Jack White

From Stripespedia


John Anthony Gillis, better known as Jack White, was one-half of The White Stripes. He is currently a member of The Raconteurs and The Dead Weather, and operates Third Man Records.


Early Life/Childhood

Jack was born John Anthony Gillis on July 9, 1975 in Detroit, Michigan. He was the youngest of ten siblings born to Gorman Gillis, who worked as the maintenance man for the Archdiocese of Detroit, and Teresa Bandyke, who worked as the Cardinal's secretary for the Archdiocese of Detroit. Jack, like his six brothers, later became an altar boy, which landed him a small role in the movie The Rosary Murders, which was filmed in Southwest Detroit. When he was 5, he taught himself how to play the drums. He was also a fan of classical music as a kid, and was classically trained on the piano.

When he was 15, he wanted something to play along with his drumming so he picked up the guitar. Within a few years, he developed great guitar skills. Although White grew up near Mexicantown, the Mexican district of southwest Detroit, the music he liked during his time as a teenager was different kinds of 1960s garage rock and blues, unlike his classmates, who listened to electronica and hip-hop. In 2005 on 60 Minutes, Jack revealed that his life could've turned out a lot differently, and he could've become a priest instead of a musician. "I'd got accepted to a seminary in Wisconsin, and I was gonna become a priest, but at the last second I thought, 'I'll just go to public school', he said. "I had just gotten a new amplifier in my bedroom, and I didn't think I was allowed to take it with me."

Also at 15, Jack began a three-year upholstery apprenticeship with Brian Muldoon, a family friend. After working in many different shops, he began his own one-man upholstery business which he called 'Third Man Upholstery'. The slogan of the business was "Your Furniture's Not Dead", and the business worked under a strict color scheme of yellow, white, and black - including a yellow van, a yellow and black uniform, and a yellow clipboard. While it never lacked business, Jack claims that Third Man Upholstery was not profitable, due to his complacency about money and his unprofessional business practices, which included making bills out in crayon and writing poetry inside the furniture.

After high school, Jack tried college for a few months, but he quit soon after he'd noticed that the mentality there was the exact same as in high school.

Early music career

Jack White was in various small, obscure, and underground bands before his main band, The White Stripes. With his upholstery mentor and close friend Brian Muldoon, he started the band Two Part Resin, which featured Brian playing drums and Jack singing and playing guitar. One of the songs they recorded was "Pain (Gimme Sympathy)". However, Jack's initial professional music experience came in the early 1990s at the age of 18, when he became the drummer for Detroit cowpunk band Goober and the Peas (which featured Dan Miller, who would later become a member of Blanche and Two Star Tabernacle). This led to various other stints with bands such as Jack White and the Bricks and The Upholsterers. Also, Brian Muldoon would sometimes play drums with Jack in late-night jam sessions.

One of the last bands Jack played in was The Go. He had already started The White Stripes by then, and when The Go wanted to sign a record deal, he would have to sell the rights of The White Stripes to that record company. And Jack, who wanted to have complete control over the band, didn't want that and quit as guitarist with The Go.

Music career

Jack met Meg White in 1994, and they were married on September 19, 1996. Characteristically unorthodox, Jack took Meg's last name. In July 1997, the White Stripes made their infamous first live appearance at the Gold Dollar in Detroit. Jack and Meg would later divorce in 2000 (before becoming nationally famous), however, the band survived.

Starting out as an underground Detroit (and other circles) favorite, the Stripes' came to international attention when British DJ John Peel raved of the duo on his radio show in 2001. The buzz turned the band into a sensation in the UK, and the enthusiasm would later spread to the United States. Jack's rapid guitar playing and his ability at the guitar pedals led Rolling Stone magazine to name him the 17th greatest guitarist of all time.

The success and fame of the White Stripes opened up many new opportunities for Jack. In 2003, he played Renee Zellweger's love interest, Georgia, in the feature film Cold Mountain. He also performed several songs for the film's T Bone Burnett-produced soundtrack in a traditional folk-like acoustic style. As a result, Jack and Zellweger began dating, but they broke up in 2004. Later in that same year, he and Meg performed in Jim Jarmusch's film Coffee and Cigarettes, in a short titled 'Jack Shows Meg His Tesla Coil'.

Jack with Loretta Lynn at the Grammy Awards.

Jack later produced and performed on Loretta Lynn's 2004 album, Van Lear Rose. Jack formed a band specifically for the album dubbed "the Do-Whaters", which consisted of bassist Jack Lawrence and drummer Patrick Keeler (two Greenhornes members who would later join Jack and Brendan Benson in The Raconteurs), as well as Blanche pedal steel player Dave Feeny and fiddler/bassist/banjo player Dirk Powell. Jack sings with her on the track "Portland, Oregon", which would win a Grammy for Best Country Collaboration with Vocals. The entire album itself would earn five Grammy nominations, although it only won two Grammys, the aforementioned one and 'Best Country Album'. Jack quit smoking during this time, also, saying that not being able to hit high notes like he used to contributed to this decision.

Jack made a suprise appearance with Bob Dylan during Dylan's gig in Detroit on March 17, 2004 during the second encore, performing the White Stripes' song "Ball and Biscuit". White has referred to The Stooges' 1970 album Fun House as "the greatest rock 'n' roll record ever made." As a result, he was invited by Rhino Records to contribute liner notes to the 2005 deluxe reissue of the album.

