David Coverdale founded Whitesnake in 1978 in Middlesbrough, Cleveland, north-east England. The core line-up had been working as his backing band The White Snake Band on the White Snake (1977) album tour and they retained the title before officially being known as Whitesnake. They toured with Coverdale as his support band and for both of the solo albums he released, White Snake (1977) and Northwinds (1978), between exiting Deep Purple and founding Whitesnake. At this time, the band was made up of David Coverdale, Bernie Marsden, Micky Moody, Neil Murray and drummer David "Duck" Dowle with keyboardist Brian Johnston. Johnston would soon be replaced by Procol Harum organ player and keyboardist Pete Solley. Because of Solley's producing commitments he was replaced by the former Deep Purple keyboard player Jon Lord, during sessions for the first LP.
Early years and commercial success (1978–1983)
Whitesnake recorded the EP Snakebite, which was released in 1978 and included a cover of a Bobby "Blue" Bland song "Ain't No Love in the Heart of the City", their first hit song proving the new wave of British heavy metal could have a chart hit. The EP had some success in the UK and subsequent reissues of this EP included four bonus tracks from Coverdale's second solo album Northwinds (1978) produced by Roger Glover.
A blues rock debut album Trouble was released in the autumn of 1978 and peaked at No. 50 in the UK album charts. Whitesnake toured Europe to promote the album and their first live album Live at Hammersmith was recorded on this tour and released in Japan in 1979. Tracks from the EP Snakebite were included in a reissue of the album Trouble in 2006.
Whitesnake released Lovehunter in 1979, which courted controversy due to its risqué album cover by artist Chris Achilleos, which contained an illustration of a naked woman straddling a coiled snake. The album made the UK Top 30 and contained the minor hit "Long Way from Home", which reached No. 55 in the single charts. Shortly after that, drummer Ian Paice replaced David Dowle. giving Whitesnake three ex-Deep Purple members. The new line-up recorded the 1980 release Ready an' Willing (1980), which was a breakthrough hit for the band, reaching the UK Top 10 and becoming their first entry into the U.S. Top 100. The single "Fool for Your Loving", which the band originally wrote for B.B. King, made No. 13 in the UK single charts and No. 53 in the US, and the title track also hit No. 43 in the UK charts.
The Ready an' Willing tour included the Saturday night headline appearance at the 1980 Reading Festival, the highlights of which were broadcast by BBC Radio 1 in the UK. While still mostly unknown in the US, the modest success of Ready an' Willing (1980) helped Whitesnake increase awareness there as an opening act for established bands such as Jethro Tull and AC/DC. The band also released Live...In the Heart of the City, which contained recordings made in 1978 and 1980 at the Hammersmith Odeon in London, and achieved a No. 5 ranking in the UK album charts.
In 1981 the band recorded the album Come an' Get It, which climbed to No. 2 in the UK album charts and produced the Top 20 hit "Don't Break My Heart Again" and the Top 40 hit "Would I Lie to You". During 1982 Coverdale took time off to look after his sick daughter and decided to put Whitesnake on hold.
When David Coverdale returned to music, he reformed the band, and after the recording of the album Saints & Sinners (1982) replaced Bernie Marsden, Ian Paice, and bass player Neil Murray with Mel Galley from Trapeze, bassist Colin Hodgkinson, and Cozy Powell as the new drummer. Saints & Sinners was another Top 10 UK album and contained the hit "Here I Go Again", with Malcolm Birch from Chesterfield-based band Pegasus on keyboards. The new lineup toured in 1982–83 and headlined the Monsters of Rock Festival at Castle Donington UK in August 1983, and the single "Guilty of Love" reached No. 31 in the UK singles chart.
Breakthrough and change in musical style (1983–1985)
Whitesnake performing live in 1983
In late 1983, the band recorded Slide It In, which was released in Europe in early 1984. It was the band's fourth top 10 album in their native UK, peaking at number 9. At this time, the band secured a major US deal with the Geffen label. Slide It In drew mixed reviews, the negatives focusing on its "flat" mix. While a personnel change saw the touring band replace Moody with former Thin Lizzy guitarist John Sykes, plus the return of bassist Neil Murray in place of Hodgkinson, producer David Geffen insisted that the album be remixed for the US release. In addition to the remix, Sykes and Murray re-recorded the lead guitar and bass parts. This revised version of the album had its US release in April 1984. Despite Coverdale's misgivings regarding the lack of edge in these new tracks, Slide It In scraped the US Top 40, and went double platinum there three years later after the release of the band's eighth album.
Slide It In spawned the album-oriented rock hits in the US: "Slow an' Easy", "Love Ain't No Stranger", and the title track. "I didn't really work America…" the singer admitted. "In '84, I had broken all attendance records and merchandise records in Europe but I still lost three grand. My marriage was in tatters and then David Geffen called up and said, 'It is about time that you took America seriously.' There was nothing to keep me in London – so, rather than taking potshots at America from across the pond, I decided to relocate, and had an extraordinary four or five years."
