David Coverdale founded Whitesnake in 1977 in North Yorkshire, England. The core line-up had been working as his backing band The White Snake Band on the White Snake album tour and they retained the title before officially being known as Whitesnake. They toured with Coverdale as his support band and for both of the solo albums he released, White Snake and Northwinds, between exiting Deep Purple and founding Whitesnake. At this time, the band was made up of David Coverdale, Bernie Marsden, Micky Moody, Neil Murray and drummer David "Duck" Dowle with keyboardist Brian Johnston. Johnston would soon be replaced by Procol Harum organ player and keyboardist Pete Solley. Because of Solley's producing commitments he was replaced by the former Deep Purple keyboard player Jon Lord, during sessions for the first LP.
Whitesnake recorded the EP Snakebite which was released in 1978 and included a cover of a Bobby "Blue" Bland song "Ain't No Love in the Heart of the City", which became the first hit from the band. The EP had some success in the UK and subsequent reissues of this EP included four bonus tracks from Coverdale's second solo album Northwinds produced by Roger Glover. A blues rock/R&B debut album Trouble, was released in the autumn of 1978 and peaked at #50 in the UK album charts. Whitesnake toured Europe to promote the album and their first live album Live at Hammersmith was recorded on this tour and released in Japan in 1979. Whitesnake released Lovehunter in 1979, which courted controversy due to its risqué album cover by artist Chris Achilleos, which featured an illustration of a naked woman straddling a coiled snake. The album made the UK Top 30 and contained the minor hit "Long Way From Home" which reached #55 in the single charts. Tracks from the EP Snakebite were included in a reissue of the album Trouble in 2006. Shortly after that Ian Paice replaced David Dowle giving Whitesnake three ex-Deep Purple members. The new line-up recorded the 1980 release Ready an' Willing, which was a breakthrough hit for the band reaching the UK Top 10 and becoming their first entry into the U.S. Top 100. The single "Fool For Your Loving", which the band originally wrote for B.B. King, made #13 in the UK single charts and #53 in the US, and the title track also hit #43 in the UK charts. The Ready an' Willing tour included a headline appearance at the 1980 Reading Festival, highlights of which were broadcast by BBC Radio One in UK. While still mostly unknown in the US, the modest success of Ready an' Willing helped Whitesnake increase awareness there as an opening act for established bands such as Jethro Tull and AC/DC. The band also released Live...In The Heart Of The City, which contained recordings made in 1978 and 1980 and achieved a #5 ranking in the UK album charts.
In 1981 the band recorded the album Come an' Get It which climbed to #2 in the UK album charts and produced the Top 20 hit "Don't Break My Heart Again" and the Top 40 hit "Would I Lie To You". The album flopped in the US. During 1982 Coverdale took time off to look after his sick daughter and decided to put Whitesnake on hold. When David Coverdale returned to music he reformed the band and after the recording of the album Saints & Sinners replaced Bernie Marsden, Ian Paice and bass player Neil Murray with Mel Galley from Trapeze, bassist Colin Hodgkinson, and Cozy Powell as the new drummer. Saints & Sinners was another Top 10 UK album and contained the hit "Here I Go Again". The new lineup toured in 1982–83, headlined the Monsters of Rock Festival at Castle Donington UK in August 1983 and the single "Guilty of Love" reached #31 in the UK singles chart.
In late 1983, the band recorded Slide It In, which was released in Europe in early 1984. At this same time, the band secured a major US record deal with the Geffen label. The Slide It In album had drawn mixed reviews, the negatives particularly focusing on its "flat" mix. While a personnel change saw the touring band replace Moody with former Thin Lizzy guitarist John Sykes, plus the return of bassist Neil Murray in place of Hodgkinson, producer David Geffen insisted that the album be remixed for the US release. In addition to the remix, Sykes and Murray re-recorded the lead guitar and bass parts. This revised version of the album had its US release in April 1984. Despite Coverdale's misgivings regarding the lack of edge in these new tracks, Slide It In just barely missed the US Top 40, and went double platinum there three years later after the release of the band's eighth album. The Slide It In album led to the album-oriented rock hits in the US: "Slow An' Easy" and "Love Ain't No Stranger", as well as the album's title track. It was at this point that Geffen suggested to Coverdale that he "start taking America seriously."
While touring in spring 1984, Mel Galley suffered a broken arm in an accident, leaving John Sykes as the sole guitarist for the remaining dates. A few weeks later, Jon Lord left to reform Deep Purple Mk.II, and keyboard player Richard Bailey was brought in. The band was booked in the US to open for acts such as Dio and Quiet Riot. The tour ended with a performance in front of a crowd of over 100,000 people, at the Rock in Rio festival held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Galley remained a member — "he's still getting paid," said Coverdale — until Galley rashly discussed plans to reform Trapeze in an interview, and Coverdale then fired him.
