Zakk Wylde: Humble Beginings to Riff God

By Andrew Catania
Zakk Wylde first played the guitar when he was at a very young age of eight, only to quit a short time after due to lack of interest. At the age of 14, Zakk Wylde picked up where he left off. He began taking guitar lessons from his high school football coach’s son, LeRoy Wright, at Jackson Memorial High School. Later on, he studied classical guitar with a guy from Freehold, New Jersey. Zakk Wylde then formed his first band, which was called “Stone Henge.” They played songs at parties like Ozzy’s “Park at the Moon” and other songs by Black Sabbath and Rush.
Upon graduating from Jackson Memorial High School at the age of 18, Zakk became a member of another band. He replaced the guitarist of “Zyris” who left to form his own band. It was with this band that Zakk Wylde started to write his own originals. And upon joining “Zyris”, he referred to himself as Zakk Wyland.
Hearing on the Howard Stern Show that Ozzy would be auditioning unknown guitarists, Zakk never thought it to be more than a fantasy. At one Zyris show, Zakk was discovered playing by rock photographers Mark Weiss and Dave Feld. Amazed at Zakk’s playing, Dave confronted Zakk, and mentioned that Ozzy was looking for a new guitarist and that they would pass along a press kit. Zakk tried the audition with Ozzy. During the audition Zakk played a few Ozzy songs and some acoustic and classical stuff. After the audition he returned home thinking he didn’t get the job.
 One day he received a phone call from Sharon Osbourne asking if he would join the band.
Zakk had joined up with Ozzy at the age of 20, in May of 1987. It was then he was given the last name “Wylde.” Ozzy introduced Zakk as his new guitarist at the Hard Rock Café in New York City, on Dec.15, 1987. Zakk Wylde made his debut with Ozzy Osbourne on album in 1988 with “No Rest For The Wicked.” Zakk quickly became a big name in the guitarist community, due to his instantly recognizable guitar sound and style. In 1989, Zakk got to tour the world playing guitar for Ozzy.
In the early 1990s, Zakk Wylde had formed his own solo band Pride & Glory, playing a mixture of bluesy southern rock with heavy metal. However, after one album, they disbanded in December 1994. Zakk Wylde subsequently recorded an acoustic solo album, Book of Shadows(released 1996).
 In May 1998, after limited commercial success with Book of Shadows, Zakk Wylde and drummer Phil Ondich recorded what became Black Label Society’s debut album,“Sonic Brew”.
Zakk Wylde found success in playing lead guitar in Ozzy Osbourne’s band as well as in his own band, Black Label Society, who have been a part of the Ozzfest tour many times. Zakk has been voted “Most Valuable Player” for three successive years in the “Guitar World” magazine polls.
In 2005, he was also voted “Best Metal Guitarist,” “Number 1 Shredder” and received the “Metal Hammer” (UK magazine) “Riff Lord” and “Golden God” awards. So basically, Zakk Wylde went from an unknown kid playing in small clubs in New Jersey, to playing huge arenas.
After a 20-year wait, Zakk Wylde released the highly anticipated follow up to 1996’s “Book of Shadows”. It’s one of the most powerful albums of 2016. We all know and love Zakk for his crunchy riffs and the blistering solos he’s created for decades now, but this record shows another side of the guitar icon. It’s brutally honest and beautiful. If you’re expecting to hear material that Zakk has written with Ozzy or Black Label Society, this is not the record for you. This is Zakk, his guitar, and a lifetime of emotions that he pours into each track.
I’ve admired Zakk Wylde throughout his career, but my admiration has been taken to new heights. Not only does “Book of Shadows II” illustrate how incredible of an overall artist he is, but it showcases how human he is as well. 
With a career like his, it would be easy to have an ego and put out an album to bloat it. Instead, Zakk released his most personal album ever, and after you hear these 14 new songs, you’ll never feel closer to him.
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