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An Open Letter To Jack Russell 

This open letter is provided by our very own Fletch. I think you will agree that this letter is thought-provoking to say the least.

An Open Letter To Jack Russell

Over the past few years, we have seen many of the greats leave us wanting more. Kevin Dubrow and Jani Lane are just two examples of enormous talents who made early curtain calls and didn't come back for their encore.  I don't want this to happen to you, too.  I don't know you, nor have I ever met you, but I have seen you and/or Great White in concert many times.  The last time I saw a "great" performance from you was in February 2003.  I wasn't at the Station Nightclub in Rhode Island, but a couple of nights prior to this tragedy, I saw you perform at The Crocodile Rock in Allentown, PA and you rocked the place! Simply though, that fire at The Station could have easily occurred at the show I attended and I most likely would have perished at that show if the pyrotechnics ignited a fire. 
It is kind of ironic that I distinctly remember Great White taking the stage and launching into "Desert Moon," when a few seconds later the pyrotechnics ignited and the sparks of flame were licking the ceiling and the walls of the stage.  After the parks went out, I rhetorically commented  to a friend, "How safe was that?" But, no fire started and I assumed, probably like most of the other attendees, that the pyrotechnics were safe. We have all gone to fire work displays. We've shot off fireworks in our backyards. We've played with sparklers as kids. We've seen KISS shows and most of all, we've been to many club shows in the 1990's-early 2000's, where it was common for many former arena bands to use pyrotechnics in their stage show.  What's the harm?  Even I thought, "No harm, no foul." 
Great White wasn't the first band to incorporate these props into their stage show, but as an avid concert attendee, I can testify, that I have not seen a band use these devices in a club since.  And, if there is anything positive to result from the Station tragedy, it's that an almost nationwide moratorium was declared on pyrotechnic displays in concert halls and clubs. 
Just a few months prior to this 2003 show, I saw W.A.S.P. perform.  At the end of their set, Blackie Lawless rolls out a metal WASP logo approximately 8 ft. by 5 ft. encased in metal tubing which was filled, presumably, with propane gas. Mr. Lawless emerges to the stage carrying a flaming tiki torch and swipes it down onto the logo thereby causing the logo to erupt in a 10 ft by 7 ft rectangle flame. This prop could have easily engulfed any particular club venue he played during that and other tours.  It is interesting that Blackie Lawless is notorious for canceling shows at the last minute and he often cites that the venue isn't capable of handling his stage props.  Yet, this is one prop that I have not seen him use inside a club since the Station fire. 
I have seen other bands pre-February 2003 shoot pyrotechnics from their overhead light fixtures, light off M80's, use the Gene Simmons fire-breathing gimmick and shoot off a wide variety of other dangerous explosives.  But, post February 2003, these gimmicks, from what I've witnessed, are virtually non-existent in clubs.  And, Jack, this is a good thing.  It was a much needed safety measure which went virtually overlooked for a long time.  The Rhode Island Station Nightclub Fire could have been prevented, but it could have easily happened to many of your band contemporaries. 
On Friday February 21, 2003, I awoke to the news of this tragedy. Visions of The Station catching on fire and people trapped inside were repeatedly broadcast on most news outlets.  I sat there in shock thinking, "That could've easily been me." As I said, I saw your show two nights prior and I was packed in like a sardine near the front of the stage.  I know that I wouldn't have been able to make it out if a fire happened then. 
What happened next is even more interesting.  The local newspaper in Allentown, PA, The Morning Call, decided to run an article about club concert safety and interviewed the owner of The Crocodile Rock.  He was specifically asked whether Great White used pyrotechnics when they performed a few nights earlier at his club.  Not only did he deny that Great White used pyrotechnics, he flat-out lied about the discussions he had with your management team.  He was quoted in the paper as saying something like this, "Great White did not use pyrotechnics in my club.  They wanted to use them, but I said no.  I knew they were dangerous, so I wouldn't allow Great White to use them."  When I read the exact quote, I was dumbfounded.  I knew this was completely false.  I saw the pyrotechnics go off in the club that night.  I was planning on contacting The Morning Call and/or writing a letter to the Editor, but the newspaper had already beaten me to the punch. 
On the night of your show, there was a Morning Call entertainment reporter at the show who was planning on writing a concert review for the week-end edition of the newspaper.  The reporter had a camera at the show and took pictures throughout your set; which included a picture of you performing with sprays of sparks on each side of the stage.  The newspaper then ran the club owner's quote denying the use pyrotechnics next to the picture of you on stage using them. 
This attempt at a cover up did not go over well with City Hall and the Allentown Fire Department.  Immediate inspections were ordered for The Crocodile Rock club and many safety improvements were ordered and subsequently implemented.  One much needed improvement was the installation of push-bar emergency exits along the wall on the south side of the stage.  These exits were not there pre-February 2003.  The club now has more security, more regulations, more lighting and it bans the use of pyrotechnics.  Sure, we might pay a higher price in ticket sales or for drinks, but in the scheme of things, it is a very small price to pay.  Moreover, many other clubs across the land took similar action and many bands decided themselves to forgo their pyrotechnic displays in small clubs.   
So, Jack, if I can give you any hope, if I can provide you with any solace, if I can report to you any good that I personally noticed, which resulted from the Station Fire, it's that many people stood up and took notice at how tragic these shows could end.  And therefore, quick and decisive steps were implemented to help ensure the safety of bands, employees and the fans.  Nowadays, each time I enter The Crocodile Rock Cafe, I look at those emergency exit doors and I think back to the time I saw you perform there in 2003.  Each time, I have to walk through the stanchions to get onto the floor in front of the stage and security stops me because I am holding a glass bottle or because the floor is too crowded, I think back to 2003.  Each time that an employee announces where the exits are and other safety precautions prior to a show starting, I think back to 2003.  Each time, Blackie Lawless cancels a gig and blames it on the venue not being able to accommodate his stage props, I know it doesn't include his flaming logo.  But also, unfortunately, every time that I have seen you perform post 2003, I see you shouldering much grief and guilt.  This is simply one outsider's perspective. 
Again, I don't know you and I don't claim to know everything that is going on in your life or in your mind.  But, I do know the devastation of The Station Nightclub tragedy and I was able to witness, firsthand, the safety parameters that were put in place in order to help prevent something like this from happening again. 
So, If I may, I would like to offer you some advice from a simple fan to a rock icon, "Stop beating yourself up, Jack, because no one else is." 
Yours truly,

