I knew I wanted to play guitar when I was about 10 years old. In 4th and fifth grade, I started to really get into music. Under my brother's influence (he listened to metal), I soon found bands like Van Halen, Scorpions, Judas Priest, AC/DC, and Quiet Riot. While other kids were playing with Transformers, Cabbage-patch Kids, and GI Joe, I was buying records, tapes, and making cassette recordings of other albums from anyone/anywhere I could. My neighborhood shopping center had a record store, called "The Turntable", where my mom would drop me off, while she shopped for groceries. I would spend a good hour, once a week, flipping through records, and on the occasion I was able to save up 7 or 8 dollars, buy one.
While the hard rock music of the 80s was exciting, and I enjoyed listening to the bands mentioned above, it wasn't until I heard the Ozzy Osbourne album, "Blizzard of Ozz", that I decided that I had to play guitar. I can still picture the black and brown memorex cassette tape that had the recording of the album, dubbed for me by a friend of the family. I couldn't believe my ears when I heard the guitar solos on songs like Crazy Train, Mr. Crowley, and Revelation (Mother Earth). I think I knew then that I had to do this. If hearing someone else play guitar was this exciting, I had to try it for myself.
I begged my folks for a guitar and for lessons... for two years. It wasn't until I was 12 that they decided that I could take guitar lessons, as long as I took real lessons... on a classical acoustic guitar. This was fine by me, because Randy Rhoads, that guitarist that inspired me via "Blizzard Of Ozz", studied classical guitar too. Randy soon became somewhat of a role model for me.
I credit Randy Rhoads as the reason I started to play guitar. Like many other guitarists, I found his playing exciting, passionate, melodic, and inspiring. The more I read about him (he had already died in a plane crash just 3 years before I discovered him in 1985), the more I found his personal outlook, thirst for knowledge, and kind demeanor even more inspiring. I then began to collect all the Randy Rhoads recordings, magazines, guitar books I could get my hands on. He made me want to become a real, legitimate guitar player. A musician. I had this poster on my wall growing up:
This past December 6th would have been Randy's 55th birthday. His sister's family owns the D'Argenzio Wine brand, and have a tasting room in Burbank, CA. I have lived in LA for 12 years... I visited Randy's grave once about 8 years ago, and have hesitated to visit his mother's music school, Musonia, in Burbank, which is still open and doing business. While I am very curious, I have been hesitant to lurk at the school and interfere with their business. However, this past weekend, the family had a Randy Rhoads wine tasting event for his birthday, at their tasting room in town. Being a "wine guy" and Randy Rhoads fan, I had to go.
My wife and I drove out early on a Friday, and arrived at about 5:30. We did a wine tasting flight, including the "Randy Rhoads Cabernet", which was good. The wine room had Ozzy's "Tribute" album on in the background... on vinyl... playing on a record player - very cool. Randy's sister, Kathy was on hand to greet visitors, and we spoke briefly about the Tribute album and the photos therein. Randy's brother in law, Ricci, gave us a tour of the facility, we talked wine for a bit, and then he showed us some Randy Rhoads memorabilia they have there. I asked about Randy's mother, Delores. He says she is 92 years old, and while she is "all there", has a harder time getting around these days.
Memorabilia included a number of photos, Randy's signature polka-dot bow ties, his Gold Record award for Blizzard of Ozz, a pair of shoes, and a few building models he made for his hobby, model trains. A Gibson "Randy Rhoads" Les Paul was also on display... I want one :-)
The photos (above/right) were on display at the wine tasting, and were taken by famed rock photographer Neil Zlozower. I got to know Neil while working at SWR Amp Co. a number of years ago, where we worked on some photo sessions for some product ads. We became quick friends, having very similar taste in music, and I really admire his work and the musical history he has witnessed. The first time I ever visited Neil's photo studio, I was looking around, and saw a bunch of photo slides on top of a light table. Taking a peak at some of the slides, I found one of the poster of Randy Rhoads that used to hang in my bedroom. There it was, the actual photo from which the poster came. I couldn't believe it. I stared at this poster every day as a kid, dreaming of playing guitar professionally, and now Neil takes my photos. Unreal. While I was looking up some of Zlozower's Randy photos online, I found this (both taken by Neil):
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