The group was formed in 1983 by singer Mike Tramp and guitarist Vito Bratta. The duo soon added bass guitarist Felix Robinson and drummer Nicki Capozzi to complete their now-classic lineup. White Lion was signed by Elektra Records in 1984 and began work on their debut album Fight to Survive. Unfortunately, the record label was dissatisfied with the album’s final recordings. They eventually decided against releasing the recording and terminated the band’s contract.
Following this news was the first of White Lion’s many changes in personnel. Both Capozzi and Robinson left the band. Cappozzi was replaced by Greg D’Angelo, former drummer for the band Anthrax. Robinson’s spot was briefly filled by bassist Dave Spitz. However, Spitz soon departed to play with Black Sabbath. He was in turn replaced by former Rondinelli and Clockwork bass guitarist James LoMenzo.
White Lion was signed by Victor Company of Japan (JVC Records) and their debut album was finally released through them in November 1985. The album was released in the United States that year after Grand Slamm Records purchased the rights from Elektra/Asylum Records. Grand Slamm went bankrupt shortly thereafter. Fight to Survive reached #151 on the Billboard Hot 200 charts, highlighted by their first single “Broken Heart.” The following year, the band had a brief cameo in the Tom Hanks comedy The Money Pit.
In 1987, White Lion was signed by Atlantic Records. They released their sophomore album Pride in June of that year. The band began touring behind the album that summer as an opening act for KISS guitarist Ace Frehley’s band Frehley’s Comet. They later began a grueling touring schedule, performing with Ozzy Osbourne, Aerosmith, KISS, Stryper and AC/DC over the next two years.
During that time, the first single from Pride rose in popularity. “Wait” became a staple on the radio and MTV. The song reached #8 on the singles charts and Pride peaked at #11 on the album charts. Pride stayed on the Billboard 200 charts for over a year and sold over two million copies in America.
The second single “Tell Me” was a great song, but wasn’t quite as popular with their fan base. It peaked at #58 on the singles charts. The third single from Pride was the soothing power ballad “When The Children Cry.” It tugged at the heartstrings of the general public and rose to #3 on the singles charts. The music video was in constant rotation on MTV, and one of the band’s performances at the Ritz club in New York City was filmed by the music channel and aired around the same time.
The fourth and final single from Pride was “All You Need Is Rock ‘n’ Roll.” White Lion released the performance compilations One Night in Tokyo and Live At The Ritz on VHS in the spring of 1989 as their tour finally began to wind down. The band took some time off that summer to get back to the studio to start work on their third album.
White Lion released their fourth studio album, Big Game, in August of 1989. The first single, “Little Fighter,” reached #52 on the Billboard 200 chart. It was part of an album that signaled a different musical direction for the band. Subsequent singles “Cry For Freedom,” a festive cover of the Golden Earring classic “Radar Love” and “Going Home Tonight” helped the album reach over one million units sold and a peak position of #19 on the Billboard albums chart.
After a couple more years of relentless touring, the group returned to the studio to work on their next album. The band’s fifth studio effort, Mane Attraction, came out in April 1991. The record was described as a more traditional and more melodic hard rock album. Frontman Mike Tramp also decided to change his singing style, as he became less comfortable singing high notes. Unfortunately, due to the recent rise in popularity of grunge rock, the album received far less radio airplay than its predecessors. Mane Attraction was best known for its songs “Lights and Thunder,” “Out With The Boys,” “Love Don’t Come Easy” and “Blue Monday,” an instrumental tribute to guitar legend Stevie Ray Vaughan. The album also contained the ballads “Till Death Do Us Part” and “You’re All I Need,” which failed to do well in the United States, but were hits in the Philippines.
Shortly after the album’s release, bassist James LoMenzo and drummer Greg D’Angelo announced that they were leaving the band. Tommy “T-Bone” Caradonna took over on bass guitar and former Alice Cooper and Megadeth drummer Jimmy Degrasso took over their respective places in the band. White Lion then embarked on another extensive tour to support the record.
After the tour, original White Lion band members Mike Tramp and Vito Bratta decided to dissolve the band. Their last show as a group was held at the Channel in Boston, MA in September 1991. A year later, their first compilation album, The Best of White Lion, was released. A live album and DVD was soon released called Escape From Brooklyn. That album featured all of the band’s music videos, some behind-the-scenes interviews with band members and footage from several of their concerts.