Reader Comments (19)

Kudos, Fletch! Great job!
July 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKenny Ozz
Well written, Fletch! I totally agree with you, and wish Jack the best as well. Great White is a huge influence to me, and Jack's voice is one of my favorites in all of Rock history!
Fletch! Superbly written! I hope Jack reads your very healing words. Jack, we are with you. Get back with the boys and get on with the show. As Fletch points out, it's time for you to forgive yourself as others have forgiven you. The fire was not your fault.

Your voice is one of the greatest in Rock History. Use it, don't lose it!

Fletches sentiments reflect the Spirit of Rock and Roll we all need to keep with us as we journey through our lives.
July 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMetalboy!
Ipod to drive to work song of the morning ~ Original Queen of Sheba by Great White (glam enough for ya ?)
July 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGNR
To me that came across as an attack on Jack and Great White. It would make me feel like a total douche if it were sent to me.
July 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGreg
Yeah, Greg? Do you know the story? Fletch is tryin' to reach the guy. White lost his band and damned near lost his life beating himself up over that Fire.

It's time he made peace with it and realize it's time to move onward and upward but, perhaps, most important of all, clean up his act in order to get his voice back.

That's all Fletch is sayin', Bro!
July 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMetalboy!
With that fire and Dime getting shot in a club, I stopped going to club shows for a good long time. I had two baby boys at that time and thought it was stupid to risk my life to see these shows. I really have not seen any changes to any clubs I have been to since. Maybe less pyro in a club setting, but that is about it. My favorite club in Baltimore shut down after a stabbing death occurred [not during a metal show, but on the other half of the club at a dance party] and apparently their insurance went up too high.
I am not sure that any of this has anything to do with Great White. That fire was a Jack Russell show, not the band at all, and they toured since, until Jack's back pain forced him to take a break. I have no idea why he is not back in the band, but is the fire really the reason?
July 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMetal Dad / nirVrana
Nirv! Man, it's good to see your name on here again, Bro! Hope yer coming to Cindrella August 17th at Ram's Head Live up in Baltimore. Melba, that's where I met Heather and yourself, without introduction, I might add!

Anywho, you bring up a good point... Perhaps there's more than one reason for all of Jack Russell's current problems... namely, he may have become addicted to pain killers, as he claims, due to the effect of the rigors of the road and resultant chronic back pain.

He claimed on "That Metal Show", not too long ago, that he was clean but word from the road is he's still trashed and that means, unfortunately, so is his once priceless voice.

Whatever it takes to get better, Jack! And I hope Fletch's letter helps!
July 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMetalboy!
Who's Melba?! Dangin' autocorrect!

"Cinderella at Ram's Head Live, August 17th! 'Memba', that's where I first met y'all at KIX!
July 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMetalboy!
Well written Fletch !
July 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDamnp78
Well written but about a decade too late......
July 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRob Rocker
It's never too late, when it comes to wanting to help someone, Rob! Thanks again, Fletch, for a superb letter.
July 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMetalboy!
Fletch's letter (I remember a time when some on here thought I was him and he was me . . .) is clearly heartfelt. And Metalboy! and others are right to see this as a fan wanting to reach out to an artist who is, or was, tortured by demons past, or present.

I have to wonder though: Fletch, did you consider sending this to Russell directly? Or even posting it on his Great White forum?

I am not sure this is "a decade too late" or even if this actually gets at the things that are rumored to still haunt him. But reaching out through an open letter seems like a second or third step, not a first one. And if you did any of those things I mentioned above, then I apologize. But I am curious.

