Legends of Rock: Randy Rhoads
Three Years after his death, Hit Parader remembers a Guitar Master.
"From the moment I saw him, I knew he was a star," Ozzy Osbourne once said in regard to Randy Rhoads, the fiery guitarist who graced the Oz's first two solo albums
with his riveting six string theatrics and songwriting flair. "Randy was the complete musician," Ozzy added. "He knew everything about rock and roll guitar, but he could play classical or jazz just as easily. There will never be another like him - he was a saint."
Few musicians in rock history have made a more immediate and lasting impact on the
rock scene than Randy Rhoads. Born December 6, 1955 in Santa Monica, California, the youngest of three children, Randy had an instant affinity for music. As he recalled shortly before his death, "There were always instruments lying around the house when I was growing up. My mother ran a music school, so I was always encouraged to play, and I loved it. We weren't very wealthy. We didn't even have a radio or TV at home, so if I wanted to entertain myself, I had to pick up an instrument and play."
His constant playing soon led him to his mother's music school. Randy would teach classical as well as rock guitar during the day, then go out at night and play in a variety of local bands. One of the first musicians he met on the L.A. rock scene was Kevin DuBrow, then struggling to put together the first version of Quiet Riot. As DuBrow recalled, at first he didn't know what to make of Rhoads, but when he heard him play, his apprehensions quickly disappeared. "When I first met Randy he was playing with a guy named Smokey," Kevin said. "One day I got a call from Randy and we decided to get together and see what happened. When I first met him I couldn't believe my eyes. He had hair down to his waist, and the nail on his right thumb must have been six inches long. But then he plugged his guitar into a little portable amp he had brought along and suddenly my living room was filled with the most amazing guitar sounds in the world. The guy was unbelievable. He played for about 10 minutes, then turned to me and said, 'Okay, let's hear you sing.' I just looked at him and smiled. I said, 'After what I just heard, I'm not opening my mouth."'
The DuBrow/Rhoads partnership was to last three years, during which time Quiet Riot recorded two albums that were released only in Japan. While the albums were of uneven quality to say the least, Rhoads' stellar guitar skills shone like a beacon through the murky musical mix, convincing all who listened that he was a "star in the making." Unfortunately, little became of Randy's career with Quiet Riot, and after the band failed to garner an American record contract in 1980, he split from the group. Soon after, he was to emerge as the lead guitarist in Ozzy Osbourne's band.
"I was sitting in my hotel room totally exhausted," Ozzy remembered. "I had been listening to different guitarists all day long, and they all were trying to imitate Tony lommi instead of playing their own way. At about 2 a.m. a friend of mine knocked on the door and introduced me to Randy. I don't think I even said hello. I just told him to start playing. When he did I couldn't believe it. I knew right away I had found what I was looking for."
Randy and Ozzy were to record two albums together, Blizzard Of Ozz and Diary of a Madman, both of which featured many of Rhoads' tunes as well as his unique axe stylings. By the time the second LP was released, he was beginning to receive press attention as "the brightest young guitarist since Edward Van Halen." Then suddenly, just when the world seemed to be his plum, ripe for the picking, it all came to a sudden and tragic end. On March 19, 1982 in Leesburg, the Florida, a small plane carrying Rhoads crashed into a house and burst into flames. At the age of 25 Randy Rhoads was dead.
"I don't think his talent will ever be fully appreciated," Osbourne stated. "He was unique as a musician and as a person. So many of us will miss him."