Mr. Big is a hard rock super-group that formed in 1988. The band is a quartet composed of Eric Martin (vocals), Paul Gilbert (guitar), Billy Sheehan (bass), and Pat Torpey (drums); Mr. Big also included Richie Kotzen, a reputable blues-based guitarist who replaced Paul in 1999 when Paul decided to focus on a solo career. The band is noted especially for their "shred guitar" musicianship, intense live performances, and well-crafted songs.
Identified early on as a "musicians' band", Mr. Big was able to produce numerous hit songs that ranged across a wide array of rock genres, be it ballad, heavy metal, or blues rock. Prior to the formation of the group, each of the members already had a reputation of being virtuosos as well as established song-writers/ composers. Their songs were often marked with strong vocals and vocal harmonies, and a technical proficiency in all instruments. Their hits include "To Be With You" (Billboard Hot 100 number one single in 15 countries for weeks, in 1991), "Wild World", "Green-Tinted Sixties Mind", "Just Take My Heart", other ballads, and a host of heavy metal songs that were played mostly during their live performances, such as "Daddy, Brother, Lover, Little Boy", "Addicted to that Rush", "Colorado Bulldog", and "Take Cover", among the rest.
Mr. Big's following and reputation remained strong for over two decades, despite the band being challenged by personal internal conflicts and the changing trends in mainstream music. Over the years, through the different heights of the band's career, the fan-base of the group has remained steadfast - even after the demise of the band in 2002. Fans have always asked for the band's reunion.
In February 2009, as a result of fan-demand and also after several coincidences over the past couple of years that have gradually brought the group back together again, Eric, Pat, Paul, and Billy finally announced their decision to reunite. This announcement was marked with celebration and excitement amongst fans all over the world, especially in Japan. The band members themselves are very happy to be together again as friends, and to perform once more for fans all over the world. Their first tour was in Japan in June 2009.
It was bass player Billy Sheehan who scouted and gathered the people who would, together with himself, become the enduring icons of Mr. Big. Billy Sheehan left David Lee Roth's solo band in 1988, due to differences in musical direction. Almost immediately after his exit, Sheehan began piecing together a new outfit, with the help of Mike Varney from Shrapnel Records, a label specialized in the shredding genre. However, what Sheehan did not know was that he was about to form one of the most revered "supergroups" to come out of America.
The Buffalo, New York-born bassist had already honed his skills during a decade spent touring with his band, Talas, but with the recruitment of Eric Martin in 1988, he knew the foundation for this ultimate musical venture was well in place. Martin (who was born in Long Island, New York, but grew up all over the world as one of the sons of an Army officer) had already ventured into the light, both with melodic rock-oriented Eric Martin Band, and as a more soul-leaning solo artist.
The group was made complete with talents of guitarist Gilbert and drummer Torpey. Hailing from Pittsburgh, Gilbert was already a well-respected guitarist who had released four highly-touted albums with his Los Angeles-based band, Racer X. Torpey came to California after playing his dues behind the kit in the Arizona rock community. He soon became a much sought-after road horse, touring with a number of high-profile artists, most notably Robert Plant.
The newly formed band hired Herbie Herbert to be their manager (he was the former manager of Journey, Europe, and Santana). By 1989, the newly formed quartet had already inked a recording contract with Atlantic Records, resulting in the release of a self-titled debut the same year. Despite causing a buzz amongst musicians, the album failed to cross over to a mainstream rock audience stateside; however, Mr. Big was an immediate smash success overseas in Japan. In June 1990, the group went on tour in America as the opening act for the Canadian band "Rush".
It was Mr. Big's second album in 1991, "Lean Into It", that provided major breakthrough for the band. The album featured two ballads that established them as a commercial success: "To Be with You" (number one song in 15 countries) and "Just Take My Heart", as well as rock songs that remained as staples of their live set for years to come, such as "Green-Tinted Sixties Mind". The album propelled Mr. Big to huge international record sales in the multi-millions. The release of "Lean Into It" was followed by a British tour in April and May of the same year, supported by bands "The Throbs" and "Heartland".
