William "Randy" Rhoads was born on December 6, 1956, in Santa Monica,
California, - the youngest of three children. He started playing guitar at age
six on his grandfather's old Gibson "Army-Navy" classical acoustic guitar and,
according to his mother, he learned to play folk guitar, a popular way to learn
guitar at the time - although he did not take lessons for very long.
Playing through high school, he became a heavy
metal guitarist who played with Quiet Riot. Rhoads joined Ozzy Osbourne’s group
without even auditioning, group leader Osbourne is quoted as saying. "He was
only tuning up his guitar when I said, ‘You’ve got the gig. Phenomenal!"
Osbourne said, "I have a feeling about people.
You could be the greatest player in the world, but if you haven’t got the
feeling that I want to get, I don’t go for it. Randy (had) presence." 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 seek out classical guitar tutors for lessons.
Several weeks before into the “Diary of a Madman”
tour, Rhoads expressed interest in leaving Ozzy to pursue a degree in classical
guitar in a university setting. During the Diary of a Madman tour he told Ozzy,
“I want to learn to play classical guitar.”
Osborne said, "You're crazy, just play rock and
roll and make some bucks.' He said, 'I want to do it.' So he started going to
these seminars. Every town we'd go into, he'd look in the phone book for
classical instructors. Seven weeks later, the classical stuff he was playing was
unbelievable. Seven weeks. He worked around the clock to get where he wanted."
March 19, 1982...
Randy Rhoads's last show was played on Thursday,
March 18, 1982 at the Knoxville Civic Coliseum in Knoxville, Tennessee. The next
day, the band was headed to a festival concert called "Rock Super Bowl XIV" at
the Tangerine Bowl in Orlando, Florida.
Osbourne said. "I insist that we drive on after the gigs because, when you go back to the hotel, you
have late nights, you have girls in the room and there's the hassle of kids running up and down the corridors. We get off a gig, go straight on the bus drive to the next hotel. We've got beds on the bus. We just sleep on the bus, go to the hotel, check in do your work in the day. It's just work, you
know. Many people think that a rock 'n' roller's life is one enormous party with
perks. It isn't. It's hard work, and, if you start to burn yourself out, then you
burn your life out..."
After driving much of the night in the
band’s Greyhound-type bus, with a golden-brown top, white bottom and equestrian
art on the sides, they stopped at Flying Baron Estates (10FA), a property
belonging to Jerry Calhoun, who used to record country and western music in
Nashville, Tennessee, and was then the owner of "Florida Coach," (a manufacturer
and leaser of touring motor coach buses) in Leesburg, Florida, at about 8 on the
morning of the 19th to pick up some spare parts for the bus. On the property,
there was a small airstrip lined with small helicopters and planes, and three
houses. One belonged to the tour bus driver, Andrew C. Aycock, and another – a
white Georgian-style mansion - was owned by Calhoun.
Aycock and his ex-wife, Wanda, went into
Calhoun’s house to make some coffee while some members of Ozzy Osbournes band
slept in the bus - The bus - outfitted with plush chairs, video games and a
stereo system - and others got out and "stretched". Aycock - a licensed pilot,
although not then-medically certified or legally current in his ability - talked
the band's keyboardist, Don Airey, into taking a “test flight” with him in a
1955 Beechcraft Bonanza F-35, registered as N567LT, stored in a nearby hangar
even though the plane belonged to Mike Partin, who had no knowledge of the
pending flight. Also, joining the pair was tour manager, Jake Duncan. The short
joyride, during which he made several low passes a tree-top level over the area,
ended and the plane landed safely.
Then Aycock took Rhoads and Rachel Youngblood,
58, the group's makeup artist, hairdresser and seamstress, on another flight. Airey
persuaded Rhoads to go on the second flight, despite his fear of flying. Rhoads
apparently agreed to go for two reasons: the seamstress had a heart condition so
Aycock agreed to do nothing risky; also, Rhoads wanted to take an aerial photo
as one of his hobbies was photography.
During the second flight, attempts were made to
"buzz" the tour bus, which was parked about 60 feet from Calhoun’s mansion,
where the other band members, Ozzy Osbourne, manager Sharon Arden, guitarist
Tommy Aldrige, and bassist Rudy Sarzo, were sleeping, while Don Airey stood
outside the bus, watching the flight. The Bonanza succeeded a couple times, but
the last attempt was botched.
Marylee Morrison, who was riding her horse within
sight of the estate, said "I was going for a nice peaceful ride on my horse and
kept hearing this plane. It was flying so low that when it passed over me, I
could see the interior of it," she said. "I was crying, I was so shocked. It was
a harrowing experience. The other members of the group were just very upset and
the fourth pass, while the plane was flying about 10 feet above the ground at a
speed between 140 and 180 miles per hour, the Bonanza’s left wing collided with
the rear of the bus, cutting a six-foot-long gash through the fiberglass roof,
then sent the plane spiraling over the bus, severing 10 feet off a large pine
tree before crashing through the north side wall and roof of the garage on the
west end of Calhoun’s mansion, exploding on impact, and setting the house on
fire – destroying the roof, upper bedrooms and garage, and causing structural
damage to the concrete block walls of the home.
The band members on the bus "thought they had
been involved in a traffic accident," officials said.
Jesse Herndon, a deaf 70-year-old who was inside
the house during the impact, escaped with no injuries after Ozzy Osbourne rushed
into the house to insure no one would be hurt.
All three aboard were killed instantly: one
victim was found outside the window of the garage, just below where the plane
struck the wall. The other two victims were found inside the garage, one beside
and one atop the two burned-out automobiles, an Oldsmobile and a Ford Granada,
The inboard portion of left wing with the landing
gear and the plane's empennage were found outside the garage against the
northern wall, and the major portion of the wreckage was found inside the
garage, entering through the roof. Fiberglass from the explosive impact of the
plane was scattered over more than an acre, with no part of the red & white
plane was larger than a breadbox, expect for the six-foot long section of
now-crumpled wing which struck the bus.
