The legendary Ozzy Osbourne and his solo band were distraught in 1982 when Randy Rhoads died on tour in a fiery plane crash. The star, who was just 25, died alongside her makeup artist and private pilot when the plane they were in cut the band’s tour bus and veered into a tree, killing the passengers almost instantly. The dead could only be recognized by their dental records and personal jewelry.
Just weeks after Rhoads’ death, Ozzy set out to find a new guitarist.
At the time, Ozzy was not in Black Sabbath but was instead working on his own music, which Rhoads had contributed to. And after his death, Richie Ranno, a renowned Starz guitarist, was approached to audition for the vacant position.
In a recent interview, he recalled being called “two weeks later” when asked to audition for the band.
“They knew that [Rhoads] I was a big fan of Starz and myself and thought maybe it would be a good fit,” Ranno said. “So they flew three people there.”
Ranno was flown in alongside Robert Sarzo—the brother of Ozzy bassist Rudy Sarzo—and Bernie Tormé, the man who would become the band’s next guitarist.
But Ranno had an advantage. Along with Rhoads learning a lot from his acting style, Ranno was “the first person to audition” out of the three.
Ranno remembers feeling sorry for the band when he auditioned 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 our first time getting on our instruments,’ and I thought: “Oh, those poor guys, how they must be feeling. “So I just blocked [with them]”, he added. “We haven’t played any songs for a while. And then we played Ozzy songs.”
After the audition, Ranno was extremely confident in his performance. But he wasn’t planning on getting fired because of his hair color.
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Ranno’s friend told him, “They took the blond.”
Sounds like Ranno would have liked to take the place of his pal, Rhoads, because he loved his musicality.
He remembers listening to Ozzy’s solo work and being impressed by the guitarist’s work – not realizing it was his friend Rhoads. “So one day, listening to the radio… I hear this Ozzy thing,” he said. “And [the singing] sounds like Ozzy – but the music is awesome. The guitar playing is awesome, right? I buy the album, but I don’t really know who the musicians 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 at all.
Ranno explained that he was actively not a fan of Black Sabbath when Ozzy was their leader. He said, without “meaning to offend anyone”, that the band’s guitars weren’t up to snuff.
He explained: “I was listening to Led Zeppelin, and Deep Purple, and Richie Blackmore, and Jimmy Page – amazing guitar playing. And Black Sabbath came along – well, I didn’t hear any amazing guitar playing, for to be completely honest.” He added, “Yeah, those songs were good… So I wasn’t a fan.”