LITHIA — He was a steelworker by trade, but Kenny Bamber's real passion was music.
For nearly three decades, he fronted popular bands that played clubs in the Tampa area. He even did a stint as the singer for Morbid Angel, which later went on to achieve international fame.
His various bands played everything from Bob Seger covers to death metal. But it was only in recent months that the man everyone in the local music community called "Animal" put together the kind of band he always wanted, one that played the hard rock he loved and would concentrate on his compositions.
In the early hours of March 16, Mr. Bamber was on his way home from rehearsing with that band, Brothers from Other Mothers, when he died in a one-vehicle accident on Lithia-Pinecrest Road. He was 50 years old.
"He finally got the band he had always dreamed of," said his wife, Gail Bamber. "And nobody ever heard them."
Mr. Bamber lived virtually his entire life in Hillsborough County. He grew up in Riverview, and he was still a teenager when he met his future wife. He saw her and her sister, whom he already knew, walking and offered them a ride home.
"I got in the back seat," Gail Bamber said. "He said he got to enjoy me in the rear-view mirror, and after that he started pursuing me. I told him he was third in line. But he worked his way up to first, and he's been there ever since."
They were married a few years later and had one son, KC. They also raised Mrs. Bamber's son from a previous marriage. The family lived in Tampa while their sons were growing up and moved back to the Lithia area a few years ago.
Mr. Bamber played several instruments, but he made his name as a singer. He was probably best known as the lead singer of Sir Core, a staple of the Tampa club scene in the 1970s and '80s.
He joined Morbid Angel in 1985, a few years before the band recorded its first album.
He only spent a short time with Morbid Angel because, his son said, the band's music and his bandmates' lifestyle didn't match his own.
"He almost ruined his voice singing with that band," his son said. "And he was a Christian and those guys, well, the name Morbid Angel says it all."
That's not to say that Mr. Bamber didn't have a wild side, especially in his younger years. Rather than simply stop and accept a ticket when a police officer tried to pull him over, Mr. Bamber led them on a chase for more than 100 miles.
"I think he just wanted to be on the news," KC Bamber said.
But he always worked hard to provide for his family. His work would often take him away for weeks at a time, but he'd come home laden with presents.
"Every time he came home," KC Bamber said, "it was like Christmas."
Even though he was 50 years old, Mr, Bamber never let go of his rock star dreams, and worked equally hard at his music and his job.
"He'd write constantly," his son said. "Sometimes he'd wake up in the middle of the night and write a song because he had dreamed it."
His fame never spread beyond his hometown, but the long hair and beard gave him the look and bearing of a star.
"It was the strangest thing," his son said. "Walking through a crowd, people would come up to him and say, 'You just look famous.' And they'd want to take his picture. He had that way about him. He just seemed like a star."
Besides his wife and his son, Mr. Bamber is survived by two granddaughters.
Marty Clear can be reached at email@example.com.