Light movie and album
"My House Of Peace" (2009) ? Rachelle Garniez
"The Wind Did Move/Last Kind Words" (2009) ? with Dexter Romweber Duo
"Bohemian Grove/Atheist Funeral" (2009) - Dan Sartain
"Fly Farm Blues" (2009) - Solo
The White Stripes (1999) ? the White Stripes
De Stijl (2000) ? the White Stripes
Soledad Brothers (2000) ? Soledad Brothers
White Blood Cells (2001) ? the White Stripes
Lack of Communication (2001) ? the Von Bondies
Do Rabbits Wonder? (2003) ? Whirlwind Heat
Elephant (2003) ? the White Stripes
Van Lear Rose (2004) ? Loretta Lynn
Get Behind Me Satan (2005) ? the White Stripes
Red and Black EP (2005) ? the Muldoons
Sewed Soles (2005) ? The Greenhornes
Broken Boy Soldiers (2006) ? the Raconteurs
Icky Thump (2007) ? the White Stripes
Consolers of the Lonely (2008) ? the Raconteurs
Horehound (2009) ? the Dead Weather
The Wind Did Move/Last Kind Words (2009) ? Dexter Romweber Duo
I Like My Mice (Dead)/Spider Bite (2009) ? Mildred And The Mice
My House Of Peace (2009) ? Rachelle Garniez
Bohemian Grove/Atheist Funeral (2009) - Dan Sartain
C'Mon And Ride/After Party (2009) - Transit
Fly Farm Blues (2009) - Solo
The Rosary Murders (1987) ? uncredited altar boy
Mutant Swinger from Mars (2003) - Mikey
Cold Mountain (2003) ? Georgia
Coffee and Cigarettes (2003) ? Himself
The Fearless Freaks (2005) ? Himself
Walk Hard (2007) ? Elvis Presley
Shine a Light (2008) ? Himself
It Might Get Loud (2009) ? Himself
The Observer, "What's eating Jack?", an interview with the band by Andrew Perry
Sullivan, Denise (2004). The White Stripes: Sweethearts of the Blues. Backbeat Books. ISBN 0-87930-805-2 Google Print Retrieved on June 1, 2006
Jack White interview on upholstery, from The Believer magazine
The Onion A. V. Club interview