|Origin||Sierra Madre, California, United States|
|Genres||Reggae rock,comedy rock ("Zeppelin-inna-reggae")|
Jah Paul Jo
Jah Jah Gabor
Dread Zeppelin is an American band best known for performing the songs of Led Zeppelin in a reggae style as sung by a 300-pound (140 kg) Las Vegas Elvis impersonator. Over the years they have also performed songs originally by Elvis Presley, Bob Marley and The Yardbirds. The group toured extensively around the world during their tenure with I.R.S. Records.
The nucleus of Dread Zeppelin, bassist Put-Mon (Gary Putman), drummer Cheese (Curt Lichter) and guitarist Jah Paul Jo (Joseph "Severs" Ramsey), were from a Pasadena, California group called The Prime Movers. Signed to Island Records in 1986, The Prime Movers had some success in the UK with singles "On The Trail" and "Dark Western Night." The late Stuart Adamson of Big Country contributed his trademark E-Bow guitar to "Dark Western Night" and another Prime Mover song, "Strong As I Am," was featured in Michael Mann's motion picture thriller, Manhunter.
When The Prime Movers ended in 1989, Jah Paul Jo hatched the idea for a new group that would call itself "Dread Zeppelin." Aside from the three original members, the band recruited guitarist Carl Jah (Carl Haasis) and 300-pound Vegas-era Elvis impersonator Tortelvis (Greg Tortell). The band supposedly met Tortelvis when he rammed his milk float into the back of the band's car. Longtime graphic artist for The Prime Movers, Bryant Fernandez, was brought in as conga-man Ed Zeppelin.
The concept for Dread Zeppelin may be less bizarre than it seems. Notably, Led Zeppelin did make several recordings which reflected a prominent reggae influence, such as the 1973 song "D'yer Mak'er." Also, the band frequently performed Elvis Presley songs in concert, often presented as a medley which occasionally flirted with self-parody. (Led Zeppelin met Elvis briefly in 1974 after attending one of his concerts in Los Angeles.)
The first Dread Zeppelin recording was meant to be a goof on Led Zeppelin's 45 single "Immigrant Song" and its sought-after non-LP B-Side "Hey Hey What Can I Do". Produced by Jah Paul Jo and Rasta Li-Mon (Lee Manning) and released on their indie Birdcage Records label, the single sold amazingly well and represses featured the seven inch 45 RPM in a rasta rainbow of colors: red (original), green, yellow, blue, white and clear vinyl. All early Dread Zeppelin recordings and most of the band's first album Un-Led-Ed were recorded at the home studio of Dave Stewart of Eurythmics, where Rasta Li-Mon was a house engineer.
After the success of "Immigrant Song," a second single, "Whole Lotta Love/Tour-telvis: A Bad Trip", was released on Birdcage Records. A third, "Your Time is Gonna Cum/Woodstock (live)", was released not as a single but as part of a singles compilation entitled Komm Gib Mir Deine Zeppelin (a play on the title of the German version of The Beatles' song "I Want to Hold Your Hand"). There was also a live cassette issued by Birdcage, but only to members of The Dread Zeppelin fan club, called Live On Blueberry Cheesecake.
In 1990, Dread Zeppelin were signed to Miles Copeland III's IRS label. Their first album, Un-Led-Ed, consisted of more covers taken from Led Zeppelin and Led Zeppelin II, plus "Black Dog" from Led Zeppelin's untitled fourth album. Original drummer Cheese (Curt Lichter) left the band just after recording Un-Led-Ed. He was replaced by Fresh Cheese (Paul Maselli). Shortly before Un-Led-Ed was released, the original Ed Zeppelin (percussion) was replaced by his identical twin brother (Bruce Fernandez).
Un-Led-Ed was successful. In autumn 1990, Dread Zeppelin took a three-week break from touring and recorded their second album, 5,000,000* *Tortelvis Fans Can't Be Wrong. In addition to the usual "Zeppelin in a reggae style", this album also featured a cover of Bob Marley's "Stir It Up" as well as three original songs.
