DOB: December 6, 1956
From: Santa Monica, CA
Bands: Quiet Riot, Ozzy Osbourne
Guitars: Jackson, Sandoval Vee, Les Paul
March 19, 1982, “The day the music died”. That fateful day, Randy Rhoads was killed in a senseless accident involving a small airplane and his band’s tour bus. Rhoads was only 25 at the time of his death.
Randy Rhoads was born on December 6, 1956 in Santa Monica, California. His mother Delores essentially raised Randy after his father left. Delores owned a music school in North Hollywood called Musonia and Randy began taking folk guitar lessons there when he was about 7. The first guitar that Randy used to practice was an acoustic Gibson that had belonged to his grandfather. Randy found his mother’s semi-acoustic Harmony Rocket guitar at age 12 and an obsession began. He took lessons at his mother’s school until his teacher felt that Randy had already learned everything that he could teach him.
Randy joined his first band when he was 14. Randy’s mother still greatly influenced Randy’s music and he named the band Violet Fox after his mother’s middle name, Violet. Randy played the rhythm guitar for Violet Fox and they were together for about 5 months. Randy’s next lineup of bands included “Mildred Pierce” and “The Katzenjammer Kids” before he teamed up with bassist Kelly Gami to coordinate Quiet Riot in 1976. They added vocalist Kevin DuBrow to the mix and found a lineup that worked. Randy supported himself by teaching lessons at his mother’s school while he played with Quiet Riot at night. Although Quiet Riot found success quickly with their live performances, they had some struggles getting signed to a record label. They were ecstatic to receive an offer from Casablanca records, but then Casablanca changed their minds. Next they were officially signed by Buddah Records, and that company went bankrupt. After more frustrations with American record labels, Quiet Riot signed up with CBS/Sony in Japan and released their music overseas. They were very well received in Japan, but the group was never able to tour abroad. They continued to play packed concerts at bars, clubs and high school auditoriums in California. During his stint with Quiet Riot, Randy helped design his trademark black and white polka dot flying “V” guitar. He worked with Karl Sandoval to create the custom design and paid $738 for the finished product in 1979. Supposedly, his first performance with the guitar was in Los Angeles at the “Whisky a go-go”.
It was fate when Randy Rhoads heard that Ozzy Osbourne, the former lead singer of Black Sabbath, was trying to form a new band. Rhoads’ friend Dana Strum suggested that he audition to work with Ozzy. Even though Rhoads was fairly satisfied playing with Quiet Riot, he thought he would meet Ozzy and give it a shot. Rumor has it that all Rhoads had to do was start warming up and Ozzy was immediately blown away. Ozzy invited Rhoads to join his band and Randy became Ozzy’s lead guitarist at the age of 22.
Since Ozzy Osbourne was from the UK, the band traveled to Europe to begin work on their first album. They produced the music for the Blizzard of Ozz album in a relatively short amount of time. Their first concert ever was performed at the Apollo Theater in Glasgow, Scotland where they began to break box office records. The album was released shortly thereafter and the Ozzy Osbourne band toured throughout the U.K., causing record sales to shoot through the roof. When Randy returned home to California for Christmas in 1980, he worked with Grover Jackson to begin the process of creating another signature guitar, the white “flying V”.
The Ozzy Osbourne band went back to the studio to record their second album in the spring of 1981. They were in a rush to create the album and get it out before their US tour, and the band members had mixed feelings about the end result of Diary of a Madman. The tour bumped up sales for Blizzard of Ozz and the album went gold in 100 days.
While Randy Rhoads played with the Ozzy Osbourne band, they released “Mr. Crowley”, which was an EP that included tracks from live performances recorded while the band was touring in the UK. This album holds a place in the Guinness Book of World Records as the biggest selling picture disk of all time. The Ozzy Osbourne band started to see major success when they began their second tour in the United States to support Diary of a Madman.
Blizzard of Ozz was doing great and albums were flying off the shelves, so when the band set out to tour, fans were excited and showed up in droves. The concert kicked off in San Francisco, and Randy earned Guitar Player Magazine’s Best New Talent Award backstage. The tour was extremely successful, although followed by controversy as some cities boycotted the band due to claims of animal abuse at the shows. However, as is common with famous groups, the problems swirling around them band seemed to propel record sales and Diary of a Madman went platinum.
On March 19, 1982. Randy was on his way to perform at the Super Bowl with Ozzy and the band. The tour bus stopped over to rest at a private estate in Florida and parked near a house and an aircraft hanger. Andrew Aycock, the band’s bus driver, piloted a plane from the hanger and took band members up for a joy ride. Aycock had a pilot’s license, but it was later discovered that his license had expired. Rhoads, Aycock and Rachel Youngblood were flying in the plane and apparently, Aycock was trying to thrill his passengers by flying low to the ground and buzzing the tour bus. They flew alarmingly close to the bus three times, before the right wing of the plane slammed into the bus on the fourth pass. The plane crashed into the house, burst into flames, and burned the house to the ground. Ozzy Osbourne and other band mates were inside the bus at the time it was hit by the plane, but no one was seriously injured. Aycock, Youngblood and Randy Rhoads were killed in the accident.
Despite his relatively short career, Rhoads is a major influence on neo-classical metal players that emerged in the 1980s. He is cited as an influence by many contemporary guitarists of all styles. He is included in several ‘Greatest Guitarist’ lists.
His career had a huge impact on heavy metal guitar players. Through his devotion to the guitar and his courage to follow his dreams, Randy will be remembered as one of the most influential and talented guitarists of all time.