The legendary Ozzy Osbourne and his solo band were left a wreck in 1982 when Randy Rhoads died on tour in a fiery plane crash. The star, who was just 25-years-old, died alongside his makeup artist and his private pilot when the plane they were in clipped the band’s tour bus and flew into a tree, killing the passengers almost instantly. The dead were recognised by their dental records and personal jewellery.
Just weeks after Rhoads’ death, Ozzy got on the look for a new guitarist.
At the time, Ozzy was not in Black Sabbath but was instead working on his own music, all of which Rhoads had contributed. And after his death, Richie Ranno, a renowned guitarist from the band Starz, was approached to audition for the vacant spot.
In a recent interview, he recalled being called “two weeks later” when he was asked to audition for the band.
“They knew that [Rhoads] was a big fan of Starz and myself and thought it’d be maybe a good fit,” Ranno said. “So they flew three people out there.”
Ranno was flown out alongside Robert Sarzo – the brother of Ozzy’s bassist Rudy Sarzo – and Bernie Tormé, the man who would go on to become the band’s next guitarist.
But Ranno had an advantage. On top of Rhoads learning a lot from his style of playing, Ranno was “the first person to audition” out of the three.
Ranno remembered feeling sorry for the band during his audition for Ozzy’s band. He said: “When they were setting up the instruments and getting ready to play, they were all like: ‘Wow, I can’t believe this is the first time we’re getting on our instruments,’ and I thought: ‘Oh, these poor guys, how they must feel.'” “So I just jammed [with them],” he added. “We didn’t play any songs for a while. And then we played some Ozzy songs.”
After the audition, Ranno was extremely confident in his performance. But he was not planning on getting axed because of his hair colour.
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Ranno’s friend told him: “They took the blond-haired guy.”
It sounds like Ranno would have liked to take the place of his pal, Rhoads, because he enjoyed his musicianship.
He recalled listening to Ozzy’s solo work and being impressed by the guitarist’s work – without realising it was his friend Rhoads. “So, one day, listening to the radio … I’m hearing this Ozzy stuff,” he said. “And [the singing] sounds just like Ozzy – but the music’s great. The guitar playing is great, right? I buy the album, but I don’t really know who the players are. I saw Tommy Aldridge who I knew… but I didn’t really pay attention to the other guys.” (Via Ultimate Guitar)
But Black Sabbath, on the other hand, Ranno was not impressed with at all.
Ranno explained that he was actively not a fan of Black Sabbath when Ozzy was their frontman. He said, without “wanting to offend anyone” that the band’s guitars were not up to scratch.
He explained: “I was listening to Led Zeppelin, and Deep Purple, and Richie Blackmore, and Jimmy Page – incredible guitar playing. And Black Sabbath came up – well, I didn’t hear any incredible guitar playing, to be quite honest.” He added: “Yeah, these songs were okay… So I was not a fan.”