Russell was born in Montebello, California. He grew up with influences such as Robert Plant and Steven Tyler, and became a vocalist for many bands in high school and later on. He met Mark Kendall in a concert and began plans to form a band called Dante Fox. Band manager Alan Niven and Kendall decided to change the name of the band to Great White because "that was Mark Kendall’s nickname. He had very white hair and very light complexion. They called him The Great White". Russell's ancestry is English, Irish and Native American.
Russell was with Great White from 1981-1996, then took 3 years off to record and release his 1st solo album, entitled Shelter Me, then rejoined in 1999 until the band broke up in 2001. He then tried touring solo under his own name briefly, then changed the band name to "Jack Russell's Great White" & toured from 2002-2005 & also released a 2nd solo album entitled For You in 2002.
"Jack Russell's Great White" was the official name of the band that performed at The Station nightclub fire in 2003, not under the official "Great White" moniker.
In 2006 he began touring with the official Great White band when they reformed with their classic lineup, then left the band in 2009 due to a fall in his bathroom where he cracked two vertebrae and herniated a disc. He had multiple back surgeries and was using a plethora of pain medication. Along with alcoholism, the death of good friend, Warrant singer Jani Lane, propelled him to get help and become sober.
On March 25, 2011, Russell married his girlfriend Heather Ann Kramer.