Randy Rhoads

The musical legend Randall William “Randy” Rhoads was born on 6th December 1956, in Santa Monica, California, USA. Of his two older siblings, one was also a musician and went by the name Kelle, whereas both of his parents were music teachers. In 1958, Randy’s father left his family behind and remarried, leaving their mother, Delores, to open a music school and support her children. Delores was a professional piano player who graduated from the University of California with a bachelor’s degree in music.

During Randy’s childhood, he and his siblings would entertain themselves by creating music at home, as they didn’t have a stereo. His favorite groups were the Rolling Stones and the Beatles; aged seven, he began taking classical and folk guitar lessons at Musonia, his mother’s music school. Soon, he would become interested in rock guitar, and take lessons from Scott Shelly, one of his mother’s employees.

Recognizing her son’s talent, Delores also taught Randy piano lessons to lay the foundations for his understanding of music theory. While studying at John Muir Middle School, Randy became best friends with his future bandmate, Kelly Garni.

Randy taught Kelly to play bass guitar and they formed their first band, The Whore. They rehearsed at a popular 1970s Hollywood nightspot, Rodney Bingenheimer’s English Disco, where Randy learned to play lead guitar. During the mid-1970s, the heavy metal guitarist also began performing at local backyard parties for small groups.

The Whore was soon replaced with a cover band, Violet Fox, with Randy’s older brother Kelle playing drums. The band was together for almost half a year, and performed several times at Musonia’s Grand Salon; its set list included songs by David Bowie, Alice Cooper and the Rolling Stones. Randy later formed other bands named Mildred Pierce and The Katzenjammer Kids, which were also short-lived.

Quiet Riot

Randy and Kelly formed the band Little Women when they were 16 years old. At the time, Randy was also part of a special program at Burbank High School that allowed him to matriculate early so as to pursue music full-time. After recruiting drummer Drew Forsyth and lead vocalist Kevin DuBrow, Little Women soon changed its name to Quiet Riot.

Although Drew was already familiar with Randy and Kelly having played with them in the past, there was a great deal of tension when it came to Kevin, who was disliked by his bandmates for not having the right look. However, Kevin was persistent and enthusiastic, refusing to take no for an answer.

Quiet Riot was soon one of the most popular acts in the L.A. club circuit, signing to CBS/Sony Records in late 1976. Astonishingly, during the recording of the band’s second album “Quiet Riot II”,, the relationship between Kevin and Kelly deteriorated completely. Randy was forced to fire his co-founder and best friend after Kelly plotted to shoot and kill Kevin during a recording session.

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Blizzard of Ozz

Days before his final show with Quiet Riot in September 1979, Randy received the call to audition for Ozzy Osbourne of Black Sabbath, who was trying to form a new band. Despite not being interested in auditioning, Randy was persuaded to do so by Dana Strum, an acquaintance from the L.A club circuit.

Ozzy was drunk during the audition, but immediately gave Randy the job. The guitarist later recalled: “I had the weirdest feeling, because I thought, ‘You didn’t even hear me yet’,” referring to the fact that he had only performed a few riffs for the musician.

When it comes to the audition process, Ozzy and Randy’s version of events differ; according to Randy, Ozzy remained in the studio’s control room the entire time, and it was Dana who informed him that he had been hired. He was also scheduled to meet Ozzy the following day at a hotel before the singer returned to England, but Ozzy claims to this day that he first met Randy at the hotel, and that the audition took place there.

It’s widely believed that Randy’s version of events is the accurate one, as Ozzy began rehearsing with another guitarist after returning to England, and only mentioned Randy after that guitarist had been fired. Initially, the group’s management was reluctant about hiring an American guitarist, preferring to have an all-British lineup, but they eventually relented, and agreed to take on Randy.

Randy got off to a rocky start in England, as he lacked the necessary work permit, and was turned away by customs at Heathrow Airport. A record label representative was sent to clear the matter up but never arrived; as such, Randy spent the night in a holding cell and was sent back to the US the next day. Ozzy then called him to apologize, and the proper paperwork was arranged for Randy’s eventual return.

In November 1979, Randy flew to England and spent his first few weeks living with Ozzy, his then-wife Thelma, and their two children. Shortly afterwards, the final bandmate, Lee Kerslake was hired, and they recorded their eponymous debut album, “Blizzard of Ozz”. Randy’s playing style changed thanks to the new creative freedom he was allowed, and the album was an instant hit with rock fans, partly thanks to Randy’s new neo-classical guitarwork.

The band then toured the UK, and began recording their sophomore project, “Diary of a Madman”. Shortly afterwards, Randy was voted Best Heavy Metal Guitarist by Sounds magazine, and Best New Talent by Guitar Player magazine.

Sharon Arden, the group’s manager, abruptly fired two bandmates before the group went on its first US tour – Rudy Sarzo and Tommy Aldridge were hired to replace them, and their names and photos appeared on the album sleeve of “Diary of a Madman”, leading to disputes over intellectual property rights and royalties. According to Lee Kerslake, Randy himself almost left the band after the firings; the guitarist reportedly told Ozzy and the new bandmates that he might stop performing for a few years, and study classical guitar at UCLA.

At the time of his death, Randy had decided, despite his good relationship with Ozzy, to part ways with the band as soon as he fulfilled his contractual obligations. Touring was difficult due to Ozzy’s relentless drug and alcohol abuse, as many shows were cancelled when the volatile vocalist refused to perform.

The final straw came when Ozzy’s management and record label announced that the band would be recording a live album of Black Sabbath songs. Randy and Tommy felt that an album of cover songs would be a professional and artistic step back, as they were already established recording artists, and refused to participate in the project. Ozzy, viewing this as a betrayal, drunkenly fired the entire band – which he would later have no memory of doing – and began drinking even more heavily.

In the end, Randy agreed to perform on the live album before leaving. His contractual obligations to the record label stated that he must participate in one more studio album and a tour, but needless to say, the plans for a live album were scrapped when the guitarist died in a plane crash in March 1982 at just 25 years old.


Randy played his last show at the Knoxville Civic Coliseum on 18th March 1982. The next day, he and the band were headed to the Rock Super Bowl XIV, a festival in Orlando, Florida. After driving most of the night, they stopped briefly in Florida to fix a malfunctioning AC unit on the bus.

On the property where they stopped, which belonged to the Calhoun Brothers tour bus company, there was an airstrip with small planes and helicopters; Andrew Aycock, the driver of the tour bus, took a single-engine plane without permission, taking the tour manager and keyboardist on the first flight.

When the group landed, Andrew took Randy and the group’s makeup artist Rachel Youngblood aboard for a second flight. After being in the air for around five minutes, one of the plane’s wings clipped the top of the tour bus, breaking the wing in two. As the plane spiraled out of control, Randy and Rachel’s heads crashed through the plane’s windshield after the first impact with the bus, the plane crashed into a nearby garage and burst into flames.

All three were killed instantly, and dental records had to be used to identify the bodies, which were burned beyond recognition. Randy is buried in San Bernardino, California; on his tomb is the inscription “An inspiration for all young people”.

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