PS: I think Metal Dad is wrong to say this "was a Jack Russell show, not the band at all." Or perhaps I am reading him wrong or splitting hairs or missing his point. If so, again, apologies.
July 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHim
HIM, just as I thought you were HIM and FLETCH was you, I'm actually convinced ALL of the comments are coming from Fletch (just under different nom de plumes) as a ruse to keep me busy so I don't wind up panhandling on The Sunset Strip.

I actually agree with you that he should attempt to send his letter to Jack directly but may have opted for asking Al to post it here because he thought it might never get to Russell. Between handlers, web masters and Jack Russell's own denial, it would be a miracle if he ever got Fletch's message.

Here, he might actually get the chance. If, by chance, he duzn't go on he site, maybe word of mouth will send him over to read it. Let's hope so. Such a talent teetering on being wasted!
July 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMetalboy!
I had the same thought about handler. But I was curious nonetheless. And I agree about his talent and the chances it might be wasted.

Several years ago, before Russell was on the (purported) wagon, some DJ was making quite a stir playing a radio interview where Russell was in a complete haze. At one point, Russell even said he wanted to go check out Great White (that is not a mistake on my part . . . he actually stopped the DJ cold when he suggested he wanted to go see himself!). While suggesting in subsequent posts that he was "concerned about Jack," it was clear the DJ was using this as a moment to get a laugh and some notoriety. So I asked him: if you are so concerned, why are you using this as a chance to make fun of him? If you want to play it for laughs, so be it. But don't act as if you actually care about the guy. His response was defensive and to be expected.

Regardless where you fall on the JR Great White vs. Great White debate, I think most will agree that Russell seems to care about his fans. And his fans, in turn, are quite loyal. I found Fletch's letter to be an honest instance of this. So I hope he reads it. There are far too many people out there that play these things for laughs . . . until they are dead serious.

[Besides, we have "Wild" Mick Brown on a golf cart to joke about.]
July 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHim
Thank you for the feedback. I had wanted to write this letter for a very long time. Actually, I have thought about writing it each time I saw Jack Russell perform over the past several years. I actually started writing a letter in this vein a few times but always discarded it- mostly because I didn't like how it "read", but also because I thought, "Who am I to write this?".

One time, I had a letter almost completely composed, reading what most captured my thought process but the computer "blinked" without me saving it and therefore, it was lost into cyberspace. I viewed that as a "sign" to forego reaching out.

My biggest hesitation about writing and submitting this was fear of stirring up unwanted emotions and memories from those who were directly affected from the Station fire- not only the survisors, but also the loved ones of the deceased. Also, when I submitted this to Allyson, I was not requesting that it be used as a new daily entry. Instead, I sent her this letter to first get her feedback and I had recommended to post it under the comments for the America Rocks Tour 2012 entry. Even I didn't feel comfortable with writing and posting this in a comment section without first getting some assurance that it should be beneficial and healing. It was Allyson's suggestion to, instead, use this letter as a new heading, to which I agreed- but I was nevertheless braced for some backlash.

Again, I was planning on posting this in the America Rocks Tour comment section as a follow up to my last post in that category. I believed that that might have been a good place for Jack Russell to see it, as MB points out, if for no other reason, than word of mouth since people close to that tour and those bands are known to read this site and occasionally post here.

The America Rocks Tour is a great concept and a great tour. It can continue to progress and thrive and could see much more success in consecutive years, but it has been plagued with questionable performances and I didn't know what benefit there would be by writing a less-than-stellar review. So instead, I simply wanted Jack to know that there are countless, nameless fans out there who want to see him succeed and don't blame him for what happened in 2003, so maybe, he can stop blaming himself...or at the very least, "begin" to stop blaming himself.
July 13, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterfletch
Hear!, hear!, Fletch!
July 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMetalboy!
Thanks for putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) Fletch. I am sure many people have felt this way about Russell or someone else. Again, I do hope he reads it.
July 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHim
i have been a touring guitar tech since 1983 for a slew of bands. clubs arenas stadiums and back again. (not here to drop names) i am from L.A. Ive had the priveledge of watching G.W.rise to fame thru the years. i was involved in a show at perkins palace in pasadena ca, around 84 that featured one of the bands on the bill.

i still remember lugging another bands gear and hearing G.W. as they took the stage and thinking,what an incredible voice! i was familiar with mark kendall from a band called zzyzx in fhe late 70's and it was apparent G.W. were emerging as a powerhouse.

2003 was actually the 20th anniversary of my own discovery of this band. there was also a popular radio station in L.A. that featured local bands and played a single by G.W. I believe it was called "end of the line" a more upbeat rocker 4-sure. in later years i toured the U.S.with a roadie of theirs, who actually set up most of their backline and drums. on several national tours.

Jack Russell is at the sunset of his career.
i really believe,people are asking too much for a guy that has given so much already. sympathy and comforting words are all good, but lets not keep push'n. cause the expectations are just to much.

Jack,thank you for a lotta good memories. take life at your own pace, and keep your head up.
July 29, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterbongnbud

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