White joined Yes in July 1972 as a replacement for their original drummer, Bill Bruford. White has performed on over 50 albums throughout his career, including those by Joe Cocker, Ginger Baker, and The Ventures. White was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Yes in 2017.
White was born on 14 June 1949 in the village of Pelton, County Durham in north east England. 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. His grandfather played the piano and his uncle was a drummer in local dance bands. He attended at a technical school and, at age seven, moved to the nearby town of Ferryhill, where he spent the rest of his childhood. 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. White names his uncle as a big influence. 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.
Several months into formal drumming lessons, White joined his first band, a local group named the Downbeats, at thirteen. They performed songs by the Beatles, the Searchers, and Gerry and the Pacemakers. 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. White's school teachers only found out about his activities when the band were featured in the local newspaper. 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 which did not chart. They returned home, and disbanded soon after.
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. 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. White went on to play in Happy Magazine, later known as Griffin, 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.
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 Voorman. White disbelieved Lennon's call and offer and thought he was a prankster, 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. 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. 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 and a period with Steve Winwood and Terry Reid.
To save time commuting to London from the house he shared with his Griffin band mates in Sussex, White shared a flat with engineer and producer Eddy Offord who worked with Yes on their albums and tours. 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. 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.
On 19 July 1972, after Yes had finished recording Close to the Edge, Bruford left Yes to join King Crimson. 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, informed White that the band wanted him to join. 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. 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 addition to his drum playing, White has played piano and written music for several Yes albums.
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.
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.
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.
White also serves as the Grand Marshal at the Issaquah, Washington Salmon Days Festival
White has been married for over twenty years to Gigi. They have two children, Jesse (also a musician) and Cassi. He currently lives in Newcastle, Washington.15 January 2006 : "Lifetime Achievement Award" by the Guitar Center of Los Angeles.
With Chris Squire
"Run with the Fox" (1981)
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
"Instant Karma!" (plays drums, piano and back-up vocals)
"Imagine" (plays drums on "Imagine")
Live Peace in Toronto 1969 (1969)
Imagine (1971) (plays 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) (plays on the Live Jam at the Lyceum Ballroom in London on 15 December 1969 at a UNICEF charity concert)
With George Harrison
All Things Must Pass (1970)
Radha Krsna Temple (1971)
Chant and Be Happy!: Indian Devotional Songs (1991)With Yes
Tales from Topographic Oceans (1973)
Going for the One (1977)
Big Generator (1987)
Keys to Ascension (1996)
Keys to Ascension 2 (1997)
Open Your Eyes (1997)
The Ladder (1999)
Fly from Here (2011)
Heaven & Earth (2014)
With The Syn
Armistice Day (2007)
Circa: 2007 (2007)
Circa: Live (2008)
With Tony Levin and David Torn
Other appearances and sessions
The Downbeats: "My Bonnie" (single)
The Blue Chips: "I'm on the Right Side" (single)
The Blue Chips: "Some Kind of Loving" (single)
The Blue Chips: "Good Loving Never Hurts" (single)
The Gamblers: "Dr Goldfoot (and His Bikini Machine)" (single)
Happy Magazine: "Satisfied Street" (single)
Happy Magazine: "Who Belongs to You" (single)
Johnny Almond Music Machine: Patent Pending (1969)
Johnny Almond: "Solar Machine" (single) (1969)
Doris Troy: You Tore Me Up Inside
Billy Preston: Encouraging Words (1969)
Gary Wright: Extraction (1970); Headin' Home (1979)
Paul Kossoff: Back Street Crawler (1973)
Denny Laine and Balls: "Fight for My Country" (single) (1971)
Sky: Don't Hold Back (1971)
Brian Short: Anything for a Laugh (1971)
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
XYZ Project with Jimmy Page & Chris Squire. (1981 – "Believe It", "Telephone Secrets", "Fortune Hunter" (demos))
Jesse Davis: Jesse Davis
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.