Looking Back At The Life And Career Of Ozzy Osbourne Guitarist Randy Rhoads On The 40th Anniversary Of His Death
It’s been 40 years since world-renowned guitarist Randy Rhoads died tragically in a plane crash. He was only 25 years old at the time of his passing, but he had already accomplished more than most musicians could hope to achieve in a lifetime.
Randy Rhoads’ unique style of playing guitar coupled with his impressive discography have made him an influential figure in the music industry that is remembered fondly, and with absolute reverence. He sits among the likes of Eddie Van Halen, Zakk Wylde, Leslie West and others among rock’s elite guitarists. Known for playing with Ozzy Osbourne and donning the covers of guitar world magazine, Randy Rhoads was so much more than simply one of the band members of the former BLACK SABBATH singer. He was a musician’s musician in every sense of the word. And at such a young age it became prevalent.
In The Beginning…
Randy Rhoads picked up a guitar at the age of 12 and quickly developed a passion for music. He would eventually begin taking folk and classical guitar lessons at his mother’s music school when he was just seven years old.
A few years later, the young Randy became interested in rock guitar and started taking lessons from Scott Shelly at Musonia. Shelly would soon approach Randy’s mother to inform her that he could no longer teach Randy, as Rhoads’ rapidly expanding knowledge of the electric guitar had exceeded his own.
In addition to receiving guitar lessons, Randy Rhoads also took piano lessons from his mother to help him build a foundation of understanding music theory. This would prove to be beneficial later on, as it helped him develop the unique style for which he would become known.
Randy Rhoads First Band
At age 16, Randy Rhoads formed his first band called LITTLE WOMEN with his best friend and bassist Kelly Garni, which saw the young Randy teaching guitar at his mother’s school during the day while playing gigs at night.
He graduated from Burbank High School, participating in a special program that allowed him to condense his studies and graduate early so he could teach guitar and pursue music full-time.
After recruiting singer Kevin DuBrow and drummer Drew Forsyth, the band soon changed its name to QUIET RIOT and played numerous small clubs in the Los Angeles area which saw the group gain local popularity.
In order to capitalize on their growing success, QUIET RIOT quickly recorded their debut album, “Quiet Riot I”, in 1977. The album, although only released in Japan, achieved some commercial success, as did the follow-up, “Quiet Riot II” in 1978.
At this time however, the relationship between QUIET RIOT vocalist Kevin DuBrow and bassist Kelly Garni was strained, to say the least. After drunkenly firing a handgun through the ceiling and engaging in a fistfight with Rhoads, Garni came up with the brilliant idea to shoot and kill Kevin DuBrow at The Record Plant studio while recording their second album. This would lead to the dissolving of Randy’s relationship with Garni and his eventual time within the band.
Yet something much bigger awaited on the metal horizon.
Auditioning For Ozzy Osbourne
Randy Rhoads met Ozzy Osbourne for the first time at his audition for the former BLACK SABBATH singer’s new solo band.
After much prodding from his friend and fellow musician Dana Strum , Randy decided to try out for Ozzy’s band and entered a Los Angeles studio in the fall of 1979. Ozzy Osbourne, in a completely inebriated state in the studio’s control room, was immediately impressed with Rhoads’ playing, later saying “I knew within fifteen minutes that he was the guitar player I wanted in my band.” Rhoads was hired on the spot. Osbourne would recall, “I thought he was amazing. We clicked immediately.”
Randy Rhoads joined Ozzy Osbourne’s band in November of 1979 and would go on to record two solo albums with the legendary heavy metal singer. Along with drummer Lee Kerslake (URIAH HEEP) and bassist Bob Daisly (RAINBOW), this lineup would be forever known as the “Blizzard Of Ozz” era of the legendary frontman’s career. And with Randy playing guitar for his new band, the former BLACK SABBATH singer’s future was beginning to look up.
Blizzard Of Ozz
“Blizzard of Ozz” was released on September 20, 1980, and was a commercial success, reaching No. 23 on the US Billboard 200 chart. The album has been certified quadruple platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). “Blizzard of Ozz” is widely considered one of the greatest debut rock albums of all time.
The opening track, “I Don’t Know”, is a fine example of Randy Rhoads’ guitar work with the solo of that song often being cited as one of the young guitarist’s best. Other notable tracks on the album include “Crazy Train”, “Suicide Solution” and “Mr. Crowley”. (“Crazy Train” is another fine example of Rhoads’ pure technical abilities coupled with pure guitar driven groove)
Rhoads’ guitar playing was a major factor in the album’s success. His solos were technical yet melodic, and his riffs were catchy and memorable. His playing style influenced many future guitarists, including the likes of Slash of GUNS N’ ROSES.
The album remains one of Ozzy Osbourne’s best-selling albums, and is a must-have for any fan of hard rock or heavy metal.
Rhoads’ style of playing was unlike anything that had been heard before. He blended elements of classical music with heavy metal to create a sound that was truly unique. His solos were fast and complex, yet somehow still accessible to mainstream audiences. His riffs were heavy and catchy, making them perfect for headbanging. In short, Randy Rhoads was a guitar god.
