“I came up with this idea based on the Bonzo Bash shows I’ve done since 2010,” says drummer/guitarist Brian Tichy about the upcoming Randy Rhoads Remembered shows hitting the area next week. “That’s the template. My partner Joe Sutton and I both said that if we ever did a celebration show to a guitarist, it would have to be Randy Rhoads!”
Brian called a few friends, and the idea came to fruition, with the upcoming shows including Rudy Sarzo, who played with Randy in both Quiet Riot and Ozzy Osbourne’s band, Joel Hoekstra from Night Ranger, Trans-Siberian Orchestra and Rock Of Ages, Brad Gillis of Night Ranger, Tracii Guns from L.A. Guns, Alex Skolnick of Testament, Phil X, familiar to New Jersey rock fans as the touring guitarist with Bon Jovi, Chris Caffery of Savatage and TSO, and other surprise guests. Also participating are Kathy and Kelle Rhoads, who are Randy’s family members.
“I think the fact that Randy raised the bar for rock guitar right out of the gate was huge, but what really keeps his legacy alive is the unknown,” relates Joel. “He was so young, healthy and had his head on straight. The sky was the limit for his potential, so in a way, he will always symbolize a musical destination that we’ll never really know.” Phil echoes that thought, talking about how Randy brought a fresh feel to his music. “You could tell how much Randy loved the guitar every time you heard him play,” he says. “He meant every note. He could burn the place down with his fire and take you on an orchestrated journey of emotion within minutes. Not many people to this day can do that.”
Rudy remembers Randy the same way, including his willingness to share what he knew. “One night off during the Blizzard Of Ozz tour in Victoria, BC, on our way to a club, Randy and I ran into a young man carrying a guitar in a cardboard box,” he recalls. “The guy recognized him and asked if Randy could help him out with the ‘Goodbye To Romance’ solo. Randy obliged and sat on the curb with the guy’s guitar, and after he struggled for a couple of minutes trying to remember what he had played on the record, the guy grabbed the guitar and showed Randy what he had recorded. As we walked away, Randy turned to me and chuckled, ‘Well, that’s the last time I’m giving a guitar lesson in the middle of the street.’ We laughed and carried on into the night.”
Brian is well known as a master drummer, with credits that include Whitesnake, Ozzy Osbourne and Foreigner, but Randy’s influence was a part of what made him also pick up a guitar, going back to when he first heard him play. “Ozzy was being interviewed on a radio station talking about his new band,” he remembers. “I was in seventh grade in New Jersey. They announced they were going to play one of the songs. Then a backwards gong came in and Randy screeched down the strings into the riff for ‘I Don’t Know.’ I was sold! He played great little filler licks in between these amazing guitar riffs. Then it got to his solo and I was just floored and mesmerized! That was it. Fan for life!”
“I Don’t Know” was also the song that first caught Phil’s ear. “I bought the vinyl when I was a kid and when I dropped the needle, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I learned it note for note and made my cover band learn it, and we played it at the next house party and blew minds. I’ll never forget thinking, ‘Who the fuck is that!’” Joel adds about the same song, “It was ‘I Don’t Know.’ I walked up to Musicland at the mall, bought the Blizzard Of Ozz cassette, popped it into my boom box and never looked back. Rock ‘n’ roll perfection. It definitely lit a fire in me that is still burning.”
Joel also credits Randy with expanding his musical horizons. “I’m the son of two classical musicians,” he says. “They had me playing cello when I was three and piano when I was seven. I couldn’t wrap my head around it and just wanted to play rock guitar. AC/DC, Black Sabbath, etc. Randy’s open-mindedness towards classical music changed the viewpoint of legions of up-and-coming rockers, including myself. We finally had someone who showed us that it was cool to play classical, and study your instrument. My versatility today is a direct result of his influence.”
Phil also cites Randy’s influence as being one of inspiration. “In Randy’s case, I loved that he took the blues scale with the typical major six and changed that one note to a minor six, leaving the rest intact, and that alone made me realize the importance of having your own licks,” he says. “When you hear anyone play that blues scale like that, you can’t help but think Randy Rhoads. So simple, yet so identifiable. That made me strive for my individuality.”
Randy would probably be extremely proud of the lessons other musicians drew from his work, as he was always trying to impart his musical knowledge to others. “Beyond the legend, I will always remember Randy mostly as a master teacher,” says Rudy. “When we played together in Quiet Riot, I used to teach bass at his mom’s music school, and I would watch him wholeheartedly teach his students. And then on the road he was always willing to share his music with aspiring guitarists he would meet outside the venues. Next time you take a look at a photo of Randy on stage, notice the way he holds his guitar. It’s as if he’s giving the audience a guitar lesson.”
Randy’s untimely death in 1982 has become part of rock and roll legend. On tour with Ozzy, the band stopped in Leesburg, FL to fix a malfunctioning air conditioning unit. Nearby was a small airstrip, and one of the crew was an ex-pilot. A few of the entourage went up with him in a small plane, and during an attempt to “buzz” the tour buzz, he lost control and the occupants were all killed.
Through the years, Rudy has been a constant supporter of keeping alive Randy’s memory. “Given the right occasion, I’m always willing to contribute to the preservation of Randy’s legacy,” he says. “Whether with the three Randy Rhoads tributes I helped organize in Los Angeles 20 years ago, the book I wrote, Off The Rails, tribute albums I’ve recorded on, and currently the Randy Rhoads Remembered tour. One of the many reasons this tour appealed to me is that not only will we be performing Randy’s music from Ozzy’s catalogue, but also songs from our Quiet Riot years. Needless to say it will be a highly emotional evening for the fans in attendance and the musicians performing on stage.”
Joel also felt honored to be asked to contribute to the shows. “It was an absolute no-brainer,” he says. “This is a unique event with so many talented musicians involved. It gives us all a chance to get to know each other a bit, and pay tribute to someone who paved the way for us. Long live Randy Rhoads!”
Randy Rhoads Remembered takes place at The Stone Pony on June 3 and the Bergen Performing Arts Center on June 4. For more information, go to facebook.com/randyrhoadsremembered.