While touring in spring 1984, Mel Galley suffered a broken arm in an accident, leaving John Sykes as the sole guitarist for the remaining dates. A few weeks later, Jon Lord left to reform Deep Purple Mk. II, and keyboard player Richard Bailey was brought in. The band was booked in the US to open for acts such as Dio and Quiet Riot. The tour ended with a performance in front of a crowd of over 100,000 people, at the Rock in Rio festival held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Galley remained a member — "he's still getting paid", said Coverdale — until Galley rashly discussed plans to reform Trapeze in an interview and Coverdale fired him.
The self-titled album and success in the US (1985–1988)
Starting in 1985, Coverdale and Sykes began writing the material for a follow-up studio album. The approach was more modern, adding a slick Eighties studio polish to a band that up until Slide It In (1984) had a bluesier sound rooted in the Seventies. Sykes would play the rhythm and lead guitars for almost the entire album. Cozy Powell had left to join Emerson, Lake & Powell. Two musicians from the north of England were brought in for the recording of the album: drummer Aynsley Dunbar, and keyboardist Don Airey from the Ozzy Osbourne band and Rainbow. The album was put on hold for much of 1986, when Coverdale contracted a serious sinus infection that put his singing career in jeopardy. He eventually recovered, and the Whitesnake album was finished in 1987. But shortly before the album's release, Coverdale had dismissed Sykes. Adrian Vandenberg and Vivian Campbell mimed Sykes' guitar parts in the videos and played in subsequent live shows.
The album was entitled 1987 in Europe and Serpens Albus in Japan and marked the band's biggest mainstream success in the US. With the guidance of A&R guru John Kalodner, it has sold 8x platinum in the US. The success of Whitesnake (1987) also pushed sales of Slide It In (1984) from its RIAA certified gold status to platinum status, and made the band a bona fide arena headliner for the first time in North America. The album continued to sell throughout 1987 and 1988, peaking at No. 2 in the US, and No. 8 in the UK. The album was their most commercially successful, and in 1988, they were nominated for the Brit Award for Best British Group. The album's biggest hits were "Here I Go Again" (#1 US Billboard Hot 100 and No. 9 UK Singles Chart) and power ballad "Is This Love" (#2 US and No. 9 UK). "Here I Go Again" was a re-recording of a song originally on 1982's Saints & Sinners, and another track on Saints & Sinners, "Crying in the Rain", was also a redone song. Other hit singles from the album were "Still of the Night" (#16 UK and No. 79 US) and "Give Me All Your Love" (#18 UK and No. 48 US in 1988). The album's exposure was boosted by heavy airplay of its music videos on MTV. The videos starred actress Tawny Kitaen, whom Coverdale later married and also included new band members Adrian Vandenberg, Rudy Sarzo, Tommy Aldridge and Vivian Campbell (who also re-recorded the solo for the "Give Me All Your Love" single remix). With the exception of Vandenberg (whose only work on the album was the solo on "Here I Go Again"), none of the band members who played on the album appeared in the videos, as they had been fired by Coverdale.
While some long-time fans viewed the 1987 album as a sell-out and attempt to pander to mainstream tastes at the time, Coverdale was still reaching back to his musical roots, including most prominently Led Zeppelin, but even older artists like Elvis. "I remember the Jailhouse Rock EP," Coverdale said. "It’s interesting because you don’t know what it is, but it gets you fluffed up. And ‘Jailhouse Rock’, contrary to what a lot of people imagine, was the inspiration for the verses of ‘Still of the Night’."
Slip of the Tongue and more success (1988–1990)
Guitarist Vivian Campbell left Whitesnake in late 1988 due to creative differences, and so the band's line-up changed yet again for the 1989 album Slip of the Tongue. Although he co-wrote all of the songs, while preparing for the recording of the album, guitarist Adrian Vandenberg sustained a serious wrist injury, making it impossible for him to play without experiencing great discomfort. Coverdale had no choice but to find a new guitar player to record the parts. He eventually found former Frank Zappa and David Lee Roth guitar player Steve Vai, whom Coverdale had seen in the 1986 film Crossroads. Upon its release, Slip of the Tongue (1989) sold three million copies and hit No. 10 in both the US and UK album charts. The album also spawned three successful singles: a reworking of the band's 1980 classic "Fool for Your Loving" (#37 US and No. 43 UK), the melodic "The Deeper the Love" (#28 US and No. 35 UK) and "Now You're Gone" (#31 UK and No. 96 US). Steve Vai became an official member of the band and appeared in all of the band's new music videos.
