Granted, they weren’t even from New York, but that never stopped Long Islanders from adopting the band Zebra as one of their own. And, although they were little more than a cover band in the 70s, they were a damn popular one, and better things were lurking on the horizon for this rockin’ trio.
Zebra was formed in 1975, a power trio from Louisiana that many have likened to Led Zeppelin, probably due to the band’s fondness for Zep’s material, especially in the early years. Of course, it takes quite a singer to pull of Robert Plant, but frontman Randy Jackson not only had the falsetto range to mimic the legendary singer, but some formidable guitar skills to accompany his powereful vocals.
Meanwhile, bass and keyboard duties were covered by the multi-talented Felix Hanemann, while drummer Guy Gelso provided the hammering backbeat, along with a welcoming amount of finesse.
Zebra played their first Long Island gig in 1976, and soon became one of the top drawing acts on the island, playing regularly at places like Hammerheads, The Mad Hatter and Speaks. They got considerable promotional help from local radio station WBAB, who featured the band on the popular WBAB Homegrown album released in 1981.
During this time, record companies began to take notice, and the band would eventually sign with the Atlantic label. They released their first self-titled album in 1983, featuring a number of original tunes that were already well-known by their fans, songs such as “As I’ve Said Before,” “The La La Song,” “One More Chance” and what would become their biggest-selling song, “Who’s Behind the Door.”
The album sold well and the future looked bright for Zebra. Sadly, they failed to make much of an impact nationally, and although the band has released a number of albums over the years, all have failed to capture the popularity of their debut effort.
Still, Zebra has always known where home is, and they still play occasionally around the island. In 2010, they celebrated their 35th anniversary as a band by being inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame.
But to many a Long Island rock and roll fan, Zebra will always be a shining example of the finest of homegrown talent, even if the band was always technically an import. It matters not; Long Islanders have always embraced Zebra as their own and that’s unlikely to change.
If you are a fan of this honorary Long Island band, we hope you’ll take a moment to share all of your Zebra memories with us in our comments section below.