White Heart was a Contemporary Christian Music pop-rock band which formed in 1982. White Heart's discography includes 13 albums, the most recent of which was released in 1997. Original members Billy Smiley and Mark Gersmehl worked with a continually-changing cast of bandmates. In 1985, former roadie Rick Florian became the lead singer. His first name is spelled differently in the liner notes of each album on which he participated.
Although White Heart has not officially "retired" as a band, remaining members Smiley, Gersmehl and Florian are each pursuing other interests. Smiley started his own label, Cul-de-Sac Records. Gersmehl continues to write music and has released solo efforts. Florian is a real estate agent in the Franklin, Tennessee area and also continues to sing for various recording projects
Birth of White Heart
White Heart formed in 1982 with most of its members coming from Bill Gaither's group. The original line-up consisted of Smiley (guitar), Gersmehl (keyboards & vocals), Steve Green (vocals), Gary Lunn (bass), and brothers Dann and David Huff (guitars/vocals & drums respectively).
After their self-titled debut album was released in 1982, the band suffered its first line-up change. Green left the band, saying that rock was not his style. He moved quickly into a successful career as an adult contemporary singer. Green was replaced by Scott Douglas.
The band released its second album, Vital Signs, in 1984. Dann Huff left the band shortly afterward and recommended his high school friend, Gordon Kennedy as his replacement.
When White Heart released its third album, Hotline, in 1985, David Huff left the band to pursue other interests, including studio work and touring with Michael W. Smith. Eventually he would join his brother Dann to form the hard rock band Giant.
Controversy ensued in 1985 when Scott Douglas was charged with aggravated sexual battery on June 30. Later, he was arrested for statutory rape on October 13 and was dropped from the band. Douglas (whose real name is Scott Douglas Mathiesen) was registered as a violent sex offender as a result of these incidents. He was released from prison in the mid 90s, and reunited with his family.
Rick Florian becomes lead singer
The remaining band members began to audition singers. In 1985, they were surprised when they heard their bus driver and roadie, Rick Florian, dancing around the stage and singing along to their songs. They auditioned him, and he was chosen as Douglas' replacement. Florian became a core member of the band and continued through the rest of White Heart's discography. Chris McHugh was also picked up to fill the drummer seat.
White Heart's 1986 release, Don't Wait for the Movie, was criticized for its gimmicky songwriting and lack of originality. Despite the criticism, the band kept on touring and recording. In the meantime, Gary Lunn left the band to become a studio musician, and was replaced with Tommy Sims.
After Emergency Broadcast was released in 1987, White Heart made an important change -- but it wasn't precisely in the band's line-up. Brown Bannister came on board as producer for their next album. Bannister is known for working with artists like Petra and Amy Grant.
The band's next album, 1989's Freedom, featured a more original approach and has been hailed as one of White Heart's best. But stability remained elusive. The band reached the end of its contract with Sparrow Records and Brown Bannister. Also, Chris McHugh, Gordon Kennedy, and Tommy Sims left the band to become studio musicians and producers. ....
The Starsong Era
White Heart signed on with Starsong Records, and hired Brian Wooten (guitars), Anthony Sallee (bass), and Mark Nemer (drums) to fill the spots. With these pieces in place, the band released one of its best-known albums, Powerhouse, in 1990. Nemer left soon after and the band brought back former drummer Chris McHugh to do some studio work for their next album.
The band released Tales of Wonder in 1992, and announced Jon Knox as their new drummer. This album is considered the band's most popular, filled with thought-provoking lyrics and deeper songwriting.
White Heart followed this success with Highlands in 1993, which also received critical praise. The influence of 70's rock groups like Kansas could be felt throughout, interwoven with Celtic themes, including the cover art. Anthony Sallee left the band and John Thorn was hired to replace him for the Highlands Tour.
In 1994, the band released two compilation albums called Nothing But The Best: Rock Classics and Radio Classics, which included some new material. These compilations marked the end of the band's contract with Starsong.
The Last Years
White Heart signed with a mainstream label, Curb Records, which caused some fans to wonder if this would lead to a watering-down of the band's Christian lyrics. The band released Inside in 1995 to much disinterest, due mainly to shifts in the rock genre. The band's lineup continued to be a revolving door. Brian Wooten, John Thorn and Jon Knox all left to pursue other projects.
The remaining core members (Smiley, Gersmehl, Florian) regrouped to consider the band's future. They released their last album together (using studio musicians) in 1997 called Redemption. It received critical praise for its depth and musical maturity.
After Redemption, Smiley, Gersmehl and Florian decided to enter what they called "a dormant stage". They haven't officially broken up White Heart, but each of them is working on separate personal projects. Rick Florian issued a statement in 1999 regarding the future of the band.
On Aug. 25, 2006 White Heart received a Soul2Soul Honor award in New Albany, Indiana. Billy Smiley, Rick Florian, Mark Gershmehl, Tommy Sims, Jon Knox and Gordon Kennedy reunited to perform "Over Me" and "Sing Your Freedom". According to Florian, it was the first time in 17 years that particular combination of musicians had performed together, although Knox had never actually been in the band at the same time as Sims or Kennedy.
Although White Heart is considered one of the premier bands to ever play Contemporary Christian Music, and despite the many number one hits and albums, they have never won a Dove Award.
Steve Green - lead vocals (1982)
Dan Huff - lead vocals, guitars (1982–1984)
David Huff - drums, percussion, backing vocals (1982–1985)
Rick Florian - lead vocals (1986–1998) (spelled Ric, Rikk, Riq, Ricke, Rhic, Rikcq)
Gordon Kennedy - guitars, backing vocals, occasional lead vocals (1985–1989)
Billy Smiley - guitars (1982–1998)
Mark Gersmehl - keyboards, backing vocals, occasional lead vocals (1982–1998)
Scott Douglas - lead vocals (1984–1985)
Gary Lunn - bass (1982–1986)
Chris McHugh - drums, percussion (1986–1989)
Tommy Sims - bass, backing vocals, occasional lead vocals (1986–1989)
Brian Wooten - guitars (1990–1995)
Anthony Sallee - bass (1990–1993)
John Thorn - bass (1995)
Mark Nemer - drums, percussion (1990)
Kevin Mills - bass (1995–1997)
Jon Knox - drums, percussion (1991–1996)