Randy Rhoads’ Guitars and Gear

Bio: Randall William Rhoads was born on December 6, 1956 in Santa Monica, California. Randy was youngest of three children, he had a brother named Doug (also known as “Kelle”) and a sister named Kathy. Their mother Delores owned and operated the Musonia Music School where Randy learned much of his guitar basics, and also taught the guitar himself to other students for a period of time.

Randy first started playing the guitar at the age of 6, and by the age of 12 he switched to an electric. When he was 14, he started playing in the band called “Violet Fox” together with his brother Kelle. Couple of years later, he formed another band with his friend Kelly Garni initially called “Mach 1”, “Little Women”, and finally – “Quiet Riot”.
The band quickly became one of the most popular groups on the Los Angeles club scene, and by late 1976 were signed to CBS/Sony Records. Their albums “Quiet Riot” and “Quiet Riot II” were released only in Japan.

In September 1979 Randy was auditioned for Ozzy Osbourne’s new band. Supposedly he walked into the Ozzy’s motel room in Malibu with his 1974 Les Paul and a tiny practice amp and started warming up. Before he could even show off what he’s hot, Ozzy interrupted him and said “‘You’ve got the gig”!
Randy recorded only two album with Ozzy –  ‘Blizzard of Ozz’ (1980), and ‘Diary of a Madman’ (1981) – and for that short period of time he managed to achieve success that most of the guitarists can only dream about.

On March 19, 1982 Randy tragically died as a result of an airplane accident. While the band was heading to a festival in Orlando, during one of their stops, their tour bus driver and ex-commercial pilot Andrew Aycock took Randy and the band’s makeup artist Rachel Youngblood for a flight in a small Beechcraft F35 plane. While attempting to fly closely over the tour bus, one of the plane’s wings clipped the top of the bus, breaking the wing into two parts and sending the plane spiraling out of control. All three passengers were killed in the accidents.

Randy Rhoads’ Electric Guitars:

1965 Harmony Rocket

Harmony Rocket Randy Rhoads This was Randy’s first electric guitar. It was an old guitar that belonged to his mother Delores, and it was used by students at her music school called “Musonia”. After Randy gained interest in electric guitar, she introduced him to Scott Shelly who worked at the school, and during this time Randy learned the basics of the electric guitar.

As far as the dating goes, Randy supposedly started using the Harmony around the age of 12 – which would be circa 1968/69, and his mother Mrs. Rhoads described the guitar as “old” in an interview given years later. Randy’s brother Kelle guessed that the guitar was probably from 1964 or 1965.
Going from that, and based on the photos of the guitar taken at Musonia on which we can see that the guitar has red burst finish, two pickups, and a tremolo bridge – we can guess that the guitar was most likely a 1965 H56 model. First single cutaway Harmony Rocket to feature the tremolo bridge was introduced in 1965, and it was made up until 1967 when it was replaced with a double cutaway model. Comparing this info with Kelle’s estimation, the year 1965 seems most plausible.

1970s Ovation Tornado

Ovation Tornado Randy played this guitar from when he was around 14 years old (circa 1970), during which time he was a rhythm guitarist in the small band called “Violet Fox”.
He got the guitar from his father who at the time worked for Ovation Guitar Company.Randy played this Ovation as late as 1972, with his second band “Quiet Riot” – before switching to an SG.

1960s Gibson SG

1960s GIbson SG Black It is not clear exactly when and where Randy got this guitar, but one of the possibilities is that he probably traded the Ovatio for the SG. The guitar was used between 1972 and 1975, but Randy supposedly didn’t enjoy it that much and ended up switching to a Les Paul.

Randy’s SG was supposedly originally red, and it was repainted in black after Randy got the guitar. This info is purely speculative, as there are very few photographs of Randy playing this SG.

1974 Gibson Les Paul Custom

Gibson Les Paul Custom 1974 On 20 October 1972 Randy went to see David Bowie live at Santa Monica, and during the concert he was stunned with Mick Ronson’s white Les Paul. At that time he had a black SG, which he didn’t quite like, so he got rid of it.

What’s unclear about this guitar is exact time of the purchase, and it’s origins. In an interview with Gibson, Randy’s brother Kelle said that Randy bought the guitar himself from a Guitar Center, and that it was slightly used. During an interview with Randy’s mother in 1982, she said that the guitar came from the owner of a rehearsal studio that the bend (Quiet Riot) was playing at.
These two stories do not necessarily contradict each other; Randy might have seen the guitar at the Guitar Center, and talked about it with his bandmates. We couldn’t find out who exactly is the person who owned that studio, but for what it’s worth, he might have been a very good friend of Randy, and someone who strongly believed in Randy and his talent – so he bought the guitar for Randy.

Be it as it may, the guitar was probably purchased in late 1974, or the early 1975, and it quickly became Randy’s favorite instrument. He used it on practically all off the live gigs with the Quiet Riot, and for some stuff on “Blizzard of Ozz” with Ozzy Osbourne. It was completely stock, except for the tuners which were replaced with Schallers.