Ozzy tried to explain what happened in a later
interview, "I was sleeping on the bus. Don Airey saw it. At first I thought the
bus driver had fallen asleep at the wheel, crashed into a truck and run off the
road. The plane ripped the bus into a million pieces. All we've got are
fragments. ... It was no prank. It was an accident and that's it. For God's
sake, if I ever hear anybody say it was one of my practical jokes that went
wrong, I'll strangle the bastard. It was an accident, a horrible accident.”
A day later, a devastated Ozzy Osbourne gave a
statement to the investigators. “At approximately 9:00 a.m. on Friday, March 19,
1982, I was awoken from my sleep by a loud explosion. I immediately thought that
we'd hit a vehicle on the road. I got out of the bed, screaming to my fiancée,
Sharon, ‘Get off the bus.’ Meanwhile, she was screaming to everyone else to get
off the bus. After getting out of the bus, I saw that a plane had crashed. I
didn't know who was on the plane at the time. When we realized that our people
were on the plane, I found it very difficult to get assistance from anyone to
help. In fact, it took almost a half-hour before anyone arrived. One small fire
engine arrived, which appeared to squirt three gallons of water over the
inferno. We asked for further assistance, such as telephones, and didn't receive
any further help. In the end, we finally found a telephone and Sharon phoned her
Sharon told authorities: “I went to bed around
11:30 p.m. the night of the 18th. The next thing I knew, I woke with a huge bang
and the bus was rocking. My bed was at the back of the bus. I ran to the front
of the bus to look out of the windows, I had no idea where I was or what had
happened. There was glass everywhere in the bus; everything was upside down. The
bus driver’s ex-wife said: ‘Don't look, don't come out.’ I left the bus and saw
flames coming from a house, and a big hole in our bus. I ran screaming trying to
find out what had happened, but no one would say. Then I found out. I asked for
a phone. I was told by a man, who I did not know, that there was no phone and to
keep my mouth shut and I did not see anything. I told him to go to hell and then
I found a phone. I did not see the crash. All I saw was fire.”
Mike Smalt, a deputy sheriff in the Lake County
Sheriff's Department, was the first on the accident scene, and witnessed the
Leesburg Fire and Rescue Unit and a fire truck on the scene trying to extinguish
the flames as well as parts laying in front of the house that were debris from
what appeared to be the wing of a plane.
Jack Barker, Atlanta regional spokesman for the
Federal Aviation Administration, said the FAA flew an investigator to the scene
that same day, arriving in the afternoon, as the National Transportation Safety
Board initiated its investigation into the mishap, as Osbourne and his band
relocated to the Hilco Inn in Leesburg as they regrouped and mourned.
Osbourne canceled his group’s appearance at “Rock
Super Bowl XIV”, and a spokesman for the promoters, Beachclub Productions, said,
that anyone with tickets may get a refund if they wished, though the show will
go on as scheduled with Pat Travers as the replacement act.
Rhoads's funeral was held at the First Lutheran
Church in Burbank, California, on March 24, 1982. He is interred at Mountain
View Cemetery in San Bernardino, California, where his grandparents are also
bodies were burned beyond recognition. Rhoads had to be identified by his
jewelry and Aycock through dental records. It was later revealed in an autopsy,
and with toxicology test conducted by the Federal Aviation Administration's
Civil Aerospace Medical Institute in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, that Aycock's
system showed traces of cocaine at the time; while Rhoads' toxicology test
revealed only the slightest presence of nicotine. The NTSB investigation also
determined that Aycock's medical certificate had expired – making him ineligible
to legally fly a plane - and that his biennial flight review, required for all
pilots, was overdue. Nevertheless, the NTSB concluded the probable cause of the
accident was the pilot-in-command’s poor judgment while performing “buzzing” in
which he misjudged the altitude clearance.
According to Osbourne, “I was crazy after it
happened. I never spoke, I never went out. ... He was a hero, a true legend. He
was a saint, he was an angel, and too good for this world. His death's always on
In 1987, five years after Rhoads's death,
Osbourne released Tribute, the only official album featuring Osbourne and Rhoads
playing together in concert. Most of the album is a live performance from
Cleveland, Ohio. Contrary to popular belief, Randy's guitar solo was not taken
from the King Biscuit Flower Hour show, which became an extremely popular and
fast selling bootleg by the name of "Bats Head Soup". The songs "Goodbye to
Romance" and "No Bone Movies" from the Tribute album were recorded on the UK
"Blizzard of Ozz" tour at Southampton, on the same date as the Mr. Crowley EP.
Randy was inducted into the Guitar Center Rock
Walk on March 18, 2004. In a 2006 Guitar World article, it was mentioned that
Rhoads's last name was mistakenly spelled "Rhodes" on his plaque, and by the
time it was discovered, there was not enough time to correct the mistake. It has
since been fixed.
Despite his relatively short career, Rhoads is a
major influence on neo-classical metal players that emerged in the 1980s. He is
cited as an influence by many contemporary guitarists of all styles. He is
included in several 'Greatest Guitarist' lists. Fans of Rhoads, to this day,
contemplate the irony of one of Rhoads' and Osbourne’s last songs, "Flying high
Again." and its lyrics: "Got a crazy feeling I don’t understand - Gotta get away
from here - Feeling like I shoulda kept my feet on the ground - Waiting for the
sun to appear."
This webpage was suggested and inspired by Will Friedrich, who strives to be a fraction of the guitarist that Randy Rhoads was...