Randall William "Randy" Rhoads (December 6, 1956 – March 19, 1982) was an American heavy metal guitarist who played with Ozzy Osbourne and Quiet Riot. A devoted student of classical guitar, Rhoads often combined his classical music influences with his own heavy metal style. While on tour with Ozzy Osbourne, he would seek out classical guitar tutors for lessons. 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.
At the age of 14 Rhoads formed a cover band called Violet Fox (after his mother's middle name, Violet), with his older brother Kelle on drums. Violet Fox staged several performances in the "Grand Salon" at Musonia, Delores Rhoads's music school. Among their setlist was "Mississippi Queen" by Mountain, as well as songs from The Rolling Stones, Alice Cooper, and David Bowie. After the dissolution of Violet Fox, Rhoads taught his best friend Kelly Garni how to play bass, and together they formed a band called The Whore (rehearsing during the day at Rodney Bingenheimer's English Disco, a famous '70s Hollywood nightspot), spending several months playing at backyard parties around Los Angeles. Together the pair went on to form Quiet Riot when Rhoads was 16. Kevin DuBrow auditioned for vocalist in Rhoads's kitchen after he convinced Rhoads and Garni to give him a chance. The drummer, Drew Forsyth, was already in the picture and had periodically played with Rhoads and Garni in the past.
Quiet Riot initially played in small bars in Hollywood and local parties in Burbank, eventually playing at the two main L.A. music clubs of the day — the Whisky a Go Go, and The Starwood. While the band had a strong following in the L.A. club scene, they were unable to secure a major recording contract in the United States. Eventually, however, the band was able to land a record deal with Japanese label CBS/Sony Records and Quiet Riot and Quiet Riot II were released in Japan.
CAREER WITH OZZY OSBOURNE
In 1979, ex-Black Sabbath singer Ozzy Osbourne was forming a new band. During an interview with Raw Power Magazine editors Robert Olshever, Murray Schwartz and Scott Stephens (future singer of Liquid Blue), Ozzy mentioned he was looking for a new guitar player. Randy's name was suggested during the interview and the next day Robert asked friend and future Slaughter bassist Dana Strum to try to reach Randy to see if he was interested. Rhoads got the call for the audition just before his final show with Quiet Riot. He walked in with his Les Paul guitar and a practice amp and started warming up; Osbourne immediately gave him the job. Rhoads recalled later, "I just tuned up and did some riffs, and he said, 'You've got the gig.' I had the weirdest feeling, because I thought, 'You didn't even hear me yet.'" Osbourne described Rhoads's playing as "God entering my life." Rhoads subsequently recommended his friend Greg Leon, who also taught guitar at Musonia for Rhoads's mother, to replace him in Quiet Riot, and then departed for the UK to write and record with Osbourne in November 1979.
The band, then known as The Blizzard of Ozz headed into the studio to record the band's debut album, which would also be called Blizzard of Ozz. Rhoads's guitar playing had changed due to the level of freedom allowed by Ozzy and Bob Daisley and he was encouraged to play what he wanted. His work with Quiet Riot has been criticized as being "dull" and did not rely on classical scales or arrangements. Propelled by Rhoads's neo-classical guitar work, the album proved an instant hit with rock fans, particularly in the USA. They released two singles from the album: "Mr Crowley" and the hit "Crazy Train". The British tour of 1980-81 for Blizzard of Ozz was with Bob Daisley and Lee Kerslake. After the UK tour, the band wrote another LP before the US Blizzard of Ozz tour. But before the US Blizzard tour, both Lee Kerslake and Bob Daisley were fired by Sharon Arden, Ozzy's future wife. For the US Blizzard tour, Tommy Aldridge and Rudy Sarzo were hired. Diary of a Madman was released soon after Blizzard of Ozz in October 1981, and since Kerslake and Daisley were already out of the band, Aldridge and Sarzo's photos appear on the album sleeve. Disputes over royalties performance, and other intellectual property rights became a source of future court battles. You Said it All and You Looking At Me, Looking At You became rare collector's items, only released on the B-Sides of singles. A live album, Tribute, mainly drawn from a performance in Cleveland, Ohio, was released in 1987 and included live versions of "Goodbye To Romance" and "No Bone Movies", recorded in the UK with Daisley and Kerslake in 1980.
Around this time Rhoads remarked to Osbourne, fellow Ozz bandmates Tommy Aldridge and Rudy Sarzo, and friend Kelly Garni that he was considering leaving rock for a few years to earn a degree in classical guitar at UCLA. In the documentary Don't Blame Me, Osbourne confirmed Randy's desire to earn the degree and stated that had he lived, he didn't believe Randy would have stayed in his band. Friend and ex-Quiet Riot bassist Kelly Garni has stated in interviews that if Randy had continued to play rock, he might have gone the route of more keyboard-driven rock, which had become very popular through the 1980s.
It was at this time that Rhoads was beginning to receive recognition for his playing. Just before his death Jackson Guitars created a signature model, the Jackson Randy Rhoads (though Randy had originally called his white pinstriped V the Concorde). Randy received one prototype — A black offset V hardtail which is the base for today's RR line of Jackson guitars — but died before the guitar went into production. Rhoads also received the Best New Talent award from Guitar Player magazine.