Upon leaving White Lion. LoMenzo and D’Angelo joined Zakk Wylde’s band Lynyrd Skynhead. A few years later, the band was renamed Pride and Glory. D’Angelo was replaced on drums by future Whitesnake drummer Brian Tichy. After releasing just one album, LoMenzo left Pride and Glory. He later went on to play guitar for David Lee Roth’s solo band and eventually re-joined Zakk Wylde in his new group Black Label Society.
Original White Lion guitarist Vito Bratta remained with Atlantic Records to assist in producing other bands. He also tried to start his own band, which never got off the ground. He has been largely out of the public eye ever since. One notable fact about him is that he is the sole owner of White Lion’s original music catalogs for their first four albums.
Following his band’s breakup, singer Mike Tramp went on to form a new band called Freak of Nature in 1992. The hard rock/heavy metal band had an edgier sound to their music than White Lion did. They went on to release three albums (Freak of Nature in 1993, Gathering of Freaks in 1994 and Outcasts in 1998). Freaks of Nature toured in support of Dio and Helloween in Europe during 1993. Although Freaks of Nature disbanded in 1996, Tramp strongly supported the idea of reinventing his sound with the group.
A few years later, Tramp moved to Australia and began recording as a solo artist. His debut solo disc Capricorn was released in April 1998. The album featured performances by his former Freaks of Nature band members Jerry Best on bass guitar and Kenny Korade on electric guitar. Tramp’s former White Lion bass guitarist James LoMenzo also contributed backing vocals on several tracks. The first single was the song “Better Off.” Other singles from the album were “Take A Little Time,” “Already Gone” and “If I Live Tomorrow.”
In January 2002, Tramp released his second solo studio album. Recovering The Wasted Years was highlighted by the songs “Endless Highway” and “Living a Lie.” Mike released live performance videos for both songs and continued to define a more mature sound for his music.
Mike self-produced and worked with engineer Flemming Rasmussen on his third solo album, More To Life Than This. The album was released in March 2003 and both the title track and “Don’t Want To Say Goodnight” were released as singles. Later that year, he also released the double live album Rock ‘N’ Roll Alive. The live compilation featured performances by Tramp covering several of his solo songs, some White Lion classics and several tracks from his band Freak of Nature. Mike went on to release his fourth solo album, Songs I Left Behind, in February 2004.
Although White Lion had been dormant for years, it definitely wasn’t forgotten. In October 1999, Tramp released an album called Remembering White Lion. He recruited Bjarne Holm on drums, Nils Troyer on bass guitar, Kasper Damgaard on lead guitar and Dan Hemmer on keyboards for the album. The album featured new versions of White Lion classics. It also started a brief resurgence for the band.
Interest in White Lion began to grow again in the early 2000’s after the release of the compilation albums The Essential White Lion and White Lion Hits. In 2003, lead singer Mike Tramp announced that the band was reuniting with all members from their classic lineup. This announcement was quickly denounced by Tramp’s former bandmates. As he was looking forward to performing at summer festival appearances that were already booked, Tramp recruited his former White Lion members James LoMenzo on bass guitar and Jimmy DeGrasso on drums, along with RATT guitarist Warren DeMartini for their tour. Eventually, the tour had to be cancelled as original White Lion guitarist Vito Bratta filed suit against Tramp, claiming partial ownership of the band name.
Tramp later realized that the classic lineup would never reunite again. In 2004, due to legal issues, the album Remembering White Lion had to be renamed as Last Roar. The band name on the album also had to be changed to Tramp’s White Lion. Later that year, Tramp continued on with a few unknown musicians to re-record White Lion hits, and released a limited edition box set called The Bootleg Series. His group also released a live album, Rocking The USA in November 2005.
The new version of White Lion had started booking concerts in 2005, but many of them were cancelled due to mounting legal issues. Tramp was about to give up on continuing the band, until he was able to book several European tour dates for the band in the fall of 2006. The group was able to enjoy several successful shows in Denmark, the Netherlands, Spain, Italy, Greece and a few other European countries.