For the next album, the band had planned a rock opera, Albert, about a rock critic who wanted to be a star (based loosely on the real rock critic Albert Goldman), but this never materialized. The plan changed to an album of disco covers, It's Not Unusual. Both Ed Zeppelin and Fresh Cheese had left the band after 5,000,000* *Tortelvis Fans Can't Be Wrong, and during rehearsals for the new album, Tortelvis also quit. Bassist Put-Mon (Gary Putman) took over the vocals, assuming the name Gary B.I.B.B. It's Not Unusual featured guest spots by both Screamin' Jay Hawkins and Randy Bachman.
Whether it was the public's resistance to disco, or the lack of Dread's popular frontman, Tortelvis, sales of It's Not Unusual were disappointing. The band was dropped by IRS and for all intents and purposes, had dissolved.
Unknown to the band, Dread Zeppelin were being sought by Australian rock band INXS to be the support band on their US tour. INXS were fans of Dread Zeppelin. Tortelvis was persuaded to return to the band; however, without a recording contract, he could only perform at the May 8, 1993 show at The Barker Hangar in Santa Monica. Dread Zeppelin returned to the studio. With Jah Paul Jo and Rasta Li-Mon again producing, they recorded Hot & Spicy Beanburger, a 1993 release on Birdcage Records.
In the spring of 1994, Dread Zeppelin appeared in the feature film National Lampoon's Last Resort and provided a song for the closing credits. Carl Jah (Carl Haasis) and Ed Zeppelin left the band shortly thereafter.
With Put-Mon moving from bass to lead guitar and the addition of David Raven (drums), bassist Derf Nosna Haj (Freddie Johnson) and Fernandez (Pete Burke) on conga and toast, Dread Zeppelin recorded No Quarter Pounder. Released by Birdcage Records in 1995, No Quarter Pounder would be the band's final Birdcage CD as Jah Paul Jo left the group shortly after its release.
The remaining members of Dread Zeppelin signed onto Imago Records and released The Fun Sessions, a collection of classic rock covers. It was the first all non-Led Zeppelin cover recording with the exception of "BBWAGS (Butt-Boy's Wearin' a Girls' Shirt)" written by Gary Putman. This would be Derf Nosna Haj (Freddie Johnson) and Fernandez (Pete Burke) last recording with the band. After the Imago release, Carl Jah and Ed Zeppelin returned to the band.
Dread then signed to Cleopatra Records and recorded De-jah Voodoo in 1999 produced by Bob Knarley (Howard Ulyate), the son of legendary trombone player Lloyd Ulyate. The recording was re-released by Cleopatra with a new cover and name Re-Led-Ed.
In 1995 Dread Zeppelin had a new production company, Cash Cow, run by original members Gary Putman (Butt-Boy) and Greg Tortell (Tortelvis), which had produced the Fun Sessions. They released the live album Front Yard Bar*B*Que in December 1996 and the all-original album Spam Bake in November 1997. All three were produced by Robert Incorvaia. Spam Bake was considered Gary Putman's "original music masterpiece" and a take off of the Elvis movie sound recordings of the 1960s. Also released on Cash Cow Records was the band's first full length Christmas recording Presents in 2002. Chicken and Ribs followed in 2004; both were produced by Bob Knarley. Other recordings were DVD media (Jah-La-Palooza 2004 and Live in Minne-Jah-Polis 2002) and bootlegs of shows, after a clamoring for such product from their loyal and long-time fanbase.
In February 2008 the band released Bar Coda, produced by longtime band member Spice (Cris Boerin). During the recording of Bar Coda, Carl Jah left the group. His spot in the live show was taken by Spice who plays keyboards and percussion.
Lead singer Tortelvis sang "The Star Spangled Banner" at Bank One Ballpark, now known as Chase Field, in Phoenix, Arizona on May 27, 2005. He had been scheduled to sing the song at a Minnesota Twins game in 1992, but Roseanne Barr's notorious version (two days before his planned appearance) quashed that opportunity.
Dread Zeppelin still tours and releases new material with original members Butt-Boy and Tortelvis, and longtime members Spice, Bob Knarley, Ziggy Knarley and Charlie Haj. Putman is the only member of Dread Zeppelin to have performed on every record and played every live show to date.