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Survivors of Great White Plan Benefit Tour

Times Staff Writer

Members of Great White, the band whose errant pyrotechnic display took the lives of 99 people at a Rhode Island club two months ago, announced Tuesday night that they would return to the stage with a 55-date summer tour and donate all their earnings to fire victims.

The band, whose lead guitarist Ty Longley died in the fire, made the announcement through its attorney just before a benefit concert for Longley’s pregnant girlfriend and other family members at the Key Club in West Hollywood.

The two founding members of the band, singer Jack Russell and guitarist Mark Kendall, were scheduled to make their first public appearance in a performance early this morning.

Lawyer Edwin F. McPherson said the summer concert tour would involve Great White and several other heavy metal bands, including Warrant and LA Guns. He said Great White had committed 100% of its share to a Rhode Island foundation that is helping the victims.

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“They feel like they lost 99 fans and friends,” McPherson said. “The only thing they know how to do is play music, and that’s what they’ve decided to do to help.”

Since the Feb. 20 tragedy, which also injured 200 people, the band has existed in parallel universes of villainy and victimhood, pitied by their fans for their loss, vilified by others for the accident.

The band had started a two-month tour in December, using pyrotechnics at the beginning and end of each show. At the Station in West Warwick, R.I., the fireworks ignited flammable soundproofing material, sparking the fire. Great White says its tour manager got verbal permission to use pyrotechnics from the club’s co-owner a week before the show. The club’s lawyer says the issue was never discussed.

A grand jury is weighing criminal charges and at least three suits have been filed targeting the band, the club, the maker of the soundproofing material and other defendants.

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The Ohio-born Longley, 31, is survived by a girlfriend, Heidi Peralta, his parents and a sister. He had lived and played in Los Angeles for the past five years. Among the bands he played in before joining Great White last year were 5 Cent Shrine and XYZ, both of which were among the bands scheduled to play Tuesday night.

Longley began playing with Great White’s Russell in 2001, when Russell briefly quit Great White and formed his own band. In 2002, Russell reunited with his band and added Longley and two other members of Longley’s band.

Great White is best known for its 1990 hit, “Once Bitten, Twice Shy.”


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