Randy Rhoads: The Tragic Death of Ozzy Osbourne’s Guitarist

Randy Rhoads

Randy Rhoads: The Tragic Death of Metal’s Greatest Guitarist

Today on Rock N’ Roll True Stories they take a look at the tragic death of guitarist Randy Rhoads who played for Quiet Riot and Ozzy Osbourne.

This has been a story that’s been requested by quite a few people and it’s one of the most tragic stories in rock n’ roll. Ozzy Osbourne guitarist Randy Rhoads would die in a horrific plane crash on March 19, 1982, The details of exactly what happened still aren’t clear to this day, but lets talk about what we do know and some of the theories over what happened that fateful day. Stay tuned for the full story. Ozzy Osbourne has had to reinvent himself numerous times in his career. Ozzy first came onto people’s radar as the frontman for metal pioneer’s Black Sabbath but along with success came addictions and in-fighting which ultimately led to his firing in 1979. His dismissal from Back Sabbath led Ozzy to reinvent himself as a solo artist, something which he had a tremendous amount of success with.

That success wouldn’t have happened had it not been for Ozzy meeting guitarist Randy Rhodes. Ozzy’s would tell A&E “I knew instinctively that he was something extra special referring to Rhods,” “He was like a gift from God. Randy and I were like a team.” Ozzy’s wife and manager would recall how Randy gave the Prince of Darkness a much needed shot in the arm when it came to his creativity revealing As soon as he found Randy, it was like night and day,” Sharon says. “He was alive again. Randy was a breath of fresh air, funny, ambitious, just a great guy.” Randy’s story began on December 6, 1956, in Burbank, California.

The youngest of three, Randy was surrounded by musical talent as his mother and father were both music teachers. His mother founded the Musonia Music School which Rhodes and his two siblings attended. Rhodes was taught by an instructor at the school named Scott Shelly who at one point went to Randy’s mother and told her he could no longer teach her son as Rhoads’ knowledge of guitar had surpassed his own. By the age of 16 Rhoads was teaching music at the very school which he attended and he would also start a band with longtime friend Kevin Garni and recruit singer Kevin Dubrow and drummer Drew Forsyth. They would call themselves Little Women before changing their name to Quiet Riot.

Soon enough Quiet Riot became one of the hottest bands on the LA Club scene inking a deal to CBS Records. Despite the fact that the band was one of the more popular groups in LA at the time their label opted to release their first two records in japan only frustrating rhodes. According to Rhodes CBS Records thought Van Halen already was the “LA Band” and they didn’t think there should be another LA band releasing albums in the states. Also adding to problems was the detriorating relationship between the members that resulted in drunken fistfights and death threats. Frustrated, Rhoads left the band to pursue other opportunities in 1979 .

The same year, Ozzy Osbourne was out of Black Sabbath and in LA attempting to form a band to support his solo career. An acquaintance of Rhoads’ from the LA club scene , future Slaughter bassist Dana Strum, got in touch with Rhoads insisting he audition. Rhoads apparently wasn’t interested but reluctantly agreed to get Strum to stop bothering him. The day before Ozzy was set to head to England, Rhoads had his audition. The audition would take place at a studio in LA. Using a gibson les paul and a practice amp the guitarist entered the room and started to warm up. Ozzy was heavily intoxicated.

According to Rhoads he never met ozzy during the audition, it was his friend Strum who came out of hte control room to tell him he got the job. Rhoads wouldn’t meet ozzy until the next day when he stopped by his hotel room in the early hours of the morning. Rhoads would look back at his audition “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’”. What’s funny is that ozzy’s management wanted his whole lineup to be british so the idea of hiring an american like Rhoads seemed out of the question. Once Ozzy’s manager Don Arden was blown away after seeing Rhoads play.

Rhoads soon enough left his mark on Ozzy’s career and the world of rock playing on the seminal records 1980’s Blizzard of Oz and 1981’s Diary of a Madman. Readers of Guitar Player Magazine in December of 1981, voted Rhoads the “Best New Talent” while readers of Sounds Magazine voted him the “Best Heavy Metal Guitarist”.