zed 1In my 50-plus years in showbiz, I’ve run across so many great performers that never get the recognition they deserve. Often, these cats are better than many of the famous faces that were in the right place at the right time to get launched into the National Spotlight. I’m talking about club players that become popular in their local area because they are freaking great players and entertainers.

There are bunch of those in Tampa. I was one of them for a dozen years while I sided on organ for blues artists such as Otis Day and Lorelei. It’s not easy for me to watch other bands. I don’t hear music like most civilians (non-musicians). I hear every right and wrong note, every missed change, every perfectly executed mood change, every overplay, every note that didn’t belong. every refreshing rest, and every pitch problem. That isn’t fun for me, but I can’t help but analyze every act I see. It’s an occupational hazard.

That is why it is such a treat for me to see a group like Bad Blood. Even better, they have an ass kicking keyboardist who goes by the name of Zed Maestro. I get excited over cats like Zed because I can just sit back, listen, and be entertained for a welcome, entertaining relief. My brain actually jumps out of critic mode and settles back to listen and, of course, steal licks, which is made easier by keyboardists that strap on a keyboard, like Zed. I still do all of the analysis but it’s joyous instead of torturous.

Zed started playing professionally in 1968, touring the US and Canada with various groups and opening for some of the biggest, such as “George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic, Cypress Hill, Method Man & Redman, Alien Ant Farm, and even Sean Kingston.”

It is clear to me that we share most of the same musical influences:Deep Purple,  Santana, Steppenwolf, Doors, Styx, Rascals, Vanilla Fudge, and Uriah Heep. Styx, really??? OK, all but one.

Recently, Zed consented to a phone interview. What I expected to be a brief exchange turned into a 2-hour talk that went by too quickly.

Asked about his marriage he related that his line had always been, “I don’t get married. I just go on honeymoon’s.”

zed 3That all ended when Zed, in his early 40’s, met a beauty from Trinidad. Like Elvin Bishop sings, Zed “Fooled Around & Fell In Love”. But, soon after, her father got sick and she returned to Trinidad with Zed joining her a few months later. There they wed and  Zed became a popular local entertainer. Their union led to a child with Zed at age 50. My heart goes out to him and makes me glad I did all my breeding by age 35. I can’t imagine dealing with a teenager in my 60’s. It was challenge enough in my 40’s and early 50’s. But Zed relishes the blessing of watching his daughter progress toward womanhood.

zed 2Inspired by Edgar Winter, Zed’s current keyboard rig consists of an M-Audio  MIDI-controller fed into a Sony Vaio using B4 software from Native Instruments, which provides an vast array of vintage keys,  amps, cabinets, and 4 different Leslies. This older version of the software allows for degrading the tone-wheel generators to simulate virtually any year and model of Hammond. He has some killer Jon Lord patches in his quiver.

The sliders on top of the keyboard provide live drawbar capabilities and true percussion control of loud/soft, fast/slow decay, and second/third selection. He runs that signal through a digital Marshall half-stack. Zed hears no difference from the physical, nor do I.

zed 4Zed invested considerable time adapting the keyboard into the carry version. First he had to gingerly drill holes for the strap lugs. Then, he attached a foam pad under the back to offset it correctly from his body, resting it just above the knee.

Bad Blood is Zed’s new band. It is a group focused upon the music that Zed (and me) love best: good old, hard driving, rock and roll with all the influences listed above.

“Back at Christmas a Tampa guitarist friended me on Face Book. Then, he Private Messaged me to ask if I was interested in forming a hard rock band along the lines of Deep Purple. I thought about it for, oh, about a half a millisecond and said, ‘YES’

“January 8th, was our first practice. Our lead singer has a big, powerful personality and voice to match. He looks like a freaking Viking. I’m serous, just like a freaking Viking. I love his voice.”

zed 5After only a few rehearsals Zed booked the band for three local gigs. Their third gig was at the State Theater in Tampa where they opened for Gilby Clark (formerly of Gun & Roses). They received a resounding ovation for every song.

Original Bad Blood songs like Love Is Gone and Crash N Burn are now on my iPhone playlist. I use the songs on my daily walks to set my pace. I forget about the walking and settle into listening mode.

Like I said, it isn’t easy for me to find groups that I can actually listen to without slipping into critic mode. With Zed, I fall easily into fan mode.