The band released a Concert Anthology DVD in 2005. This was followed by the album Anthology in 2006, which featured demos of various songs and a handful of previously unreleased tracks. In February of 2007, original guitarist Vito Bratta broke his long silence on the band. Appearing on Eddie Trunk’s radio show, he announced that he had never opposed the idea of returning to White Lion or the music industry ever again. He admitted that his father’s illness had prevented him from participating at the time. Two months later, at the L’Amours reunion shows in New York City, Bratta made his first public musical performances in almost fifteen years.
Tramp called in to Trunk’s radio show several weeks later and professed his gratitude to Bratta for speaking up. He was upset about his former bandmate’s withdrawal from the music industry. He also admitted that he had been hearing questions about Bratta’s whereabouts for years, but was unwilling to speak up on his behalf.
Another White Lion greatest hits album, The Definitive Rock Collection, was released in January 2007. Tramp’s version of the band was prepared to embark upon a summer tour with RATT and Poison. However, the tour promoter Live Nation dropped the band from the tour schedule after Bratta threatened legal action over the band’s name.
Tramp later released an official statement about Live Nation’s decision. He said that they chose to remove White Lion from the tour because they did not want to deal with any possible litigation threats. He also stated that Live Nation had confirmed that Tramp had the legal right to perform as White Lion. He knew that many fans were upset with the decision, even after the band’s legal team eventually worked out a deal with Bratta to drop his threats of a lawsuit.
Undeterred by these problems, Tramp and his band continued to play shows in 2007 and 2008 with Y&T, Quiet Riot, Slaughter and other contemporaries. The group released the studio album Return Of The Pride in March 2008 under the band name White Lion. Album tracks “Live Your Life” and “Dream” were released as singles and the band began a world tour to support the record. A live DVD entitled Bang Your Head 2005 was released in December 2008.
Singer Mike Tramp later continued with his solo activities, and released Mike Tramp & The Rock ‘N’ Roll Circuz album in October 2009. His backing band was now made up of musicians from Denmark. The album was very popular in Denmark, and featured the singles “Come On” and “All Of My Life.” In March 2011, Mike and his solo group released the album Stand Your Ground. Notable songs included “Distance” and “Hymn to Ronnie,” which was a loving tribute to rock icon Ronnie James Dio, who had just passed away a few months earlier.
In April 2013, Tramp released an acoustic folk rock album called Cobblestone Street. While quite different from his previous recordings, it still managed to do well in Denmark. Tramp released the songs “Revolution” and “New Day” from the album as singles. While promoting the new record, he also announced that there would no longer be a White Lion band of any kind. Mike continued his acoustic folk rock music with the release of the album Museum in August 2014. The album peaked at #3 on Denmark’s official top 40 album charts. It featured the songs “Freedom” and “Trust In Yourself,” which had an accompanying music video directed by Mike’s son Dylan.
Tramp has been very active as a solo artist in recent years. He released his next album Nomad in August 2015. The album also did well in Denmark, and the songs “Give It All You Got” and “High Like A Mountain” were the featured singles from the record. Maybe Tomorrow was released in February 2017, and the limited edition box set This & That – But A Whole Lot More came out in December 2017. This anthology features demos and other rare tracks from over twenty years of his career as a solo and group artist. Mike’s newest solo album Stray From The Flock is scheduled to be released in March 2019. The first single from that album, “Dead End Ride” was released via Target Records in January 2019.
Even though White Lion is no more, their musical legacy still lives on. Their anthems “Broken Heart,” “When The Children Cry,” “Wait,” “Love Don’t Come Easy,” “Cry For Freedom,” “All You Need is Rock ‘N’ Roll” and many others are still fondly remembered by classic rock fans today. The messages in many of their songs ring true two and three decades after their were first recorded. They influenced generations of aspiring singers and rock musicians, and are very worthy of praise and recognition in the annals of rock history.
Below is a sampling of White Lion songs in no particular order. It’s just an introduction for those who may not be familiar with their music.
10 Great White Lion Songs
# 1 – WAIT
# 2 – Cry For Freedom
# 3 – When The Children Cry
# 4 – Broken Heart
# 5 – Love Don’t Come Easy
# 6 – All You Need Is Rock and Roll
# 7- You’re All I Need
# 8 – Little Fighter
# 9 – Road To Valhalla
# 10 – Dream