Jack spent much of 2006 touring with his side project (Jack frequently urges the public not to call it a "side project) "The Raconteurs", which features solo pop rock singer Brendan Benson, and Patrick Keeler and Jack Lawrence of The Greenhornes. He also joined Meg in an episode of The Simpsons titled "Jazzy and the Pussycats" in which the White Stripes meet Bart, who becomes a jazz drummer, making Lisa, a devoted jazz saxophone player, jealous.

In late 2006, Jack announced that he didn't know whether his next album was going to be with the Stripes or the Raconteurs. However, in early 2007, Jack and Meg officially announced that they were finishing their sixth album, Icky Thump, to be released on June 19, 2007. Following GBMS, which had Jack playing marimba and percussion, Icky Thump had Jack on analog synthesizer, among other instruments. Icky Thump also brought new equipment with the new album, including a new Gretsch White Falcon for Jack, new amplifiers, a new signature bass drum, new keyboards, and a new pedal rig.

Personal life

Jack is known for his eccentric behaviour and fascinations. He is pratically obsessed with the number three, and usually signs his name as "Jack White III", or simply "III". His record label is Third Man Records, and "III" can be found on many of the things Jack uses (see The Number Three). He is interested in taxidermy, an interest that sprung from his upholstery days. He collects stuffed animal heads, claiming that they make him think about life and judging things. His sporting interests include cricket, and he is featured on the cover of Elephant holding a cricket bat (Ironically, there is also a professional British cricketer named Jack White).

The White Stripes, when on offical duty, dresses only in red, white, and black, which Jack believes are the three most powerful colors in the universe. While performing at the Hearst Greek Theatre, Jack cursed at the radio station Live 105 when a promotion balloon bearing the logo of the station bounced onstage causing him to stop in the middle of the song he was performing. But, arguably, the greatest topic of intrigue has been the actual relationship between Jack and Meg. Jack and Meg infamously present themselves as brother and sister, however, the Detroit Free Press famously produced copies of, not only their marriage license, but their divorce certificate, revealing that Jack and Meg were actually ex-husband-and-wife. Despite this, Jack and Meg continue to present themselves as siblings, although neither of them have adressed the truth offically, Jack has said, though, that siblings are "mated for life" and thus such relationships distract less from the music.

White unexpectedly married model and singer Karen Elson (who had appeared in the video for "Blue Orchid") on June 1, 2005 in Manaus, Brazil, with manager Ian Montone as best man and Meg White as the maid of honor. On May 2, 2006, White and Elson had their first daughter, named Scarlett Teresa. She was born in Tennessee, where the couple have recently bought a new home. The baby's surname is offically White. In 2006, it was revealed by the Sunday Times Rich List that White and Elson had a joint fortune of at least £20 million GBP. This ranked them at seventh place in the list of entertainers aged under 30 who were born or live in the UK, ahead of celebrities including Orlando Bloom and Kate Winslet.

Like Meg White, Jack reveals few details of his private life. He states that he does not consider it relevant to his art, saying "It's the same thing as asking Michelangelo, 'What kind of shoes do you wear?'...In the end, it doesn't really matter ... the only thing that's going to be left is our records and photos."


  • Many White Stripes fans were saddened and shocked to hear that Jack White had been in a car accident on his 28th birthday. Jack was making a left turn when another car ran a red light and struck the side of Jack's car. Jack later said : "This 75 to 80 year old woman drove right out in the middle of the street, right in front of us. There was nothing I could do to get away from it. It was lucky that there was nobody seriously injured. The airbag hit my hands on the steering wheel. I didn't know about any injuries until I got out of the car and kind of looked around. It didn't hurt: it was more, 'That's not supposed to be bent like that.' It was bent in a really strange way. And it was shattered, from here to here [draws line along lower half of finger]. I immediately thought 'That's not going to be good, is it?'. It was a multiple fracture which means it didn't actually go through the skin but it shattered inside the finger. I can't write, I can't play piano, I can't play guitar, I can't do anything creative. I can't even tie my shoes. The airbag broke my finger when it deployed. Maybe I would have been better off without an airbag. But I wasn't too freaked out. I was OK with it. It was one of those things where your mind acclimates to whatever the situation is. It just sort of upset me that I had to stop touring and I couldn't write music or play guitar or piano." Ironically, as Jack has a fascination with the number three, doctors put three screws in Jack's finger during the operation to fix it. Jack has also said that doctors told him the finger may require more surgery.
  • It is rumoured in 2003 that Jack was featured on Electric Six's hit song "Danger! High Voltage". Initially both he and the Electric Six denied this, and the vocal work was credited officially to the unknown John S O'Leary. However, the lead singer of Electric Six talked openly about Jack in a recent radio interview with Tim Shaw on Kerrang! 105.2, saying that he did in fact sing on the song as well as speculating on the amount of money he was paid ($60,000).
  • In 2003, The Flaming Lips released the song "Thank You Jack White (For The Fiber-Optic Jesus That You Gave Me)" on their Fight Test EP.
  • On December 13, 2003, Jack was involved in an altercation at the Magic Stick in Detroit with the Von Bondies' lead singer Jason Stollsteimer. Jack was charged with misdemeanor aggravated assault. He pleaded guilty, was fined $500 plus court costs, and was sentenced to take anger management courses.
  • In April 2006, Jack recorded the song "Love is Truth" for a Coca-Cola commercial, which was apparently only played once in the UK, late at night on Channel 4, and was shown for a short time on the Coca-Cola website.
  • In fiction, Jack fought comedian Jack Black on the popular MTV2 animated show Celebrity Deathmatch. Jack won by buttoning Black's shirt too tight, causing his head to explode. Meg White appeared as well, smashing her bass drum over Black's head and drumming on it.

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