1979 Karl Sandoval Flying V

Karl Sandoval V Few month before the break up of the Quiet Riot, Randy visited Karl Sandovals’ guitar workshop, and ordered a custom built guitar based on his own ideas and sketches. The guitar was finished in September 1979, and Randy paid a total of $740 for it.

The KS Flying V was finished in black with white polka-dots all over the body and neck. The hardware was originally chrome from Fender, but it was replaced with black, and the guitar was equipped with a DiMarzio Distortion Plus in the bridge position and a DiMarzio PAF in the neck.

Shortly after Randy received the guitar, the unusually-shaped headstock broke after the guitar fell on the ground accidentally –  but it was soon replaced and re-painted. The whole neck was supposedly originally taken from a ’60s Danelectro guitar, and didn’t have a truss rod, so Randy struggled to keep it in tune. Nonetheless, he played this guitar very often live, but it’s unclear if he ever recorded something on it. When he joined Ozzy in 1980, he received the white Charvel, but we couldn’t find out if this happened before the recording of “Blizzard of Ozz” or after. Max Norman who produced the album remembers that Randy used a polka-dot Charvel on pretty much all the guitar tracks (The 1982 Max Norman Interview), but Karl Sandoval V was the only polka-dot guitar that Randy owned at that time, so Max was probably talking about this guitar.

1980 Charvel/Jackson Concorde

Charvel Jackson Concorde Randy Rhoads Rhoads approached Charvel in 1980 with an idea for a custom made guitar. After some brainstorming, Rhoads, Grover Jackson and Tim Wilson created the guitar initially named “The Original SIN”, but Randy himself called it “Concorde” after the supersonic passenger airliner.
The Concorde model was very different from anything that Charvel Guitars made in the past. This concerned Grover Jackson, who took the control of the company after Wayne Charvel sold his interest in 1978, so he decided to re-brand the guitar to “Jackson”.The Concorde used all the hardware from Charvel (including a Strat-like tremolo) except for the pickups which were Seymour Duncans.

1980/81 Jackson Concorde #2

Jackson Randy Rhoads Black Concorde This was a second prototype that Charvel/Jackson made for Randy. It was made according to Randy’s own wishes, and with the help of Grover Jackson,Tim Wilson and Mike Shannon.

Randy enjoyed his white Concorde, but felt that the body shape was not distinctive enough from the traditional Flying V, so he decided to elongate the top ‘horn’ on the new prototype, which resulted in a more aggressive look. Guys from Jackson also added their own ideas, which included a gold pickguard, and fixed tailpiece with strings anchored in the body instead of a tremolo.
The guitar also featured Grover locking tuners and Seymour Duncan pickups (TB-4 bridge and a SH-2 neck).

 

1957 Gibson Les Paul Custom

1957 Gibson Les Paul Custom 3 Pickups Randy bought this guitar just a couple of months prior to his tragic death. The guitar was from 1957, and it was equipped with three original Gibson pickups.

Randy Rhoads’ Acoustic Guitars:

1918 Gibson Army & Navy Special

Gibson Army Navy Special This was Randy’s first guitar. He got it from his grandfather who was a doctor and played guitar as a hobby.

Martin Acoustic

Unknown Acoustic Randy supposedly played a Martin acoustic on the song “Dee” from the “Blizzard of Ozz” album. We unfortunately couldn’t find out exact model.

Gibson LG-0

MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA Randy was seen with this guitar on a photo in the May 1992 issue of Guitar World magazine. The guitar must have been made between 1959 and 1970, which was a time period during which Gibson made this particular model.

Randy Rhoads’ Guitar Amps:

– 1970s Peavey Standard 260
Used with the Quiet Riot. He played it through a cabinet packed with six Altec speakers. The amp is now kept at the Musonia.
Supposedly Ozzy would never let Randy use this Peavey, so Greg Leon who took Randy’s place in Quiet Riot lent him a couple of Marshall rigs.

– Marshall 1959
After joining Ozzy, Randy switched to Marshall. On stage he would use up to three amps, each played through a set of 1960A and 1960B cabinets, both painted white.

Randy Rhoads’ Guitar Effects:

Randy’s effect rig was fairly simple. During the Quiet Riot years he only used a MXR Distortion Plus, and an MXR 10 Band EQ. After joining Ozzy he started using the Crybaby Wah, and couple of more pedals, such as MXR Stereo Chorus, MXR Flanger and Korg Echo.

Some of the songs on the Ozzy records were recorded using the AMS DMX 15-80S Digital Delay.

Randy Rhoads’ Guitar Strings:

– Randy used GHS Boomers .010 or .011 gauge.

Randy Rhoads’ Guitar Picks:

– Randy used Picato medium thickness picks. The equivalent of these would probably be closest to Dunlop’s .88mm.

Contributors: Jim, olejnicza