Another British tour ensured before the quartet opted to release the 'Mr. Big Live' album in 1992 and set to work on a third album to be released in 1993. Live headliners across the U.K. in December saw "Forgodsake" as support. However, the band had broken away from this run to put in support for Aerosmith's three-night, sold out stand at London's Wembley Arena.
In 1993, another ballad from Mr. Big's new album "Bump Ahead" rose to the top 10 of the charts - a cover of Cat Steven's "Wild World". The band also contributed the soundtrack to the Sega Mega CD release of The Amazing Spider-Man vs. The Kingpin.
And in 1995, their next album,Hey Man, was released. The song "Take Cover" from the album "Hey Man", was included on the soundtrack to the cartoon series Mega Man, which is based on the best selling video game franchise of the same name by Capcom, and was played during the end credits of the episodes "Bad Day At Peril Park" and "Mega X".
90s Grunge and Rap
Although the band never replicated its earlier success in the US market, their popularity continued to soar in Japan; they also gained a stabler following in newer Southeast Asian markets such as Thailand and South Korea. The change in attitudes towards Hard Rock and the media treatment of so-called '80s Hair bands' meant that sales were poor in America and Europe. The music industry started to focus more on other music genres such as grunge rock and rap.
In Japan and in the rest of Asia, on the other hand, they continued to sell out tours, resulting in a number of live releases for the Japanese market throughout their career (from Raw Like Sushi I,II,II in the 1990s to Mr. Big In Japan in 2002).
The group's album, 'Live At Budokan', was another live release intended for the Japanese market only. By the time 'Live At Budokan' appeared the group had been put on ice as the individual band members became more engrossed in other projects. After several years of continuous recording and touring, the band took a much needed break.
Return in 1999
Paul Gilbert left the band in 1997 to pursue a solo career, and partly because of the internal conflicts within the band. He eventually reformed Racer X. Richie Kotzen, another Shrapnel artist and former guitarist for Poison, was brought in to take on guitar duties, also contributing occasional vocals. Two studio albums were released by this lineup: Get Over It in 2000 and Actual Size in 2001. "Get Over It" was released on September 1999 in Japan, and yielded "Superfantastic," a number one hit that went multi-platinum in Japan. It proved to be Atlantic's biggest selling release in that territory. MR. Big put in a 20-date tour of Japan followed by a rousing New Year's Eve 1999 show with Aerosmith at the Osaka Dome in Tokyo. "Get Over It" was released in the U.S. on March 21, 2000, followed by a short club stint at "Roxy", California.
Forward to the summer of 2001, Eric and the rest of the Mr. Big guys released their next effort "Actual Size" in Japan and the rest of Asia. The CD sat on the charts in the number three spot and "Shine" the first single off the album was number one. The song was also used as the ending theme for the animation series, Hellsing.
Although fans welcomed the new album, other news would come as a shock. A lot of tension had recently developed between Billy Sheehan and the other members, and this led to the sudden break-up of the band. Despite being a multi-million record-selling band, the members of Mr. Big gritted their teeth and fulfilled their current contractual obligations for yet another Japanese run in the form of a "farewell tour". All of the former members have gone on to other projects in the music industry.
On February 1, 2009, the same date of Mr. Big's very first album release in 1989, a radio announcement for "Koh Sakai's Burrn Presents: Heavy Metal Syndicate" contained a short message from Paul, Eric, Billy, and Pat, officially announcing the reunion of Mr. Big in Japan to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their debut album. The news spread quickly over the Internet and caused excitement amongst fans, most of whom were literally caught by surprise as almost all interviews done by the band members in the past made it seem like a reunion was practically "impossible" - partially because of the bandmembers' strong personal conflicts with each other.