Randall William Rhoads
December 6, 1956- March 19, 1982
It has been 30 years since guitarist Randy Rhoads' untimely death. Rhoads was and is still considered one of the greatest guitarists of his time. Rhoads was born on December 6, 1956 in Santa Monica, California. Rhoads grew up in a musical family and was classically trained. Around 1973, Rhoads formed a band of his own with his best friend Kelly Garni. Garni didn't know how to play an instrument so Rhoads taught him to play the bass. Rhoads and Garni later found drummer Drew Forsyth and singer Kevin DuBrow. The band called themselves Quiet Riot and by the late 1970's, the band had made a name for themselves around the LA area. CBS Records took notice of the band and signed them. The band recorded their first two albums (Quiet Riot and Quiet Riot II) almost back to back. After the release of their debut album, Garni quit and was replaced by bassist Rudy Sarzo. Sarzo may appear on the cover of Quiet Riot II but it is Garni who actually plays on the album. By 1979, the band had called it a day. Word got out about Rhoads and soon enough, Rhoads auditioned to be in former Black Sabbath singer Ozzy Osbourne's band. Osbourne loved him and Rhoads got the job. Also in Osbourne's solo band was bassist Bob Daisley and former Uriah Heep drummer Lee Kerslake. In 1980, Osbourne released his debut solo album Blizzard of Ozz. The album was a huge success and achieved gold status. Only months after the release of the album, Osbourne and the band went right back into the studio to record the follow up. The album, Diary of a Madman, was released in 1981. Before the album was released, Daisley and Kerslake were fired. Kerslake was replaced by drummer Tommy Aldridge. Rhoads suggested his old buddy from Quiet Riot, Rudy Sarzo, to audition as the new bassist. According to Sarzo's 2007 autobiography Off the Rails, he was hired on the spot. Osbourne and his band continued to tour, sometimes playing to sold out crowds.
On the day of March 19, 1982, the band were in Florida as they had a show to play the very next day. The tour bus stopped on a small piece of property owned by a man named Jerry Calhoun. On the property, there was an airstrip of planes and helicopters. It just so happened that the tour bus driver owned one of the jet planes and offered the people on the bus a ride. The driver, Andrew Aycock, first gave keyboardist Don Airey and a manager a ride. That ride went all well. For the next ride, Rhoads and the band's hairdresser Rachel Youngblood decided to go on. The people on the tour bus were awoken by a huge bang. The noise was so loud that the windows of the tour bus had broken. The jet plane that Aycock was flying had crashed into Calhoun's house, instantly killing everyone on board. Rhoads was only 25 years old. An autopsy later showed that Aycock had cocaine in his system before flying the plane. The tragedy hit the music scene hard, especially the LA scene who had come to love Randy. Osbourne resumed the tour with future Night Ranger guitarist Brad Gillis taking over for Rhoads.
Meanwhile in LA, DuBrow had formed a new version of Quiet Riot. According to Sarzo, he and Rhoads had given their blessing to DuBrow to use the Quiet Riot name. With DuBrow was drummer Frankie Banali, guitarist Carlos Cavazo, and bassist Chuck Wright. The band were signed once again by Sony and CBS Records, only this time under the label Pasha Records. After completing his tenure with Osbourne, Sarzo asked to rejoin the group. Sarzo came just in time: Quiet Riot were already at work on their American debut Metal Health. The album was released in March 1983. By November, Metal Health had done something that no other metal album had done before: it was at #1 in the Billboard Charts, knocking down Michael Jackson's Thriller for a few weeks. Metal Health sold over six million copies thanks to the success of the self-titled track and the band's cover of Slade's "Cum On Feel The Noize". Osbourne was also able to comeback with his third album Bark at the Moon.
Although he died young, Rhoads' legacy has managed to live on. Many guitarists have cited Rhoads as an influence. No one knows what would have happened had Rhoads still been alive today but the music he made speaks for itself.
Fly on! Thunderbird, fly!