Alan White (Yes drummer)

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Alan White
White in 2003
White in 2003
Background information
Born (1949-06-14) 14 June 1949 (age 72)
OriginPelton, County Durham, England
GenresProgressive rock, pop rock, hard rock
InstrumentsDrums, percussion
Years active1967–present
Associated actsYes, Plastic Ono Band, John Lennon, Circa, White, The Syn

Alan White (born 14 June 1949) is an English drummer and songwriter best known for his tenure in the progressive rock band Yes, which he joined in 1972. In 1969, he joined the Plastic Ono Band after John Lennon invited him to play at the Toronto Rock and Roll Revival festival. White went on to play on other recordings from artists such as George Harrison, Ginger Baker's Air Force, and Terry Reid, and Lennon's "Imagine".

White joined Yes in July 1972 as a replacement for original drummer, Bill Bruford. Following the death of bassist Chris Squire in 2015, White became the longest-remaining member in the band, having never left the group since joining.

Additionally, White has performed on over 50 albums by other performers, notably Joe Cocker, Ginger Baker, and The Ventures.[1] White was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Yes in 2017.[2]


Early life[edit]

White was born on 14 June 1949 in the village of Pelton, County Durham in north east England.[3] His father had different jobs, working as a clerk, shop keeper, and a lorry and bus driver who also played the piano in local pubs.[4] His grandfather played the piano and his uncle was a drummer in local dance bands.[3][4] He attended a technical school and, at age seven, moved to the nearby town of Ferryhill, where he spent the rest of his childhood.[5] At age six, White began to take piano lessons, playing the instrument "very percussively", which his uncle noticed and informed his parents who bought him an Ajax drum kit for Christmas when he was twelve.[4] White names his uncle as a big influence.[4] White felt he was pushed to learn and play like his drum instructor and wished "to be more individual" on the instrument, so he began to develop his own style. His parents went on to buy him a metallic silver Ludwig kit.[3]

Early bands and session work[edit]

Several months into formal drumming lessons, White joined his first band, a local group named the Downbeats, at thirteen.[6] They performed songs by the Beatles, the Searchers, and Gerry and the Pacemakers.[4] The group became well known in the Newcastle area, playing working men's clubs and dance halls as much as seven nights a week until late.[4] White's school teachers only found out about his activities when the band were featured in the local newspaper.[3] During his time in the band, White also had a paper route. In 1964, the Downbeats changed their name to the Blue Chips and travelled to London to enter an amateur band contest held at the London Palladium by Melody Maker. They won the contest and were awarded with money, new equipment, and recording contract and recorded several singles[3] which did not chart. They returned home, and disbanded soon after.[7]

White reduced his music commitments in order to pass his school exams, after which he became interested in studying technical drawing at college with the plan to become an architect.[3][4] However, at seventeen, White chose to pursue music and toured the cabaret circuit as part of Billy Fury's band the Gamblers, which included several gigs in Germany.[3][4] White went on to play in Happy Magazine, later known as Griffin,[8][9] with Alan Marshall and Kenny Craddock, and put out several records with Alan Price as their producer. White continued to tour and play with Price in his group, the Alan Price Set and took up several jobs as a session musician.[7]

In 1969, White received a call from John Lennon who invited him to join his Plastic Ono Band for their live performance at the Toronto Rock and Roll Revival festival. Lennon had attended a Griffin performance in a club and wanted White to join the band of Yoko Ono, Eric Clapton, and Klaus Voormann.[10] White disbelieved Lennon's call and offer and thought he was a prankster,[11] but accepted the invitation for the show which took place on 13 September 1969 at Varsity Stadium in front of 20,000 people. The set was later released as a live album, Live Peace in Toronto 1969.[10] The gig landed White further session jobs, including drum work on Imagine and "Instant Karma!" for Lennon and All Things Must Pass by George Harrison, as well as the openings track, the epic Govinda, for The Radha Krsna Temple (produced by George Harrison).[10][12] Around the same time, White worked with Denny Laine in his band Balls for several months, which was followed by a ten-week stint with the fifteen-piece band, Ginger Baker's Air Force[10] and a period with Steve Winwood [13] and Terry Reid.

