"The testimony to Randy's greatness is the fact that we all still remember. Whenever my buddies and I get together, we can't help but talk about Randy Rhoads," said Zakk Wylde on the 30th anniversary of guitarist Randy Rhoads' death. Wylde, like Rhoads, had backed Ozzy Osborune.
"Let's say he just walked away from it all and went back to teaching, which he was thinking of doing; he wasn't all that comfortable with the fame thing and playing big places," continued Wylde. "He'd still be a total legend for what he did on those first two Ozzy Osbourne records. What he achieved in just a couple of years is right up there with the best of the best. He did on two albums what most guys can't do on 20. That's pretty remarkable."
There are numerous musicians who died before their time. Add to that list, Rhoads, whose death left fans perpetually pondering what might have been.
Rhoads started his first group when he was fourteen. Two years later, he founded Quiet Riot with bassist friend Kelly Garni. The pair added vocalist Kevin DuBrow and drummer Drew Forsyth and began playing L.A. clubs. But no U.S. label seemed particularly interested so they ended up initially releasing "Quiet Riot" and "Quiet Riot II" in Japan.
With his departure from Quiet Riot imminent, Rhoads was asked to audition for Blizazard Of Ozz, a band being formed by former Black Sabbath frontman Ozzy Osbourne. The audition was a bit unusual in that Rhoads tuned up, played a few riffs and was immediately hired. Osbourne, for his part, was drunk and passed out during the audition. But the Osbourne and Rhoads combination turned out to be one of the great singer-guitarist pairings in Rock. The songs "Crazy Train" and "Mr. Crowley," with Rhoads' neo-Classical guitar work, made the '80 album "Blizzard Of Ozz" a huge hit.
Though the album's success was a major achievement for Osbourne, proving he had a post-Sabbath career, it also brought Rhoads well-deserved recognition. He was voted "Best New Talent" by the readers of Guitar Player magazine and "Best Heavy Metal Guitarist" by the readers of UK-based Sounds magazine. Much later, "Crazy Train" and "Mr. Crowley" placed 9th and 28th respectively on Guitar World's 100 Greatest Guitar Solos readers poll.
The following year, "Diary Of A Madman" arrived. Rhoads' reputation grew to the point that Jackson Guitars created a signature model; a black offset V hardtail. Rhoads received a prototype but the guitar did not go into production until after his death.
One unusual thing about Rhoads was that fame and the spotlight were not an overpowering lure. Rather, Rhoads had mention to Osbourne and others that he was considering leaving the band to earn a degree in Classical guitar at UCLA.
His last show with Osbourne was on March 18th, '82 in Knoxville, TN. But Rhoads wasn't headed to UCLA. A tragic fate waited.
The next day the band was went to Florida to play a festival. The tour bus stopped in Leesburg where tour driver Andrew Aycock owned a '55 Beechcraft Bonanza. Why not give tour members a ride?
Rhoads, who had a fear of flying, was persuaded to go on the second flight. Aycock apparently thought it would be fun to buzz the tour bus. Two low and noisy passes were successful, but on the third the plane's wing clipped the bus. Spiraling out of control there was a fiery crash into a nearby mansion. All onboard were killed instantly. According to an autopsy, Aycock's system showed traces of cocaine.
Osbourne was so shocked by Rhoads' death that he told his wife Sharon, ""I don't think I want to be a Rock 'n' Roller anymore."
Rhoads' funeral was held in Burbank and he was interred at Mountain View Cemetery in San Bernardino.
In '87, Osbourne released "Tribute," taken predominately from a live performance in Cleveland. It stands as the first official album featuring Osbourne and Rhoads together in concert.
Rhoads was inducted into the Guitar Center Rock Walk in '04, on 22nd anniversary of his death.
With Quiet Riot
1977 Quiet Riot
1978 Quiet Riot II
1993 The Randy Rhoads Years
With Ozzy Osbourne
1980 Blizzard Of Ozz
1980 Mr. Crowley Live EP
1981 Diary Of a Madman
2011 Ozzy Live (Disc 2 of Diary Of A Madman Legacy Edition)