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After moving from Denmark to New York in 1983, vocalist Mike Tramp (formerly of the bands Mabel and Studs) met Staten Island guitarist Vito Bratta (Formerly of Dreamer) and decided to form a band. The two recruited drummer Nicki Capozzi and bassist Felix Robinson (formerly of Angel) and named the group White Lion.
White Lion was signed by Elektra Records in 1984 and recorded their debut album Fight to Survive. Elektra was unhappy with the final recording, and after refusing to release the album, terminated their contract.
Both Capozzi and Robinson soon left the band. Nicki Capozzi was replaced by former Anthrax drummer Greg D'Angelo, and Felix Robinson was replaced by bassist Dave Spitz (brother of Anthrax guitarist Dan Spitz). Within a month of joining, however, Dave Spitz left to play bass with Black Sabbath and was replaced by James LoMenzo.
The album Fight to Survive was eventually re-recorded with new line-up and released in Japan by RCA Records in 1984. The small US independent label Grand Slam Records finally released Fight To Survive in the US on November 9, 1985. A few months later, Grand Slam Records went bankrupt.
In early 1986, White Lion, with a fictitious female member, had a brief part in the Tom Hanks/Shelley Long movie The Money Pit.