Mr. Big is a hard rock group that formed in Los Angeles, California, 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 Gilbert in 1999. The band is noted especially for their musicianship, and scored a number of hits. Their songs were often marked by strong vocals and vocal harmonies. Their hits include “To Be With You” (a number-one single in fifteen countries in 1991) and “Green-Tinted Sixties Mind”.
Mr. Big has remained active and popular for over two decades, despite internal conflicts and changing music trends. They broke up in 2002, but after requests from fans reunited in 2009; their first tour was in Japan in June 2009. The band released What If..., their first album in ten years, in January 2011.
After bass player Billy Sheehan left David Lee Roth in 1988, he began piecing together a new band with the help of Mike Varney from Shrapnel Records, a label specialized in the shredding genre. He recruited Eric Martin, of the rock-oriented Eric Martin Band and also soul-leaning solo artist, and soon thereafter added guitarist Gilbert and drummer Torpey. Gilbert was already a well-respected guitarist who had released two albums with his Los Angeles-based band Racer X. Torpey came to California from Arizona, and toured with a number of high-profile artists, most notably Robert Plant.
The newly formed band hired Herbie Herbert, the former manager of Journey, Europe, and Santana, to be their manager. By 1989, they signed with Atlantic Records and released their self-titled debut the same year. The record did not gain the band a mainstream rock audience stateside, but was a success in Japan. In June 1990, the group toured in America opening for Rush. In August 1990, two songs, “Strike Like Lightning” and “Shadows”, performed by Mr. Big were exclusively released on the soundtrack album of the action film Navy SEALs.
Mr Big’s second album, 1991’s Lean Into It, was a major commercial breakthrough, especially two ballads, “To Be with You” (number one song in fifteen countries) and “Just Take My Heart”, as well as the song “Green-Tinted Sixties Mind”. They toured the UK in April and May 1991 and again in 1992, releasing a live album, Mr. Big Live, in 1992. For three nights, they opened for Aerosmith at London’s Wembley Arena.
In 1993, another ballad, a cover of Cat Stevens’ “Wild World”, (from their third album, Bump Ahead) peaked at Number 27 on the Billboard Hot 100. The band also contributed the soundtrack to the Sega Mega CD release of The Amazing Spider-Man vs. The Kingpin.
They released Hey Man in 1996. The song “Take Cover” was included on the soundtrack to the cartoon series Mega Man.
Although the band never replicated its earlier success in the US market, their popularity continued to soar in Japan; they also gained a more stable following in newer Southeast Asian markets such as Thailand and South Korea. 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.
Live At Budokan was one of those live release intended for the Japanese market only. By the time that album appeared the group had been put on ice as the individual band members became more engrossed in other projects; the band temporarily broke up in 1997.
Gilbert left the band in 1997, and eventually reformed Racer X. Richie Kotzen, another Shrapnel artist and former guitarist for Poison, was brought in as a guitar player. 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 multi-platinum number one hit in Japan. Mr. Big performed a twenty-date tour of Japan followed by a New Year’s Eve 1999 show with Aerosmith at the Tokyo Dome in Tokyo. Get Over It was released in the US in March 2000, followed by a short club stint at “Roxy”in California.
Several music videos for songs on Get Over It were recorded (for Electrified and Superfantastic), however the director claimed rights to the music videos and the videos were never released.
In 2001, Mr. Big released Actual Size in Asia. The CD sat on the charts in the number three spot and “Shine”, the first single, was number one. The song was also used as the ending theme for the animation series Hellsing.
However, tension had developed between Billy Sheehan and the other members when Billy began touring with Steve Vai. Eric Martin, Richie Kotzen, and Pat decided to write songs without Billy, and Billy was only given credit for two songs on Actual Size. Eric Martin and the others were also upset with Billy Sheehan’s attitude during the recording of the Shine music video. This was when Eric Martin and the others decided the only way to keep moving forward was to fire Billy Sheehan. After firing Sheehan, Mr. Big’s tour manager was furious since Billy Sheehan’s name would sell tickets. The tour manager reacted by pulling the plug on the tour, forcing Eric Martin and the others to ask Billy Sheehan if he would like to rejoin the band. Sheehan agreed to rejoin the band, however, only for the farewell tour.
Mr. Big broke up in 2002 after a Farewell tour.
On February 1, 2009, a radio announcement for “Koh Sakai’s Burrn Presents: Heavy Metal Syndicate” contained a short message from Mr. Big, announcing the reunion of the original Mr. Big lineup to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of their debut album. A press conference in Japan in February generated much excitement, and a tour of the country starting in June was announced, with shows in ten locations (including the Budokan). They held their first reunion concert outside Japan at Rock Cafe in Tallinn, Estonia on September 2009 continuing their tour.
Warner Music Japan released remastered copies of their four studio albums, as well as a greatest hits CD and DVD. There are two bonus studio songs on the album, new track “Next Time Around”, and a cover of Argent’s “Hold Your Head Up”.
In September 2010, Mr. Big recorded a seventh album with producer Kevin Shirley at a Los Angeles-area studio. The album was released in Japan on Dec. 15, 2010, in Europe on Jan. 21, 2011 and in the USA in Feb. 2011.
What If . . . is the 2011 release from the Hard Rock supergroup Mr. Big and their first all-new original album in ten years. This new recording is set to bring Mr. Big back to their worldwide legion of loyal fans and compete in the current Hard Rock scene.