Starting in 1985, Coverdale and Sykes began writing the material for a follow-up studio album. Sykes would play the rhythm and lead guitars for almost the entire album. Cozy Powell had left to join Emerson, Lake & Powell. Drummer Aynsley Dunbar, formerly of Journey, and keyboardist Don Airey from the Ozzy Osbourne band and Rainbow, were brought in for the recording of the album. The album was put on hold for much of 1986 when Coverdale contracted a serious sinus infection that put his singing career in jeopardy. He eventually recovered, and the Whitesnake album was finished in 1987. But shortly before the album's release, Coverdale had dismissed Sykes, after Sykes tried to convince him to get a stand in vocalist to finish the record due to David's illness. Adrian Vandenberg and Vivian Campbell mimed Sykes' guitar parts on the videos and played in the subsequent live shows.
The album was entitled 1987 in Europe and Serpens Albus in Japan and marked the band's first mainstream success in the US. With the guidance of A&R guru John Kalodner, it has sold 8x platinum in the US. The success of Whitesnake also pushed sales of Slide It In from its RIAA certified gold status to platinum status, and made the band a bona fide arena headliner for the first time in North America. The album continued to sell throughout 1987 and 1988 and peaked at #2 in the US album charts. The album's biggest hits were the #2 power ballad "Is This Love" and the #1 hit single "Here I Go Again", a re-recording of a song originally on Saints & Sinners released in 1982. Other hit singles from the album were "Still of the Night" (#79) and "Give Me All Your Love" (#48 in 1988). The album's exposure was boosted by heavy airplay of its videos on MTV, which featured actress Tawny Kitaen, whom Coverdale later married. None of the band members who played on the album appeared in these videos with the exception of Adrian Vandenberg, who had been hired to complete the album after the others had been fired by Coverdale. Vandenberg's only work on the album was the solo on "Here I Go Again" though he became a full time member of the band shortly afterwards. The resulting music videos from Whitesnake also featured new band members Rudy Sarzo, Tommy Aldridge and Vivian Campbell (who also re-recorded the solo for the "Give Me All Your Love" remix).
Vivian Campbell left Whitesnake in late 1988 due to creative differences, and so the band's line-up changed yet again for the 1989 album Slip of the Tongue. While preparing for the recording of the album, guitarist Adrian Vandenberg sustained a serious wrist injury, making it impossible for him to play without experiencing great discomfort. Coverdale had no choice but to find a new guitar player. He eventually found former Frank Zappa and David Lee Roth guitar player Steve Vai, whom Coverdale had seen in the 1986 film Crossroads. Upon its release, Slip of the Tongue sold four million copies and hit #10 in both the US and UK album charts. The album also spawned three successful singles: a reworking of the band's 1980 classic "Fool for Your Loving" (#37 US and #43 UK), the melodic "The Deeper the Love" (#28 US and #35 UK) and "Now You're Gone" (#96 US and #31 UK). Steve Vai became an official member of the band and appeared in all of the band's new music videos.
With Vai as a full-time member, the band hit the road to support the album. Consumers' response was warm, and during the tour for Slip of the Tongue, the band co-headlined the 1990 Monsters of Rock festival (their third time appearing and second headlining). Coverdale decided to fold the band after the Slip of the Tongue-tour. Coverdale announced that he would be taking a break from the music business, but the next year Coverdale started to work with former-Led Zeppelin guitarist, Jimmy Page, which resulted in the album Coverdale and Page.
A new line-up of the band was assembled for 1994's Whitesnake's Greatest Hits album. They embarked on a short tour in Europe, with former Ratt guitarist Warren DeMartini playing lead guitar, drummer Denny Carmassi, bassist Rudy Sarzo guitarist Adrian Vandenberg and keyboard player Paul Mirkovich before their recording contract with Geffen expired. Following this Whitesnake was in hiatus for three years and spent time in Bolivia.
In 1997 Coverdale and Vandenberg re-grouped to work together on a new Whitesnake album Restless Heart. This was originally to be a solo album for Coverdale, but the record company pressures released it under the Whitesnake name. However, despite a release in both Japan and Europe, it was never available officially in the US. The album marked a return to the band's earlier R&B music. The album reached the UK Top 40 album chart and produced the blues ballad "Too Many Tears" which reached #46 UK singles chart. The album featured Coverdale, Carmassi, Vandenberg, Pink Floyd touring bassist Guy Pratt with keyboardist Brett Tuggle who had played with Coverdale and Page. The touring lineup featured Coverdale, Vandenberg, Carmassi, Mr Mister guitarist Steve Farris, keyboardist Derek Hilland and The Firm bassist Tony Franklin. During the tour, Coverdale and Vandenberg recorded unplugged show in Japan entitled Starkers in Tokyo (released in 1998). The two also played another unplugged show, this time for VH1. In the end of '97, Coverdale folded the band at the end of the tour, and took another break from the music business.
