Randy Rhoads was born on December 6, 1956, in Santa Monica, California. He died on March 19, 1982, in Leesburg, Florida, due to an airplane that crashed en route to the next stop on Ozzy Osbourne's tour at the time. (Ozzy and the rest of his band were not on the flight; Randy was apparently running late and chartered a private plane to fly him to the next stop.)
Randy got his start in heavy metal in the band Quiet Riot, in 1978 (though by that time he had been already playing guitar for 12 years). The band at that time (read: pre-"Cum On Feel The Noize") was a failure in the USA, though they did release a couple of well-received albums in Japan (bearing the oh-so-original titles Quiet Riot I and Quiet Riot II). Randy, disappointed with his band's lack of success in the States or in the UK (from which the NWOBHM was issuing at the time), abruptly quit Quiet Riot and tried out for Ozzy Osbourne's new band, as Ozzy had just left/been kicked out of Black Sabbath and was eager to continue touring, recording, eating rodents, and the like. Legend has it that Randy was given the position of lead guitarist merely because he looked the part, without ever having played a note at the audition. This was a wise move on Ozzy's part, as Randy would become one of the most recognized, talented guitarists to ever live, despite his relatively short life.
Randy made his debut with Ozzy on the epic album Blizzard of Ozz, released in 1980, and featuring the runaway hit "Crazy Train," which included a wild, roaring guitar solo by Randy, which is instantly recognisable to anyone who's ever heard it.
In 1981, Ozzy released Diary of a Madman, allegedly amid much confusion due to a record company-set deadline. In interviews at the time, Randy ragged on his own playing due to said deadline, though it would of course be hailed as another modern classic, just as Blizzard of Ozz had been. Shortly after the release of Diary, Randy received the "Best New Guitarist" award from Guitar Player magazine. During the support tour for Diary, Randy died in a plane crash. His death devastated the heavy metal world, and the remainder of the tour was, of course, cancelled.
An Ozzy/Randy duet album of sorts called Tribute was to be released in 1982, but was pushed back by five years due to Randy's death. The album made the Billboard Top 10 upon its release in 1987, cementing his place in metal history at last.
Randy played Jackson Guitars exclusively (though he played a variety of Gibson Flying V models early on), and after his death, Jackson started manufacturing "Randy Rhoads"-style guitars, similar to the models he played on stage, including the classic polka-dotted Flying V (or at least, Jackson's version of the Flying V). More recently, Jackson has come up with a new model guitar to honour Randy -- the Roswell Rhoads. The body and head are a shimmery silver, and take the classic Flying V shape to a new level. The body's end points have been sharpened and swept inward a bit, while the trunk of the body has been widened and had its edges more rounded. The fretboard inlays are crop circle figures, though what connection Roswell, New Mexico has to Randy Rhoads is anybody's guess (although I guess a weak comparison to the alleged UFO crash there, and Randy's death in a plane crash could be made, though it'd be in poor taste to make such a comparison).
Additionally, long after their own decline in popularity and success, Quiet Riot quietly released a compilation entitled "The Randy Rhoads Years," which contained a sampling of the first two Quiet Riot albums.
It has been said by pundits wiser than I that Randy Rhoads' death was to heavy metal what Stevie Ray Vaughan's death was to the blues.
Roswell Rhoads images:
Thanks are due to CzarKhan for the heads-up on the Jackson Roswell Rhoads.