With Vai and Vandenberg both as a full-time members, the band hit the road to support the album. During the Liquor and Poker tour for Slip of the Tongue, the band headlined the 1990 Monsters of Rock festival at Donington Park, England (their third time appearing and second headlining). After the last show of the Liquor and Poker tour in 1990, Coverdale decided he would fold the band. Coverdale announced that he would be taking a break from the music business, but the next year he started to work with former-Led Zeppelin guitarist, Jimmy Page, which resulted in the album Coverdale•Page (1993). Vandenberg, Sarzo, and Aldridge remained together, forming the new band Manic Eden.
Greatest Hits, Restless Heart and Starkers in Tokyo (1994–1998)
A new line-up of the band was assembled for 1994's Whitesnake's Greatest Hits album. They embarked on a short tour in Europe, with former Ratt guitarist Warren DeMartini playing lead guitar, drummer Denny Carmassi, the return of bassist Rudy Sarzo and guitarist Adrian Vandenberg, and the addition of keyboard player Paul Mirkovich before their recording contract with Geffen expired.
In 1997 Coverdale and Vandenberg re-grouped to work together on a new Whitesnake album Restless Heart. This was originally to be a solo album for Coverdale, but the record company pressured them to release it under the Whitesnake name. However, despite a release in both Japan and Europe, it was never available officially in the US. The album marked a return to the band's earlier R&B music. The album reached the UK Top 40 album chart and produced the blues ballad "Too Many Tears", which reached No. 46 on the UK singles chart. A core line-up of Coverdale, Carmassi and Vandenberg was supplemented by Pink Floyd touring bassist Guy Pratt and Coverdale and Page keyboardist Brett Tuggle during recording sessions and by Mr. Mister guitarist Steve Farris, keyboardist Derek Hilland and The Firm bassist Tony Franklin during the ensuing tour. During the tour, Coverdale and Vandenberg also recorded an unplugged show in Japan entitled Starkers in Tokyo (released in 1998). The two also played another unplugged show, this time for VH1. In the end of '97, Coverdale folded the band at the end of the tour, and took another break from the music business.
25th anniversary reformation (2002–2007)
Whitesnake performing in June 2003
In December 2002 Coverdale reformed Whitesnake for Whitesnake's 25th anniversary the upcoming year. Joining Coverdale for a 2003 tour were guitarists Doug Aldrich of Dio and Reb Beach of Winger, bass player Marco Mendoza, drummer Tommy Aldridge and keyboard player Timothy Drury. During 2003 they headlined the Rock Never Stops Tour with other popular rock bands.
The anniversary tour line up remained stable until early 2005, when Mendoza left to pursue the Soul SirkUS project and was replaced by Uriah Duffy. In February 2006, Whitesnake released a live DVD titled, Live... In the Still of the Night, and announced a Spring and Summer tour of Japan and Europe. In June 2006 it was announced Coverdale had signed Whitesnake to a new record deal with Steamhammer/SPV Records who released a double live album entitled, Live: In the Shadow of the Blues during November 2006 in UK, Germany, Switzerland and Austria. The album had tracks recorded since 2003, and also included four new studio tracks: "Ready to Rock", "If You Want Me", "All I Want Is You" and "Dog". These songs were described by Coverdale as "three balls-to-the-walls rockers and a ballad".
In June 2007 the band released a dual CD/DVD titled 1987 20th Anniversary Collector's Edition to mark the 20th anniversary of the mega-selling album 1987. This was the re-mastered album along with a host of bonus material of four live tracks from the Shadow of the Blues Live set. It also includes the four promo videos for the album on the DVD. In December 2007 Aldridge left the band, and was replaced by Chris Frazier, who had previously worked with Eddie Money, Edgar Winter and The Tak Matsumoto Group.
Good to Be Bad and back on the road (2008–2010)
In March 2008 Whitesnake played at the Rock2Wgtn two-day festival alongside Ozzy Osbourne, Kiss, Poison, Alice Cooper and Lordi, with special effects by the Academy Award winning WETA Workshop. In April 2008 the band released their tenth studio album, Good to Be Bad, which reached No. 5 in the UK Album Chart. During the summer of 2008 Whitesnake co-headlined a UK tour along with Def Leppard, with Black Stone Cherry opening the UK arena shows in June and Thunder opening the July shows. In early November 2008, Whitesnake received the Classic Rock Best Album award for Good to Be Bad.
On 11 February 2009, Whitesnake announced they would be playing a festival slot at Download Festival in England on 14 June via their official website. They also announced Def Leppard would be playing on the same day as the headliners. It was also announced that Whitesnake, and Journey would play The O2 in Dublin as support for headliners Def Leppard on 12 June 2009. On 17 March 2009, it was announced that Whitesnake would be supporting Judas Priest on the 2009 North American Summer tour. On 11 August 2009 Whitesnake was playing a show at Red Rocks in Morrison, Colorado, when front man David Coverdale suffered a vocal injury. After seeing a specialist, it was announced on 12 August 2009 that Coverdale was suffering from severe vocal fold edema and a left vocal fold vascular lesion, and the band had to withdraw from the remainder of Judas Priest tour.
