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Dread Zeppelin

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Dread Zeppelin channeled the musical spirits of Led Zeppelin, Elvis Presley, and Bob Marley to create tongue-in-cheek novelty rock heartily endorsed by no less an authority than Robert Plant himself. Led by one Tortelvis -- a 300-pound Elvis impersonator born Greg Tortell -- the lineup also included guitarists Jah Paul Jo (Joe Ramsey) and Carl Jah (Carl Haasis), bassist Butt-Boy (Gary Putman), percussionist Ed Zeppelin (Bryant Fernandez), and drummer Fresh Cheese (Paul Masselli); playing their debut live gig on January 8, 1989 (the 54th anniversary of the King's birth), the Pasadena, CA-based group performed reggae-influenced renditions of classic Led Zep anthems capped off by Presley-like vocals, an approach perhaps best exemplified by gene-spliced songs like "Heartbreaker (At the End of Lonely Street)." Growing local buzz soon earned Dread Zeppelin a deal with IRS Records, and in 1990 the group issued their debut LP Un-led-Ed; in addition to surprisingly strong sales, the record's cover of "Your Time Is Gonna Come" also earned high marks from former Led Zep frontman Plant, who admitted he preferred their updated rendition over the original. Dread Zeppelin's second album, 5,000,000*, followed in 1991, but already the joke was growing stale, and the following summer Tortelvis, Ed Zeppelin, and Fresh Cheese left the band; Butt-Boy rechristened himself Gary B.I.B.B. and assumed vocal duties for the follow-up, 1992's It's Not Unusual, a disco record which effectively alienated much of their core audience as well as executives at IRS, who dropped the group immediately after. Tortelvis and Ed Zeppelin returned for 1993's Hot & Spicy Beanburger, a return to past glories issued on Jah Paul Jo's own Birdcage label; shortly after Dread Zeppelin made a cameo in the 1994 film comedy National Lampoon's Last Resort, Carl Jah and Ed Zeppelin then left the lineup, with the latter's brother Bruce and bassist Derf Nasna-Haj signing on for 1995's No Quarter Pounder. Jah Paul Jo's subsequent departure preceded 1996's The Fun Sessions, the group's lone recording for the Imago imprint; both the live The Song Remains Insane and the rarities collection Ruins soon followed. Deja Voodoo was released in late 2000, marking a return to the Led Zep tributes that constituted the group's bread and butter. The band soon started their own label and website, creating a cottage industry selling music direct to their fans. Live DVDs and CDs plus their first all-original album, Spam Bake, kept hungry Dread Heads satisfied. The music/video hybrid CD Chicken and Ribs from 2005 included the band's version of "Kung Fu Fighting". ~ Jason Ankeny

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Pasadena, CA

Years Active:

'80s, '90s, '00s