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Randy Rhoads - The Ultimate Shred Master!

Published: Thu March 26, 2009  News Feed

Despite his short career, he is cited as an influence by many contemporary heavy metal guitarists. Here's his bio and gear guide...

Randy Rhoads, the influential Heavy Metal shredder...and much more!

Randall William "Randy" Rhoads (December 6, 1956 – March 19, 1982) was an American heavy metal guitarist who played with Ozzy Osbourne and Quiet Riot. A devoted student of classical guitar, Rhoads often combined his classical music influences with his own heavy metal style. While on tour with Ozzy Osbourne, he would often seek out classical guitar tutors for lessons.

Rhoads started playing guitar at age 7 on his grandfather's old Gibson "Army-Navy" classical acoustic guitar. According to Rhoads' mother, he learned to play folk guitar, which was a popular way to learn guitar at the time, although he did not take lessons for very long. Rhoads was always evolving toward a hard rock/metal lead guitar style, but he was heavily influenced by classical music as well. This can be heard on Ozzy Osbourne tracks like "Dee" (an instrumental he named for his mother Delores), "Mr. Crowley", "Diary of a Madman", "You Can't Kill Rock And Roll", "Crazy Train" and "Revelation (Mother Earth)".

Aged 17, Randy formed Quiet Riot with his best friend, Kelly Garni. Quiet Riot initially played in small bars in Hollywood and local parties in Burbank, eventually playing at the two main L.A. music clubs of the day — the Whisky a Go Go, and The Starwood. While the band had a strong following in the L.A. club scene, they were unable to secure a major recording contract in the United States. Eventually, however, the band was able to land a record deal with Japanese label CBS/Sony Records and Quiet Riot and Quiet Riot II were released in Japan.

But Randy Rhoads' big break came when he was drafted in to play guitar for Black Sabbath legend Ozzy Osbourne.

Randy Rhoads

In 1979, ex-Black Sabbath singer Ozzy Osbourne was forming a new band. Future Slaughter bassist Dana Strum recommended Rhoads to Osbourne. Rhoads got the call for the audition just before his final show with Quiet Riot. He walked in with his Les Paul guitar and a practice amp and started warming up; Osbourne immediately gave him the job. Rhoads recalled later, "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.'" Osbourne described Rhoads' playing as "God entering my life." Rhoads subsequently recommended his friend Greg Leon to replace him in Quiet Riot, and then departed for the UK to write and record with Osbourne in November 1979. One of the best partnerships in Heavy Metal history was born.

The band, then known as the Blizzard of Ozz, headed into the studio to record the band's debut album, which would also be called Blizzard of Ozz. Rhoads' guitar playing had changed due to the level of freedom allowed by Ozzy and Bob Daisley and he was encouraged to play what he wanted. His work with Quiet Riot has been criticized as being "dull" and did not rely on classical scales or arrangements. Propelled by Rhoads' neo-classical guitar work, the album proved an instant hit with rock fans, particularly in the USA. They released two singles from the album: "Mr. Crowley" and the hit "Crazy Train". The British tour of 1980-81 for Blizzard of Ozz was with Bob Daisley and Lee Kerslake. After the UK tour, the band wrote another LP before the US Blizzard of Ozz tour. But before the US Blizzard tour, both Lee Kerslake and Bob Daisley were fired by Sharon Osbourne. For the US Blizzard tour, Tommy Aldridge and Rudy Sarzo were hired. Diary of a Madman was released soon after Blizzard of Ozz in October 1981, and since Kerslake and Daisley were already out of the band, Aldridge and Sarzo's photos appear on the album sleeve. This was the source of many future court battles. You Said it All and You Looking At Me, Looking At You would become rare gems with the first to be only released on a handful of singles. Tribute would be released years down the road.

Around this time Rhoads remarked to Osbourne, fellow Ozz bandmates Tommy Aldridge and Rudy Sarzo, and friend Kelly Garni that he was considering leaving rock for a few years to earn a degree in classical guitar at UCLA. In the documentary Don't Blame Me, Osbourne confirmed Randy's desire to earn the degree and stated that had he lived, he didn't believe Randy would have stayed in his band. Friend and ex-Quiet Riot bassist Kelly Garni has stated in interviews that if Randy had continued to play rock, he might have gone the route of more keyboard-driven rock, which had become very popular through the 1980s.

Randy Rhoads and his signature guitar

Randy and his classic V-shaped guitar

It was at this time that Rhoads was beginning to receive recognition for his playing. Just before his death Jackson Guitars created a signature model, the Jackson Randy Rhoads or Randy Rhoads Pro (though it was recommended to be called the Jackson Concorde). Randy received two prototypes — one in black and one in white — but died before the guitar went into production. Rhoads also received the Best New Talent award from Guitar Player magazine.

Randy Rhoads' last show was played on Thursday March 18, 1982 at the Knoxville Civic Coliseum in Knoxville, Tennessee. On March 19, 1982, he tragically lost his life in a freaky flying accident. Rhoads, despite his well known fear of flying, agreed to go on a "joyride" flight, where attempts were made to "buzz" the tour bus where the other band members were sleeping. They succeeded twice, but the third attempt was botched. The left wing clipped the back side of the tour bus, tore the fiberglass roof then sent the plane spiraling. The plane severed the top of a pine tree and crashed into the garage of a nearby mansion, bursting into flames. Rhoads was killed instantly.

But Randy's place in history was already guaranteed by then, and he'll never be forgotten. And it's safe to say that other Ozzy guitarists who followed - including Zakk Wylde - have not matched his talent and influence.

Randy Rhoads Gear Guide

1964 Cream Gibson Les Paul Custom (dated by Randy Rhoads - unverified - as Les Pauls single cut stopped in 1960)
1957 Black Gibson Les Paul Custom
Karl Sandoval Polka Dot Flying V
White Jackson Randy Rhoads w. black pinstripes (called the "Concord" and was a prototype at the time)
Black Jackson Randy Rhoads
Guild 12 string acoustic
Mid 60s Fender Stratocaster
Gibson Firebird 12 string electric guitar
Martin 6&12 string acoustics

Crybaby Wah pedal
MXR Distortion + Script
MXR 10 band equalizer
MXR Stereo flanger
MXR Stereo chorus
Maestro Phase Shifter
Maestro Echoplex
Roland FV-300H Volume Pedal (try the Boss FV-500H)
Roland Space Echo (get that sound with Boss RE-20 Space Echo)

Marshall vintage Super Lead Plexi 100w amp heads (2) (if you want something similar but can't afford it, try the Hayden Classic Lead 80)
Marshall 4x12 White cabinets with Altec Lansing speakers (2)
Marshall 4x12 Black cabinets with Altec Lansing speakers (2)
Marshall Plexi MKII Super Lead 100 watt amp (modded with cascade mod)
Ampeg 4x12 cabinet with Altec Lansing speakers
Peavey standard 130 watt amp
Fender Harvard 1x12 amp

Randy's FX pedals order, onstage, was: wah > distortion > EQ > flanger  > chorus > delays > two amps

Watch Randy Rhoads in action!



Randy Rhoads guitar competition

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