In early February 2010, David Coverdale announced that his voice seemed to have fully recovered from the trauma that sidelined him and the band on the Priest tour. He stated that he had been recording new demos, aiming for a new Whitesnake album. In June 2010, Whitesnake announced they would be releasing their own wine, a 2008 Zinfandel, described by David Coverdale as "filled to the brim with the spicy essence of sexy, slippery Snakeyness ... I recommend it to complement any & all grown up friskiness & hot tub jollies ..."  On 18 June 2010, it was announced that Whitesnake had parted ways with bassist Uriah Duffy and drummer Chris Frazier and that their new drummer is former Billy Idol drummer Brian Tichy. On 20 August 2010, Whitesnake announced that their new bassist was to be Michael Devin. On 13 September 2010, keyboardist Timothy Drury announced his departure from Whitesnake to pursue a solo career. Drury has returned as a guest musician to record keyboards for the band's 2011 album Forevermore.
Coverdale performing with the band at the Manchester Apollo
, Manchester, England in 2011
Whitesnake released Forevermore, on 25 March 2011 in Europe, and on 29 June in North America. In February 2011, Whitesnake was announced as one of the headliners to play the annual Rocklahoma festival in Pryor, Oklahoma, on Memorial Day weekend. A digital single for the song "Love Will Set You Free" was released, along with a video for the song, on 21 February.
The album Forevermore was released as a special edition 'Snakepack' through Classic Rock magazine on 25 March 2011, a full 3 weeks before its commercial release. The fan pack includes the full, official new album Forevermore, a 132-page magazine, poster and pin badge. On 20 March 2011, Whitesnake announced that Brian Ruedy would play keyboards on the Forevermore World Tour. A live album, Live at Donington 1990, was released on 20 May 2011 in Japan, on 3 June in Europe and 7 June in the US.
Whitesnake performing in June 2011
In July 2012, David Coverdale said that a live album and DVD from the Forevermore tour were in production, as well as expanded editions of 'Into the Light' and 'Restless Heart'. The album did not chart highly upon its official release in the UK (number 33, possibly due to the copies released as part of the aforementioned Classic Rock Snakepack, which are not eligible for the charts). It did, however, show signs of Whitesnake's slow rebuild of support in the US with the album charting at number 49 – the band's highest charting album since the 80s. In November 2012, Whitesnake and Journey (along with special guests Thunder) announced an eight date UK Tour in 2013, where the two bands will appear onstage together for the first time ever.
Drummer Brian Tichy announced on 4 January 2013 that he had left Whitesnake in order to focus on his other band, S.U.N. According to Whitesnake, the band planned to continue its 2013 touring as scheduled and had already begun to look for a new drummer. On 25 January 2013, it was announced that former drummer Tommy Aldridge would be rejoining the band.
On 13 February 2013, Whitesnake announced a new live DVD/album, Made in Japan, which had been recorded at the band's performance at the Loud Park Festival in Saitama, Japan on 15 October 2011, with release scheduled for 23 April on Frontiers Records. On 9 May 2014, it was announced that guitarist Doug Aldrich would leave Whitesnake. On 21 August 2014, Joel Hoekstra (former Night Ranger) was announced as their new guitarist.
The Purple Album (2015–2016)
Whitesnake on stage in New Haven
, Connecticut, July 2015
On 25 February, it was announced The Purple Album would contain re-recorded Coverdale era songs of Deep Purple. The new cover album was released 15 May 2015 via Frontiers Records.
On 17 April 2015, the Italian vocalist and instrumentalist Michele Luppi (Secret Sphere, former Vision Divine) was announced as their new keyboardist and backing vocalist, replacing Brian Ruedy. The album reached number 18 on the UK Albums Chart and debuted at #84 on the Billboard 200 album chart in the US.
The band embarked on a worldwide tour dubbed The Greatest Hits during the summer of 2016.
Flesh & Blood and material loss (2017-present)
In August 2017, Whitesnake signed a distribution deal with Rhino Entertainment in North America and Japan and internationally through Parlophone, covering most of their albums, including their 1987 self-titled album and a new studio album in 2018.
In September 2017, the band announced that their next album was set for a tentative spring 2018 release. The album was later titled Flesh & Blood, which would be released in early 2018. It was pushed back for a summer 2018 release, but was then delayed until February 2019 due to "technical issues". The band apologized for the delay and would embark on the Flesh & Blood World Tour to coincide with the album's release.
On June 25, 2019, The New York Times Magazine listed Whitesnake among hundreds of artists whose material was reportedly destroyed in the 2008 Universal fire.