STORY: Jane Fuentes
The rock ‘n’ roll landscape is filled with tough-as-nails characters who have endured fickle fans, band breakups and shattered dreams, but few have survived as much adversity as Sick Ross, 52-year-old drummer for local hard rock band Keeper.
In 2011, Ross was involved in a horrific car accident that almost claimed his life. “The other car ran a light and I got T-boned,” he says. “I had over 40 broken bones. I was two weeks in a paralytic coma and flat lined three times.
But he lived to rock again.
“Every day is a gift,” he says. “I don’t take a single day for granted. One of the best moments of my life was last New Year’s when my son Paul played with me on stage for the first time. He played the saxophone to Bob Seger’s ‘Turn the Page.’ I downloaded the sheet music from the Internet the night before and that’s all the practice he had. I am one proud papa.”
“Turn the Page” is about as mellow as Keeper gets.
“I’m the metalhead, and I like loud-and-in-your-face hard rock,” says Ross, who lives in Summerfield. In a previous life, Ross played with Lobotomy, an old school thrash band. “We opened for hard-core death metal bands like Suicidal Tendencies, Exodus and Nuclear Assault.”
Bill Broyles, rhythm guitarist and vocalist, is at the other end of the musical spectrum. The Fruitland Park resident likes to bring things down a notch. He cites Paul McCartney as the artist he’d most like to share a stage with.
The musical tastes of bass guitarist Earl Ammer (Wildwood) and lead guitarist Rob Howard (Fruitland Park) fall somewhere between the preferences of Ross and Broyles. They favor Eric Clapton, Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd.
“We’re all about the same age,” Broyles says, “and there’s certain genres of music we all identified with growing up. Each of us is partial to certain genres, so we’ve got a really eclectic playlist — classic rock, alternative, heavy metal … ”
Band members have played in various bands throughout Central Florida and have known each other for years. “We go way back,” Broyles explains. “Heck, there’s 100 years of experience just between the drummer and the bass player.”
Keeper members have been around the proverbial block a time or two, which explains why they are totally at home in front of all kinds of audiences, especially boisterous ones. The band’s powerful, energetic and, at times, ear-splitting sets reflect Keepers’ riotous, albeit expressive personalities and their choice to live their lives out loud. They play hard, love harder and own the consequences.
For instance, while most musicians have a day job, not many choose to wrestle bears for a living. Yet for nine months that’s how Broyles supported himself. “That was the dumbest thing I’ve ever done in my life,” he says. “Someone said to me, ‘Hey, if you want to be a bear wrestler, we’ll give you money.’” Today, Broyles is a computer technician by day, a skydiver and rescue diver.
Broyles says one of the best experiences they’ve had as a band was playing a free concert last year for Heart Strings for Heroes. “The concert was to raise money for wounded veterans,” he explains. “It was really a heartfelt thing for us on a personal level. We look forward to participating again this year.”
“We don’t play for the money,” Ross adds. “We’ve all got day jobs. We play for the pure love of music, and for the fans that follow us around and support us.”
Keeper is working on a new CD with a release date sometime midyear. They’ve also scheduled live performances at Frank’s Place in Leesburg and Hurricane Dockside in Tavares.