Following the release of “Blizzard Of Ozz”, the band embarked on a world tour to promote the record, performing 83 shows in 41 cities across North America, Europe, and Japan from February to September 1980. The tour was a commercial success, with many shows selling out. Despite this, Daisley and Kerslake grew frustrated with Osbourne’s chaotic behaviour and drug abuse.
Following a tour of the United Kingdom, the band recorded their second album, “Diary of a Madman.”
Diary Of A Madman
“Diary Of A Madman” is one of those albums that just oozes with quality. The album was released in 1981, and it immediately cemented Randy Rhoads as one of the greatest guitarists of all time. His playing style was so unique and fresh, and his solos on songs like “Flying High Again” and “Over The Mountain” are nothing short of legendary.
Randy Rhoads was truly a one of a kind guitarist, and his work on “Diary Of A Madman” is some of the best ever recorded. His riffs are heavy and catchy, and his solos are absolutely shredding. Even if you’re not normally a fan of metal music, you can’t help but appreciate the skill and talent on display here. Ozzy Osbourne’s vocals are also top notch, and he sounds better than ever on this record.
Both Lee Kerslake and Bob Daisley were suddenly fired by Sharon Arden, the band’s manager and Osbourne’s future wife just before their US tour in support of “Diary Of A Madman”, to be replaced by drummer Tommy Aldridge and bassist Rudy Sarzo – who had been Rhoads’ bandmate in QUIET RIOT.
When “Diary of a Madman” hit record shelves in October of 1981, and since Kerslake and Daisley were already out of the band, Aldridge and Sarzo’s names and photos appeared on the album sleeve.
The two sides continued to squabble over royalties, as well as other intellectual property rights, which became a source of future litigation. Kerslake claims that Rhoads was on the verge of leaving Osbourne’s band in late 1981 due to his indignation with the termination of himself and Bob Daisley. “He didn’t want to go [on tour with Osbourne]. We told him we were thrown out. He said he was going to leave the band as he did not want to leave us behind. I told him not to be stupid but thanks for the sentiment”, Kerslake would recall.
In December 1981, Rhoads was voted “Best New Talent” by Guitar Player readers and “Best Heavy Metal Guitarist” by Sounds readers in the United Kingdom.
Around this time Randy had begun thinking about moving in a more classical music direction with his guitar playing, going as far as to work with private tutors while on the road to enhance his abilities.
Although still believing he was a lovely guy, Ozzy’s drunken antics were also starting to wear on Rhoads who had already begun voicing his desire to move on from Ozzy after fulfilling his contractual obligations to Jet Records to continue studying classical guitar and grow his own music.
When Did Randy Rhoads Die?
On March 19, 1982, Ozzy was scheduled to perform two concerts in Florida. The first show was at the KNRQ studios in Orlando for a radio broadcast. The second show was at the Rock Superbowl XXII concert in Jacksonville. After the Orlando show, the band stopped at Flying Baron Estates in Leesburg, Florida, to fix a malfunctioning air conditioning unit on the tour bus while Osbourne remained asleep.
On the property, which was owned by Calhoun Brothers tour bus firm, there was an airstrip with tiny helicopters and planes. Andrew Aycock, the tour bus driver and private pilot, took a single-engine Beechcraft F35 plane registered to Mike Partin on his first flight.
Keyboardist Don Airey and tour manager Jake Duncan were among the passengers. During this flight, Duncan stated that Aycock “buzzed” the tour bus in an effort to wake up drummer Tommy Aldridge. The second flight was soon in the air, with Rhoads and makeup artist Rachel Youngblood on board. Though Rhoads was terrified of flying, he wanted to take some aerial photographs of the countryside for his mother. He had attempted unsuccessfully to persuade bassist Rudy Sarzo to join him on the excursion, but Sarzo chose to sleep instead.
Also on board was hairdresser Rachel Youngblood, and bus driver Andrew Aycock. During the second flight, more efforts were made to “buzz” the bus.
At approximately 10am, one of the plane’s wings clipped the top of the tour bus, severing it into two pieces and causing the aircraft to spiral out of control after being in flight for approximately five minutes.
The plane then severed the top of a pine tree and crashed into the garage of a nearby house, bursting into flames. Rhoads was killed instantly, as were Aycock and Youngblood. Rhoads would later be identified through dental records.
Randy Rhoads was just 25 years old at the time of his death in the plane crash. He had only been playing guitar for about a decade, but in that short time he had made a huge impact on the world of rock music. His unique style and virtuosic technique influenced generations of guitarists that followed him. Randy Rhoads is gone, but his legacy will live on forever.
Despite appearing on just two albums of Ozzy Osbourne’s, those two releases remain so important to those who admire and love the rock and metal genres. The music world lost an icon tragically and way too early. Heavy metal’s musical excellence owes a great debt the guitar playing of Randy Rhoads. Other great shredders would go on to play with Osbourne, like Zakk Wylde and Jake E. Lee, however Randy Rhoads is still the guitarist most recognized when recalling Ozzy’s time as a solo act.
Randy Rhoads music has inspired countless other guitarists and continues to entertain rock fans all over the world. On this 40th anniversary of his death, let us remember the life and work of this incredible musician. Thank you for everything Randy. You are missed.