From Obscurity to Blizzard of Ozz
In Sept. 1979, Osbourne was in the process of forming a new band after he was booted from Black Sabbath. Bassist Dana Strum (future Slaughter bass player) was helping Ozzy find a guitar player and asked Randy if he wanted to audition for the Ozzy gig. Randy said yes and got a call to meet Ozzy in his L.A. hotel room on the day before the former Black Sabbath frontman was scheduled to fly back to England.
The story goes that Randy showed up to audition with his Les Paul and a tiny practice amp. Rhoads began warming up, while a wasted Ozzy couldn’t believe what he was hearing. Ozzy recalls saying: “Either this is one of the best things I’ve ever heard in my life or these drugs are really good’. The drugs were good and so was Rhoads, who was only warming up for two minutes, according to Delores.
Back in England, Osbourne met former Rainbow bassist Bob Daisley, who would be a key songwriter on Blizzard of Ozz and Diary of a Madman, in a pub. The two got on really well and decided to record together. Ozzy’s label, Jet Records, wanted an all-English band and were against having the American Rhoads join the quartet, which was called Blizzard of Ozz, no doubt in homage to Ozzy’s penchant for white powder. Ozzy insisted on Rhoads as his guitarist and manager Don Arden finally gave in. With drummer Lee Kerslake in the fold, they recorded ‘Blizzard’ and then ‘Diary’, the only two studio albums Rhoads would work on with Ozzy.
Despite becoming a renowned guitarist and making it big on the music scene, Rhoads didn’t want to be that guy. He didn’t enjoy playing metal music (even though when you watch him live with Ozzy, he is carrying the band and absolutely into what he’s doing). In fact, after the Diary of a Madman tour, Rhoads had planned on quitting. Not only did he want to go back to California, make solo records and teach guitar, he was also disillusioned with Ozzy’s new manager, Sharon Arden (whom Ozzy subsequently married), the daughter of Don Arden.
After the band recorded Diary in 1981, Sharon promptly fired Daisley and Kerslake, a move that angered Rhoads who was close with both of them.
And just before his death, Randy told many people he was going to leave the band and get his Masters Degree in music and become a teacher.
But it all ended for Rhoads at age 25, when he was a in a small Beechcraft F35, single-engine plane piloted by Ozzy’s tour bus driver Andrew Aycock in Leesburg, Florida. Makeup artist and seamstress Rachel Youngblood was also a passenger as Aycock tried to ‘buzz’ Ozzy’s tour bus. He succeeded in making two close passes, but botched the third attempt. At about 10 am, after being in the air for approximately five minutes, one of the plane’s wings clipped the top of the tour bus, breaking the wing into two parts and sending the plane spiraling out of control.
The initial impact with the bus caused Rhoads’ and Youngblood’s heads to crash through the plane’s windshield. The plane then severed the top of a pine tree and crashed into the garage of a nearby mansion and burst into flames. Keyboardist Don Airey was the only member of the band to witness the crash, because the rest were asleep in the bus. Rhoads was killed instantly, as were Aycock (36) and Youngblood (58). All three bodies were burned beyond recognition, and Randy was identified by dental records and personal jewelry.
Rhoads Legacy Lives On
Despite his oh-so-short time making records, Rhoads’ legacy is still so strong today
His style of playing basically ushered in a new brand of heavy metal that drew plenty of its inspiration from his interest in classical guitar, blending classical modes with an aggressive rock sensibility and very advanced technical ability. Aside from ‘Diary’ and ‘Blizzard’, Randy’s playing on the live Tribute record truly showcases his wizardry.
While Rhoads was especially influenced by David Bowie guitarist Mick Ronson, he has influenced several generations of guitar players including Zakk Wylde, Tom Morello, Dimebag Darrell, Buckethead, Paul Gilbert and Mike McCready, to name a few.