There was a short seven minute appearance on the talk show Late Night With David Letterman on March 25th, six days after the plane crash but other than that Ozzy Osbourne never truly revealed in too much depth how he dealt with the tragic death of legendary guitarist Randy Rhoads. So this tale is being told by the man who was asked to try and patch the hole torn in the hearts of the heavy metal world, guitarist Bernie Tormé looked back at the hardest challenge of his life, replacing Rhoads on tour.
It was March 19, 1982 there was a tragic airplane accident and in the blink of an eye legendary Quiet Riot/Ozzy Osbourne guitarist Randy Rhoads was gone. A few days later one Irishman stood up and rushed to book a flight to Los Angeles to meet with a grieving Ozzy Osbourne. Bernie played seven shows in ten days before leaving the band.
“We did The Garden with Bernie, he was rushed in at the last minute, he had little idea what he was getting into but he was doing me a tremendous favor.” – Ozzy Osbourne
In the spring of 1982, Osbourne’s life had changed in the blink of an eye. In the years since being let go from Black Sabbath in 1979, Ozzy had picked himself up again, and put out two very successful solo albums that helped redefine the genre and developed a following that rivaled the Sabbath days. A huge part of why things came together so easily was that he had forged a creative partnership with a brilliant young guitarist named Randy Rhoads who helped him bring out his musical ideas in a way that Black Sabbath simply couldn’t.
Watch Ozzy Osbourne on Letterman, March 25, 1982
At the six minute mark, Letterman asked the tough question about the death of Randy Rhoads
Feeling somewhat responsible for his friends death is an event that still haunts Ozzy.
“To this day, as I’m talking to you now, I’m back in that field looking at this fucking plane wreck and a house on fire, you never get over something like that. You’re in shock.” – Osbourne told Rolling Stone
His manager and future wife, at the time, Sharon, told Ozzy that he just couldn’t wallow. Ozzy felt he couldn’t go on performing but his persistent manager said “We are not stopping now!”
Sharon quickly helped find a replacement and the tour marched on a week and a half later. For guitarist Bernie Tormé, it was never meant to be a permanent job position. Tormé ended up playing only seven shows before returning to his solo career with his band Bernie Tormé and the Electric Gypsys.
Night Ranger guitarist Brad Gillis eventually stepped in. Even Gillis agreed trying to fill enormous shoes in such a short period of time was completely nerve-racking, it was a pivotal moment for both Brad and Tormé — these were some of the hardest gigs either artist ever had to endure.
“I only heard the records a day or a day-and-a-half before I flew to the States, all I could do for most of the time before getting to play with the band was to listen to the songs on a shitty little unclear Walkman cassette player. I loved the songs and Randy’s playing was genius, but it was incredibly difficult for me in that short amount of time to take in anything more than the structure of the songs and where Randy was doing licks. All I could manage was big-picture learning and hoping to fill in the details later, gradually as I went along.”
Bernie met up with Ozzy’s band in Los Angeles about a week after Rhoads’ death. Although everyone was nice to him, he remembered, “No one really wanted me there — they obviously wanted Randy to be there.”
Tormé credited Sharon Arden (her maiden name) with “keeping the Crazy Train rolling”. The band had already been in obvious disarray when the tour began. The rhythm section from the first two albums was of course gone, but that’s another story — they’d brought in Randy’s former Quiet Riot bandmate Rudy Sarzo on bass along with drummer Tommy Aldridge — so Randy was the only original member other than Ozzy there.
“To Ozzy, Randy was the one who was key, the linchpin to Ozzy’s new career goals, and also a true friend, Bernie also said. So when Randy was killed, I suppose Ozzy really found that hard to handle; anyone would. So he wasn’t in a good way. There were a lot of tears, and he was having a difficult time health-wise with his voice. A lot of shows had to be canceled. Sometimes when you came offstage, Ozzy would be crying. It must have been very hard. But he held it together, and he was great onstage. It never showed.”
One show that really stood out to both Ozzy and myself was the third date at New York City’s Madison Square Garden. “It was such a surreal thing,” Ozzy once said of the show, a concert that Randy Rhoads had been looking forward to.
Ozzy Osbourne and Bernie Tormé Days After Death of Randy Rhoads
Damn! With such incredibly short notice and filling in for such an immensely great guitarist Bernie Tormé truly kicked ass!
Delighted to meet another @OzzyOsbourne guitarist @ZakkWyldeBLS last week @swedenrockfest. A hero of mine! Even more delighted to be told I was hero of his!! FFS!! An absolute gent! Thank you very much Zakk! 🎸🎸🇮🇪🤠🎸🎸 pic.twitter.com/psIuKaS9rr
— Bernie Tormé (@Bernie_Torme) June 16, 2018
Born in Dublin in 1952, Bernie Tormé rose to fame in the seventies, eventually moving to London in 1974. His touring stint with Ozzy saw him perform at New York City’s Madison Square Garden. Bernie then released his first solo album in 1952. He releasing records throughout the years, either solo or with bands. His final release was the album Shadowland in 2018.
Listen to Bernie Tormé – One To Blame – From the album Shadowland
Sadly Bernie Tormé passed away on March 17, 2019 at the age of 66. The Irish-born guitarist was hospitalized while battling double pneumonia and was later put on a ventilator. Shortly after hearing the news, Ozzy Osbourne Tweeted: “We’ve lost another great musician. Bernie was a gentle soul with a heart of gold. He will be dearly missed.”
The remains of Randy Rhoads are entombed at Mountain View Cemetery in San Bernardino, California.