In December 2003 Coverdale reformed Whitesnake for Whitesnake's 25 year anniversary. Joining Coverdale for the 2003 tour were guitarists Doug Aldrich of Dio and Reb Beach of Winger, bass player Marco Mendoza, drummer Tommy Aldridge and keyboard player Timothy Drury. During 2003 they headlined the Rock Never Stops Tour with other popular rock bands.
The anniversary tour line up remained stable until early 2005, when Mendoza left to pursue the Soul SirkUS project and was replaced by Uriah Duffy. In February 2006, Whitesnake released a live DVD titled, Live... In The Still of the Night and announced a Spring and Summer tour of Japan and Europe. In June 2006 it was announced Coverdale had signed Whitesnake to a new record deal with Steamhammer/SPV Records who released a double live album entitled, Live: In The Shadow Of The Blues during November 2006 in UK, Germany, Switzerland and Austria. The album had tracks recorded since 2003, and also included four new studio tracks: "Ready to Rock", "If You Want Me", "All I Want Is You" and "Dog." These songs have been described by Coverdale as "three balls-to-the-walls rockers and a ballad". In June 2007 the band released a dual CD/DVD titled 1987 20th Anniversary Collector's Edition to mark the 20th anniversary of the mega-selling album 1987. This was the re-mastered album along with a host of bonus material of four live tracks from the Shadow Of The Blues Live set. It also includes the four promo videos for the album on the DVD. In December 2007 the band drummer Chris Frazier joined the band, replacing Tommy Aldridge.
In March 2008 Whitesnake played at the Rock2Wgtn two day festival, which also featured Ozzy Osbourne, Kiss, Poison, Alice Cooper and Lordi, with special effects by the Academy Award winning WETA Workshop. In April 2008 the band released their tenth studio album, Good to Be Bad, which reached #5 in the UK album chart. During the summer of 2008 Whitesnake headlined a UK tour along with Def Leppard, with Black Stone Cherry opening the UK arena shows in June and Thunder opening the July shows.
In early November 2008, Whitesnake received the Classic Rock Best Album award for Good To Be Bad.
On February 11, 2009, Whitesnake announced they would be playing a festival slot at Download Festival, UK on June 14 via their official website. They also announced Def Leppard would be playing on the same day. It was also announced that Whitesnake, Def Leppard and Journey would play The O2 in Dublin on June 12, 2009.
On March 17, 2009, it was announced that Whitesnake will be supporting Judas Priest on the 2009 North American Summer tour.
On August 11, 2009 Whitesnake was playing a show at Red Rocks in Morrison, Colorado when front man David Coverdale suffered a vocal injury. After seeing a specialist, it was announced on August 12, 2009 that Coverdale was suffering from severe vocal fold edema and a left vocal fold vascular lesion, and the band had to withdraw from the remainder of Judas Priest tour.
In early February 2010, David Coverdale has announced his voice seems to have fully recovered from the trauma that sidelined him and the band on the Priest tour. He states he's been recording new demos, aiming for a new Whitesnake album, and on tape his voice is sounding full and strong.
In June 2010 Whitesnake announced they will be releasing their own wine, a 2008 Zinfandel, described by David Coverdale as "filled to the brim with the spicy essence of sexy, slippery Snakeyness ... I recommend it to complement any & all grown up friskiness & hot tub jollies ..."
On June 18, 2010, it was announced that Whitesnake had parted ways with bassist Uriah Duffy and drummer Chris Frazier and that their new drummer is former Billy Idol drummer Brian Tichy. On August 20, 2010, Whitesnake announced that their new bassist is Michael Devin.
On September 13, 2010, keyboardist Timothy Drury announced his departure from Whitesnake to pursue a solo career. Drury has returned though, as a guest musician, to record keyboards for the band's 2011 album Forevermore.
Whitesnake plan to release their next album, titled Forevermore, on March 25, 2011 in Europe, and on the 29th in North America. They have released a number of scheduled 2011 tour dates on their website, with six scheduled UK tour dates and other European dates. In February, 2011, Whitesnake was announced as one of the headliners to play the annual Rocklahoma festival in Pryor, Oklahoma, on Memorial Day weekend. A digital single for the song 'Love Will Set You Free' was released, along with a video for the song, on February 21. The album 'Forevermore' will be released as a special edition 'Snakepack' through Classic Rock magazine and will be released on March 25, a full 3 weeks before its commercial release. The fan pack includes the full, official new album 'Forevermore', a 132pp magazine, poster and pin badge.