With Yes[edit]

White performing in 2010

To save time commuting to London from the house he shared with his Griffin bandmates in Sussex, White shared a flat with engineer and producer Eddy Offord who worked with Yes on their albums and tours.[10] In early 1972, White attended their session at Advision Studios to record a promotional film for their cover of "America" by Simon & Garfunkel. Soon after, he turned up to one of their rehearsals of "Siberian Khatru", a song for their fifth album, Close to the Edge. Their drummer Bill Bruford had to leave the session early, leaving White to sit in with the band for the rest of it.[10][14] White then joined Chris Stainton's All Stars for a European tour in support of Joe Cocker, which included a show at the Rainbow Theatre in London that Yes bassist Chris Squire attended.[14]

On 19 July 1972, after Yes had finished recording Close to the Edge, Bruford left to join King Crimson.[6] With their supporting tour less than a week away, the band were desperate for a replacement. White then got a call from Tony Dimitriades, who handled Offord's affairs and later became Yes's manager, informing White that the band wanted him to join.[14] Anderson and Squire then met White at Offord's flat, and White agreed to join. He spent the following three days learning the band's repertoire before the Close to the Edge Tour began in Dallas, Texas on 30 July 1972.[15] In the same week, White was offered to join Jethro Tull and America.[16] White's performance was documented on their first live album Yessongs, in 1973; this was followed by his first studio album with them later that year, Tales from Topographic Oceans.

White released his only solo album, Ramshackled, in 1976. White only performed drums on the album and wrote none of the songs.

In addition to his drum playing, White has played piano and written music for several Yes albums.

Due to various health problems, White missed a tour with Yes in 2016, with Jay Schellen substituting for him. Schellen and White then toured together into 2017. On summer 2017 touring, White was accompanied by Dylan Howe (son of guitarist Steve Howe), with Schellen returning to the role in early 2018.

Other projects[edit]

White had guested with local Seattle band MerKaBa on a number of occasions and White and MerKaBa also had links with another local band, Treason. In 2003, White joined sessions for a new MerKaBa album, but these evolved into a new band, called White, and an album's worth of demo recordings under the name Loyal. As well as Alan, the band consisted of Kevin Currie (from MerKaBa; lead vocals), Karl Haug (from Treason; electric & acoustic guitars, lap steel), Steve Boyce (from MerKaBa; bass, guitar, backing vocals) and Ted Stockwell (from Treason and MerKaBa; keys, guitar). Stockwell left the band and, in April 2005, was replaced by Alan's former colleague in Yes, keyboardist Geoff Downes. A new album, White, was recorded, partly based on the Loyal demos. The album was released in 2006, with a cover by Roger Dean.[17]

The band has played live (with various keyboardists) in the Seattle area. They were due to join the abortive More Drama Tour, scheduled to begin in North America in August 2005, with three acts: White, The Syn, and Steve Howe, with Yes members Chris Squire, Steve Howe and Geoff Downes playing Yes material at the end of the evening (with Currie handling lead vocals). However, the tour was cancelled shortly before it was due to begin. White later joined The Syn touring band for dates in the first half of 2006.[6]

Subsequently, White has been working on projects with Billy Sherwood, notably in the initial line-up of Circa, with a third Yes alumnus, Tony Kaye.

In 2010, the band White re-emerged after a hiatus with a new line-up of White, Haug and Boyce joined by two musicians from Yes tribute band Parallels, who have previously worked with Alan: vocalist Robyn Dawn and keyboardist Jonathan Sindelman.[17][18]

On 28 October 2017, to celebrate his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, White played Roundabout in a halftime performance with the University of Washington Husky Marching Band, also featuring music from Pearl Jam, Journey, and Electric Light Orchestra.

Personal life[edit]

White has been married for over 20 years to his wife Gigi.[19] They have two children, Jesse[20] (also a musician) and Cassi.[20] He currently lives in Newcastle, Washington.

White was best man at Jon Anderson's wedding in 1997.[16]

White has also served as the Grand Marshal at the Issaquah Salmon Days festival in Washington, USA.


  • 15 January 2006 : "Lifetime Achievement Award" by the Guitar Center of Los Angeles.


