Whitesnake began as Deep Purple was crashing. Singer David Coverdale had joined, replacing the group's signature wailer, Ian Gillian. Guitarist Ritchie Blackmore, not liking the direction the group was taking, decided to quit and form Rainbow. He was replace by ex-James Gang guitarist Tommy Bolin. But this "replacement parts" line-up didn't last long. Deep Purple called it a day after an awful U.K. tour in March of '76.
A short time later Coverdale recorded a solo album chock full of ballads and called it "Whitesnake." The album didn't do much except give Coverdale an excuse to start a band. The original Whitesnake plodded along for awhile. Then Deep Purple organist Jon Lord joined. Less than a year later Ian Paice, also from Deep Purple, was installed on drums. Finally, they made a dent in the UK and the rest of Europe with the "Come An' Get It" album.
But by the end of '81 band friction had brought Whitesnake to a halt. But Coverdale was nothing if not persistent. He reformed the band but with Paice out (he left to join guitarist Gary Moore) and former Rainbow drummer Cozy Powell in. Powell's tenure was short-lived. He split to join Greg Lake and Keith Emerson in the lackluster Emerson, Lake and Powell (replacing original drummer Carl Palmer). Also, Mel Galley was added on guitar while Colin "Bomber" Hodgkinson handled bass. This line-up, which also included Lord and guitarist Mickey Moody, recorded "Saints and Sinners" in '82. That album contained the original version of "Here I Go Again"
Of course, nothing could go smoothly. The following year, Moody and Hodgkinson left. Neil Murray returned. He'd been the group's original bass player but had left during the band's temporary break up in '81. Also joining was ex-Thin Lizzy guitarist John Sykes. Need a scorecard? Sykes would, for a brief period, serve as Coverdale's main songwriting partner.
Just as "Slide It In" was about to be released in the U.S., Jon Lord departed to participate in the re-formed Deep Purple. While on tour the following year Powell, who'd returned, left again and was replaced by journeyman drummer Aynsley Dunbar, a former member of Journey.
During '86 recording sessions Coverdale had trouble with his voice. It turned out to be a deviated septum which needed an operation. Once recovered, he worked with Heart's Mark Andes and Denny Carmassi but nothing came of it. However, a short time later Coverdale came roaring back with "Whitesnake" which he co-composed with Sykes. This album contained a re-recorded version of the "life on the road" song "Here I Go Again" and "Is This Love." With major success just around the corner Coverdale decided it was time to assemble a new band for touring.
"Slip Of The Tongue," with "Fool For Your Loving" rolled out in '89 and was another commercial success. And that more or less concluded the Whitesnake story. A Greatest Hits package and "Coverdale and Whitesnake" was released. Coverdale briefly linked with Jimmy Page for "Coverdale/Page" but Page did a whole lot better with his former Led Zep partner Robert Plant.
Spanning nearly fifteen years Whitesnake sold a few million records/CDs and created a handful of memorable songs. But Whitesnake's greatest legacy was keeping washouts from other groups employed just a little bit longer. Anything that postpones the need for a day job is always welcome.
There was renewed activity in '06 when Coverdale announced that the group had signed with Steamhammer/SPV Records. A double album "Live: In The Shadow Of The Blues," mined material recorded since the group's '03 reformation. There were also a handful of studio tracks.
The following year, Whitesnake released a dual CD/DVD titled "1987 20th Anniversary Collector's Edition" to mark the 20th anniversary of the group's mega-selling self-titled album. Then the band announced that drummer Chris Frazier had replaced Tommy Aldridge.
Returning to the studio, "Good To Be Bad," landed in '08.
Whitesnake made news in '10, but probably not the good kind, when it was announced that bassist Uriah Duffy (a member since '05) and drummer Chris Frazier (in since '07) had quit. "Whitesnake wish Uriah and Chris every success in pursuing their individual musical careers and express their sincere gratitude for the exceptional contribution they both made to the legacy of the band," the remaining group members said in a statement. The group replaced Frazier with veteran drummer Brian Tichy, who bailed in '13 to work full-time on Something Unto Nothing (S.U.N), his band with singer Sass Jordan.
At this point Coverdale took a big step back - literally.
His tenure in the post-"Machine Head" incarnation of Deep Purple wasn't a high point for either party. So it was a bit odd that Whitesnake's 12th studio effort, "The Purple Album," was a re-imagination of songs from that era. Maybe Coverdale thought he could get it right the second time around.
1980 Ready An' Willing
1981 Come An' Get It
1982 Saints & Sinners
1984 Slide It In
1989 Slip Of The Tongue
1997 Restless Heart
2008 Good To Be Bad
2015 The Purple Album
Many early Metal fans, located mostly in the Midwest for some reason, felt Deep Purple could run with Led Zeppelin. Some even preferred Deep Purple because they didn't let their songs 'ramble on'. But nobody ever suggested that Whitesnake was on a par with Deep Purple. That's not to imply that Whitesnake was bad, it's just that they weren't in the same league.
Whitesnake was never as popular as Coverdale hoped. And not without reason. Due to near constant personnel changes, the group's output was erratic. The one exception is "Slide It In" released in '84. It contains "Standing In The Shadow," "Give Me More Time" and "Love Ain't No Stranger." Next in line is "Whitesnake" with the pop hit "Here I Go Again." However, "Greatest Hits" captures the essential Whitesnake and does it economically.