Hero: Zakk Wylde
by Chris Duxbury

            This man has played with the grandfather of heavy metal, Ozzy Osbourne, for 17 years. He is a successful solo artist. He has been praised by many guitar and music magazines and handed countless awards of guitar achievement. He is dedicated to his craft, his country, and his friends. And above all, in his own “good ‘ole boy style”, this man is as humble and down to earth as they get. I cannot honestly say that there is a person more deserving of the title “hero”, especially in the music and entertainment business, than Zakk Wylde.
            Born Jeffrey Phillip Wielandt, Zakk’s ascension to master-of-the-6-string began at the age of 14.  Hearing that Ozzy Osbourne needed a replacement guitarist on the Howard Stern show, Zakk went to an audition, thinking that he probably wouldn’t get the job. It turned out that his hard-work, dedication, and practicing of classical and unorthdox techniques would grab him the gig.  Zakk Wylde would go on to replace guitar-legend Rhandy Rhoads (R.I.P.) and join the Ozzy Osbourne band at the ripe age of 20. In addition to selling millions of records under the Ozzy banner, Zakk has gone on to front his own band, Black Label Society. Zakk has won many guitar achievement awards, including mos recently the “Riff Lord” award at the 2005 Metal Hammer Golden Gods Awards. Despite his commercial exposure, Zakk remains a “muscian’s musician” and sings, song-writes, and plays damn good guitar.
            Part of what makes Zakk so admirable is his dedication to the important things in his life. Upon listening to his playing, it’s easy to tell that the man is skilled. If he’s not touring or working out, Zakk is using every minute of his free time to refine his craft, even on the tour bus. Zakk is also very patriotic and dedicated to Old Glory – the United States of America. On several occasions, Mr. Wylde has visited the troops in the Middle East for free concerts and autograph signings. During concerts, Zakk is constantly dedicating songs to the troops in Afghanistan and showing his unadulterated enthusiasm for our nation. Lastly, Zakk is dedicated to his friends. Most notably, late Pantera member and guitarist-in-arms, “Dimebag” Darrell Abbot, was gunned down in Columbus. For months after that, Zakk was all over the media discussing the heinous act. He even wrote a song on his album that came out afterwards about memories with Abbot, and created a "Dimebag Darrell Young Guitarist" award to honor his friend.
            Finally, there is something about Zakk Wylde that just screams “hero”; a certain “x-factor” that can’t be defined. I believe the term “badass” most succinctly sums up what I’m talking about. Zakk has a certain “old south” charisma about him that attracts your attention and makes you feel like the guy is genuine and like a friend you’ve known for years. Yet, just like the southern general’s of the Civil War, Zakk has a no-bullshit attitude that commands your respect. If the man feels strongly about something, he’ll tell you, in his own profanity-laden drawl, and stick to his guns to the bitter end. Yet, despite his rough, laid-back disposition, Zakk is a gentle, introspective man who cares for his family, his trade, and traditions of the past.
            Zakk Wylde might not fit the popular preconception of a “hero”; rather, some might see him as a sort of anti-hero. However, it is this atypical image that makes Zakk such an inspiration. His laid-back, down to earth style make the man easily accessible to the many who look up to him, despite his status as a rock star. Even though the man sells records and makes a load of money, he never lets it get to his head, always honoring his roots, humbling his prowess, and taking time to connect with the fans. Wylde may not be the mild-mannered Clark Kent – no, quite the opposite. Zakk Wylde is one of the most ballsy, respectable, skilled, dedicated men you may ever meet – and that’s why I call him my “hero”.