Randy Rhoads's last show was played on Thursday, March 18, 1982 at the Knoxville Civic Coliseum in Knoxville, Tennessee. The next day, the band was headed to a festival in Orlando, Florida. After driving much of the night, they stopped on the property belonging to Jerry Calhoun, owner of "Florida Coach," in Leesburg, Florida. On it, there was a small airstrip lined with small helicopters and planes, and two houses. One belonged to the tour bus driver, Andrew Aycock, and the other was owned by Calhoun. Aycock - a licensed pilot - talked the band's keyboardist, Don Airey, into taking a test flight with him in a '55 Beechcraft Bonanza. By some accounts the manager, Jake Duncan, was also on this first flight. The joyride ended, and the plane landed safely. Then Aycock took Rhoads and hairdresser/seamstress Rachel Youngblood on another flight. Rhoads was persuaded to go on the second flight, despite his fear of flying. Rhoads apparently agreed to go for two reasons: the seamstress had a heart condition so Aycock agreed to do nothing risky; also, Rhoads wanted to take an aerial photo as one of his hobbies was photography. During the second flight, attempts were made to "buzz" the tour bus where the other band members were sleeping. They succeeded twice, but the third attempt was botched. The left wing clipped the back side of the tour bus, tore the fiberglass roof then sent the plane spiraling. The plane severed the top of a pine tree and crashed into the garage of a nearby mansion, bursting into flames. Rhoads was killed instantly, as were Aycock, 36, and Youngblood, 58. All three bodies were burned beyond recognition, and were identified by dental records and Rhoads' jewelry. It was later revealed in an autopsy that Aycock's system showed traces of cocaine at the time; Rhoads's toxicology test revealed only nicotine. The NTSB investigation also determined that Aycock's medical certificate had expired and that his biennial flight review, required for all pilots, was overdue.
Rhoads's funeral was held at the First Lutheran Church in Burbank, California. He is interred at Mountain View Cemetery in San Bernardino, California, where his grandparents are also buried.
Rhoads used a relatively small setup, with few guitars and a small set of effects and amplifiers. He preferred .010-.011 strings.
Gibson 1974 Les Paul Custom (aged white)
Marshall JMP MkII 100W Plexi head custom with cascade
In 1987, five years after Rhoads's death, Osbourne released Tribute, the only official album featuring Osbourne and Rhoads playing together in concert. Most of the album is a live performance from Cleveland, Ohio. The songs "Goodbye to Romance" and "No Bone Movies" from the Tribute album were recorded on the UK Blizzard of Ozz tour at Southampton, on the same date as the Mr. Crowley EP.
Randy was inducted into the Guitar Center Rock Walk on March 18, 2004. In a 2006 Guitar World article, it was mentioned that Rhoads's last name was mistakenly spelled "Rhodes" on his plaque, and by the time it was discovered, there was not enough time to correct the mistake. It has since been fixed.
As a tribute to Rhoads, Marshall Amplification released the 1959RR at NAMM 2008. The amp is a limited-edition all-white Marshall Super Lead 100 watt head modeled after Randy's own Super Lead amp. Marshall engineers looked extensively at Rhoads's actual amplifier and made the 1959RR to those exact specifications, right down to the special high-gain modification Randy specifically requested when he visited the Marshall factory in 1980.
As another tribute to Randy, Jackson Guitars has released an exact replica of Randy's original white "shortwing" V. Randy's original guitar was looked at, photographed, and measured extensively by Jackson's luthiers so as to produce the most exact replica possible. The guitar even comes with black gaffer's tape covering the top wing and the back of the guitar, just like Randy's. Only 60 of the guitars will be made, each with the symbolic price tag of $12,619.56 which is Rhoads's birthday.
In 2010, Gibson Guitars announced a new custom shop signature guitar modeled after Rhoads's 1974 Les Paul Custom.
In 2010, fans of Randy Rhoads on Facebook's Randy Rhoads Society, adopted the term "Rhoadie", in tribute to their musical idol.
In 2011, author Joel McIver announced the publication of the first fully comprehensive Rhoads biography, with a foreword written by Zakk Wylde and an afterword supplied by Yngwie J. Malmsteen. The book, titled Crazy Train: The High Life And Tragic Death Of Randy Rhoads, is scheduled for publication in April.
May 31st, 2011 marks the 30 year anniversary and re-master / release of "Blizzard Of Ozz" and "Diary Of A Madman". Both albums have been remastered and restored to their original state with Bob Daisley's bass and Lee Kerslake's drums intact. "Blizzard" has 3 bonus tracks - You, Looking At Me, Looking At You / Goodbye To Romance (2010 Vocal & Guitar Mix) / RR (Randy Rhoads in studio guitar solo). "Diary" originally was to include long fade out versions of - You Can't Kill Rock And Roll / Tonight / Diary Of A Madman (2010 Re-mix version), but have ultimately not been included in the re-issue. The Legacy version of "Diary Of A Madman" includes a second CD called "Ozzy Live" which includes the unreleased Blizzard Of Ozz tour '81 show from Montreal, Canada. Recorded in July 1981 and originally broadcast on the king Biscuit Flower Hour radio show. The live show features the same line up as the tribute album - Rudy Sarzo on bass, Tommy Aldridge on drums and Lindsey Bridgewater on Keyboards. Also included exclusively in the special box set are the 180 gram vinyl versions of the original albums, An expansive 100 page coffee table book and the DVD - "Thirty Years After The Blizzard", which includes lot's of unreleased Randy Rhoads footage.