MARICOPA — As a teen practicing guitar in his garage in the 1970s, Great White lead guitarist Mark Kendall would often fantasize that he was performing in front of large audiences and giving media interviews.
Years later, when Great White produced their first hit, “Rock Me,” that fantasy became reality.
“It was a surreal moment,” Kendall said. “The things I dreamed about as a kid came true. We played at the forum, gave media interviews, and the rolling never stopped.”
Grammy-nominated hard rockers Great White, known for their 1980s-era hits “Rock Me,” “Once Bitten, Twice Shy” and “Save Your Love,” will perform Sept. 6 at Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino.
Slaughter — known for their ’80s-era hard-rock songs “Stick It to Ya” and “Up All Night” — will also perform at the same show.
After 35 years of performing, Kendall said he still plays with the same passion he had as a teen and promises a show full of energy and intensity.
“When we’re on stage, we’re out to impress — not just entertain — we want people walking away feeling that they had a great time and got their money’s worth,” he said.
The show at Harrah’s will include much of the music fans expect to hear, Kendall said.
“We have a lot more music to pick from when we play now,” he said. “We try to bring the crowd into the show right away and make them feel a part of the show. We give them everything they expect and more. We even do some extended jams where even we don’t know where it will go.”
Over the years, Great White has sold more than 10 million albums worldwide, produced six Top 100 Billboard hits, nine Top 200 Billboard albums, two platinum albums and clocked the top of MTV four times.
Their music ranges from blues-inspired hard rock songs to ballads.
Kendall’s favorite Great White song to play for fans is the band’s first hit, “Rock Me.”
“I liked it as soon as we heard it played back after recording it. You never know if a song is going to be a hit, but I liked it then and I still like it now. I’ve never gotten bored with it,” Kendall said.
Members of Great White currently include Kendall, a founding band member on guitars; Audie Desbrow, drums; Michael Lardie, guitar and keyboard; Scott Snyder, bass; and Mitch Malloy on lead vocals.
Kendall began performing professionally in Southern California in the late 1970s with several bands he started.
“In those early days, we played as much as we possibly could, any chance we got,” Kendall said. “We did our own show promotion. We each had a staple gun and we’d take a stack of flyers and hang them up everywhere, on telephone poles and wherever we could find.”
Kendall was performing in a band called Dante Fox with fellow Great White founder Jack Russell when, in 1982, they recorded their first EP, “Out of the Night.”
While one song on the album had some success and radio time, Kendall said the band was “not being true to itself” at the time.
“We were still trying to find ourselves,” he said. “My musical preferences were more on the bluesy side. Our drummer was into heavy metal and our keyboardist was into Billy Joel. By our second album, those influences were incorporated into our music and that album did much better.”
Dante Fox changed its name to Great White and the band went on to create 11 more albums and produce several hits.
Growing up in a musical family, Kendall had a love of music long before he was in a successful band.
“My mother was a jazz singer and my father played jazz trumpet. My grandfather played piano,” he said. “But it was hard for them to make a living through music. My father laid down his trumpet when he was 38 and became a businessman to support his family.”
Kendall began playing the guitar as a child and by the time he was 12, he regularly performed in school talent shows, pulling his amps to the school in a wagon.
His early guitar influences were The Doors, Jimi Hendrix and Santana.
“I love the guitar but I love melody too. I’m almost jealous of the singers because I want to do the beautiful and memorable things they do with their voice,” he said. “That’s always in my mind when working on a song.”
While music is still a big part of Kendall’s life, he said, he’s also passionate about helping people recover from addiction.
“I got sober 11 years ago. About three years ago I was posting on Facebook — we have fans who follow our page on Facebook to see where we’re playing — and I thought I should use this to reach out to people and help the ones who are suffering from addiction,” he said.
He posted a message encouraging people to contact them for support or encouragement if they were struggling with addiction. Since then, more than 118 people have contacted him.
“I’m not offering miracles and I’m not promoting a 12-step program or rehab,” he said. “I’ve helped some people one-on-one and I send them meditation and prayer guides.”
Those who would like a few words of encouragement from Kendall may reach him through the Great White Facebook page.
The band is also associated with one of the deadliest nightclub fires. The Station nightclub fire occurred Feb. 20, 2003, in West Warwick, Rhode Island, killing 100 people, including Great White guitarist Ty Longley and injuring 230. According to investigators, the fire was caused by pyrotechnics, which ignited flammable acoustic foam in the walls and ceilings surrounding the stage.
Kendall declined to discuss the incident or take questions on the subject.
Great White and Slaughter have been traveling together for double-billing shows for several months. Current members of Slaughter include lead vocalist, guitarist and founding member Mark Slaughter, bass guitarist Dana Strum, lead guitarist Jeff Blando and drummer Zoltan Chaney.
The show begins at 8 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 6. Doors open at 7 p.m. Ticket prices start at $34 and are available online at ticketmaster.com.