Zakk Wylde: My Drinking Problem Began When I Joined Ozzy's Band

By David Konow 01/04/18

“I was 19, right before I turned 20. That’s when my drinking problem began. I drank until then, and then it was just double-fisting from that point on.”

Zakk Wylde

Notorious metal legend Ozzy Osbourne has played with many excellent guitarists throughout his lengthy career, but Zakk Wylde has been with him the longest. While Wylde has been in and out of the band, he’s currently back at Ozzy’s side for his farewell tour. He recently reflected on how he developed a drinking problem trying to keep up with one of metal’s greatest legends.

Wylde was practically a kid when he joined Ozzy. “I was 19, right before I turned 20,” he told Ultimate Classic Rock. “That’s when my drinking problem began. I drank until then, and then it was just double-fisting from that point on.”

While Ozzy’s wife and manager Sharon tried to keep Ozzy sober, Wylde says, “I would be the only one that would hang out with Oz, because everyone else was like, ‘I don’t want to get stuck in the web and get canned over here, because I’m the one enabling him.’”

Eventually Wylde’s drinking concerned Sharon enough that she called Zakk’s wife Barbaranne, and asked, “Does Zakk have a drinking problem?”

“Oh, no no—he drinks milk!”

“Not anymore he doesn’t.”

At one point on tour, Wylde was even sneaking Ozzy beers when he was supposed to be abstaining. He opened up about the incident during an interview on Sirius XM's The Jenny McCarthy Show. “Ozzy’s like, ‘Zakk, you got any beers?’ I’d always have them in my backpack. I go, ‘What, are you trying to get us both fired?’ I was like, ‘I’ll meet you in the bathroom.’ I was in the bathroom stall and I heard him come in. He was right next to me, shut the door and goes, ‘Okay, Zakk.’ I just slid it over. I hear him crack open a can of Sapporo and then just guzzle it down.”

Wylde finally quit drinking in 2009 after winding up in the hospital with bloodclots. He told Oregon Music News, “My doctor comes in and says to me, ‘Listen Zakk, I don’t want to be a party pooper, but by you drinking it’s like adding blood thinner on blood thinner. Your use of alcohol is thinning your blood that much more.’ He went over my blood count and my liver count and said that if I continued the way that I was going I would have needed a liver transplant by the age of 45 and he said my pancreas wasn’t that far behind. What more did I need to be told?”

“A lot of my friends went to college,” Wylde concludes. “And I went to Ozzy Osbourne University, which was like Animal House on steroids.”

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In addition to contributing for The Fix, David Konow has also written for Esquire, Deadline, LA Weekly, Village Voice, The Wrap, and many other publications and websites. He is also the author of the three decade history of heavy metal, Bang Your Head (Three Rivers Press), and the horror film history Reel Terror (St Martins Press). Find David on LinkedIn and Facebook.