Solo albums
With Chris Squire
With The Alan Price Set
  • A Price on His Head (1967)
  • The Amazing Alan Price (1967)
  • This Price is Right (1968)
With John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band
  • Live Peace in Toronto 1969 (1969) (drums)
  • Instant Karma! (1970) (drums, piano, backing vocals)
  • Imagine (1971) (drums on "Imagine," "Gimme Some Truth", "Oh My Love", "How Do You Sleep?", "How?" and "Oh Yoko!"; Tibetan cymbals on "Oh My Love"; vibraphone on "Jealous Guy")
  • Some Time in New York City (1972) (drums on side three "Live Jam" at the Lyceum Ballroom in London on 15 December 1969 at a UNICEF charity concert)
With George Harrison
With Yes
With White
  • White (2006)
With The Syn
  • Armistice Day (2007)
With Circa
With Tony Levin and David Torn
  • Levin/Torn/White (2011)
Other appearances and sessions
  • The Downbeats: "My Bonnie" (single)
  • The Blue Chips: "I'm on the Right Side" (single) (1965)
  • The Blue Chips: "Some Kind of Loving" (single) (1966)
  • The Blue Chips: "Good Loving Never Hurts" (single) (1966)
  • The Gamblers: "Dr Goldfoot (and His Bikini Machine)" (single) (1966)
  • Happy Magazine: "Satisfied Street" (single) (1968)
  • Happy Magazine: "Who Belongs to You" (single) (1969)
  • Johnny Almond Music Machine: Patent Pending (1969)
  • Johnny Almond: "Solar Machine" (single) (1969)
  • Doris Troy: You Tore Me Up Inside (1969) – Single taken from her first album.
  • Doris Troy : Doris Troy (1969)
  • Billy Preston: Encouraging Words (1969)
  • Gary Wright: Extraction (1970)
  • Denny Laine and Balls: "Fight for My Country" (single) (1970)
  • Jesse Davis: Jesse Davis (1970)
  • Sky: Don't Hold Back (1971)
  • Brian Short: Anything for a Laugh (1971)
  • Paul Kossoff: Back Street Crawler (1973)
  • Rick Wakeman: The Six Wives of Henry VIII (1973) With Chris Squire, Bill Bruford & Steve Howe
  • Rick Wakeman: Rick Wakeman's Criminal Record (1977) With Chris Squire
  • Steve Howe: Beginnings (1975) With Bill Bruford & Patrick Moraz
  • Steve Howe: The Steve Howe Album (1979) With Bill Bruford & Patrick Moraz
  • Donovan: "The Music Makers" (1973)
  • Eddie Harris: E.H. in the U.K. (Atlantic, 1973) With Chris Squire & Tony Kaye
  • Johnny Harris: "All To Bring You Morning" (1973) With Jon Anderson & Steve Howe
  • Gary Wright : Headin' Home (1979)
  • XYZ Project with Jimmy Page & Chris Squire. (1981 – "Believe It", "Telephone Secrets", "Fortune Hunter" (demos))
  • Chris Squire: Chris Squire's Swiss Choir (2007; re-release of "Run with the Fox")
  • "Comfortably Numb" on Pigs & Pyramids-An All Star Lineup Performing The Songs of Pink Floyd (2002) and Back Against the Wall (2005), with Chris Squire & Billy Sherwood, both produced by Sherwood
  • "In The Flesh" (+ Steve Porcaro), "Mother" and "Hey You" (+ John Wetton), on Back Against The Wall (2005)
  • "All My Love" on Led Box The Ultimate Led Zeppelin Tribute (2008 – CD2.05), with Tony Kaye & Billy Sherwood, produced by Sherwood
  • Abbey Road – A tribute to the Beatles; Various Artists (2009) with Tony Kaye and Geoff Downes.


  1. ^ Eder, Bruce. "Biography: Alan White". Allmusic. Retrieved 11 April 2010.
  2. ^ "Inductees: Yes". Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Retrieved 20 December 2016.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Welch 2008, p. 132.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Hedges 1982, p. 71.
  5. ^ N/A, Simon. "EXCLUSIVE – Yes Interview Pt1". Rush on Rock. Rush on Rock. Retrieved 9 July 2014.
  6. ^ a b c "Alan White Biography". Retrieved 10 November 2013.
  7. ^ a b Hedges 1982, p. 72.
  8. ^ Welch 2008, p. 133.
  9. ^ Welch 2008, p. 135.
  10. ^ a b c d e f Hedges 1982, p. 73.
  11. ^ "Alan White from Yes: What The Beatles mean to me". 11 September 2009. Retrieved 31 October 2011.
  12. ^ "George Harrison Produces Govinda Radha Krshna Temple", (Beatles Bible, retrieved 17 November 2018)
  13. ^ "Ginger Baker History Archive 1970". Archived from the original on 10 November 2013. Retrieved 10 November 2013.
  14. ^ a b c Hedges 1982, p. 74.
  15. ^ Welch C (2008), "Close to the Edge: The Story of Yes", Omnibus Press
  16. ^ a b Greene, Andy (11 March 2019). "Drummer Alan White Reflects on His Years Playing With John Lennon and Yes". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 12 March 2019.
  17. ^ a b Pfarr, Tim (31 August 2010). "Alan White will rock Newcastle Days with his band, White". Issaquah Press. Archived from the original on 1 January 2015. Retrieved 1 January 2015.
  18. ^ "White: The Band". Retrieved 31 October 2011.
  19. ^ Pfarr, Tim (2 September 2010). "Yes, Alan White is ready to rock Newcastle Days". Newcastle News. Archived from the original on 23 July 2011. Retrieved 31 October 2011.
  20. ^ a b Vivinetto, Gina (20 October 2002). "A Classic Lineup for Classic Rock Series". St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved 1 January 2015.

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