In the Spotlight showcases a cross-section of an artist’s cover work. View past installments, then post suggestions for future picks in the comments!
Imagine, if you will, a place where Elvis is still the King. Not the slim, young, rockabilly Elvis, shaking hips and pouting lips, but a rotund, sweaty, Vegas Elvis, one who is adorned in sequins, karate-kicking and crab-clawing his way through an entire set of Led Zeppelin songs. And just for shins and grits, imagine those oh-so-familiar classic rock tunes tuned to a reggae beat and backed by a band that’s a cross between Bad Brains and Bob Marley. Amazingly, what can be imagined can – and has – become reality. Welcome to the world of Dread Zeppelin.
An Elvis impersonator singing Led Zeppelin songs to a reggae beat does at first sound like a joke, and it might well be – except that this band has had some incredibly talented musicians over the years, and their entertainment value is always worth the cover. The current band is fronted by the mighty Tortelvis, no doubt the best channel of Elvis birthed by aliens that you will ever see. Another mainstay is Butt-Boy, almost naked guitarist extraordinaire and occasional death metal growler. There’s Bob Knarley and Ziggy Knarley, bringing the Zeppelin beats inna reggae style. Finally, there’s Charlie Haj, Tortelvis manservant and towel bearer, who caters to the King’s prodigious physical and pharmaceutical requirements throughout the performance. It’s a great lineup, and for a quarter century, this unlikely crew has been delighting and surprising audiences with shows that are not to be missed.
It’s easy to find a knockout Dread Zeppelin cover – the fact is, almost every song they sing is a cover, and there are so many great ones to choose from in their library of over a dozen albums to date. Enjoy the selection that follows and treat yourself to a show when the party comes to town. By the way, they have the full endorsement of Robert Plant, who is quoted in several interviews as calling Dread Zeppelin one of his favorite cover bands.
Dread Zeppelin – Heartbreaker (at the End of Lonely Street) (Led Zeppelin / Elvis Presley cover)
From Dread Zeppelin’s first album, Un-Led-Ed, “Heartbreaker (at the End of Lonely Street)” is the perfect Dread Zeppelin song. It’s a call-and-response between Led Zeppelin II’s “Heartbreaker” and Elvis Presley’s “Heartbreak Hotel.” When that first Jimmy Page riff hits the reggae beat, it serves as a mind-blowing moment for the uninitiated.
Dread Zeppelin – I Can’t Quit You Baby (Led Zeppelin cover)
Another one from Dread Zeppelin’s first. Tortelvis is in rare form on this cover of “I Can’t Quit You Baby,” Led Zeppelin’s version of Willie Dixon’s blues classic written for Otis Rush (a triple cover). White boy blues never sounded better when done inna reggae style, and Tortelvis is hilarious with his ad libs and uncontrolled sobbing.
Dread Zeppelin – Misty Mountain Hop (Led Zeppelin cover)
From Dread Zeppelin II, also known as 5,000,000* (*Tortelvis Fans Can’t Be Wrong), comes “Misty Mountain Hop,” a ska version of the classic song from Led Zeppelin IV. The horns definitely add punch to the shuffling beat.
Dread Zeppelin – Feel Like Making Love (Bad Company cover)
What do you do when you’re a Led Zeppelin cover band and run out of Led Zeppelin songs? Cover every other band with Elvis inna reggae style, of course! From the album Fun Sessions, Dread covers the classic Bad Company track “Feel Like Making Love.” Also in the mix are covers of “Baba O’Riley,” “Smoke on the Water,” and “Freebird,” just to name a few.
Dread Zeppelin – White Christmas (Bing Crosby cover)
When you need to jolly up your holiday mood, there is nothing better than a dose of the DZ. From the album Presents, this version of “White Christmas” is just one of many amazing covers of those yuletide classics in the Dread Zeppelin style. Bing would not be pleased, but we think you will.