Rhoads Scholar, 1980: My Friend Took Lessons From Guitarist Randy Rhoads
I only met him for a few minutes, but it was easy to see why the tiny guitar whiz had such a reputation as a good friend and a nice guy.
In January 1980, at 24, I moved from my Houston hometown to Los Angeles; N. Hollywood, more specifically, aka “The Valley” soon to be made famous in a song by Moon Unit Zappa 2 1/2 years later ("Valley Girl"). I landed in a small apartment complex in N. Hollywood near the corner of Vineland and Burbank Boulevards.
This would put me, as it turns out, somewhere in the middle, between Randy Rhoads' home church in Burbank (First Lutheran Church), and the N. Hollywood location of his mother's school of music, Musonia.
Randy Rhoads grew up in Burbank, the suburb next door to N. Hollywood, just east, between the Hollywood Freeway and I-5. Having just worked at Houston record stores for three years (the two Cactus Records locations), I quickly landed a job as assistant manager at the Glendale location of the Music Plus record store chain in SoCal.
That's where I met Randy.
My Glendale store was located just southeast, also next door to Burbank, so it was likely a frequent vinyl stop for Randy for years before I arrived.
It's interesting to note, that while Quiet Riot was huge in Japan, their first two albums (self-titled in March 1978 and Quiet Riot II in December '78) were only available on Sony/CBS Records in that country. US record stores had to import them in, as Music Plus did for their Import Section in the store.
It wasn't until 1983 that CBS signed them for stateside release, through a new subsidiary, Pasha Records, founded by the producer of Metal Health, Spencer Proffer.
The Master Gives Back
Most Randy fans know that he taught guitar lessons early on, taking a cue from his mom, Delores, who ran a music school in the Valley. Sadly, Delores passed in 2015, but her dedication toward helping others learn the joys of playing and enjoying music was passed along to Randy in his teens, if not before.
Only barely being aware of Randy from QR album photos, I recognized him when he came in the store that day (probably in the early spring or early summer of 1980), but couldn't place from where I “knew” him. I greeted him, and he said he was here to pick up Jim for his guitar lesson. Jim was one of my record store employees, a rather large 19-year-old with a football-player’s build.
As for Randy, he was soft-spoken and very kind and unassuming in my admittedly brief time in his presence. I was taken by his tiny stature and delicate features. Turns out, research reveals, he was a decidedly waif-like 5’7”, 105 lbs.
Which explains how Ozzy was able to routinely hoist him up, guitar and all, during live performances!
From previous conversations, I was aware Jim played, but had no idea he was taking lessons from someone who was pictured on a couple of import LPs we carried in the store! Apparently, Randy's destination with Jim was Delores' Musonia School of Music in N. Hollywood (opened in 1948, it's currently run by Randy's brother, Kelle, a classical pianist).
Ironically enough, Musonia, at 12111 Tiara Street, was only 2 miles west of my apartment, just off Laurel Canyon Blvd. It's likely Randy came into the Music Plus more times to pick up Jim (and maybe buy an album or two); I can just remember the one time.
The Coincidental Church Connection
By the time of Randy's untimely passing, at age 25 (March 19, 1982, the day after my 27th birthday), I had landed at Burbank's Christ Lutheran Church as my new church home. Like Randy, I had grown up in the Lutheran Church (mine in Houston).
On the corner of Burbank and Buena Vista Boulevards, I was working at Christ Lutheran as a volunteer youth director. I had come to know the Pastor and youth minister at Randy's longtime home church, Burbank's First Lutheran, on South Glenoaks on the other side of the 5, just over three miles away from my church.
Those friendships, though, didn't help me get access to Randy's memorial service/funeral, as private a service as the family could make it, attended as it was, by many notable fellow musicians.
I may have let the thought of calling my ministry buds at his church enter my head for just a moment, but thankfully, thought better of trying to get myself invited. At the time, I remember hearing members of Van Halen had attended, having been friends with Randy, and having grown up in nearby Pasadena.
Having hired former Blackmore's Rainbow bassist, Bob Daisley, and former Uriah Heep drummer, Lee Kerslake, to join Randy in his (initially named) The Blizzard of Ozz, the two musicians gave their final thoughts on bandmate, Randy, to The Fuse, shortly after Randy's death:
“I was in Houston with Bob Daisley and Uriah Heep on March 19, 1982. We checked into the hotel and immediately went to a club in Houston called Cardi's [a short-lived 2200-seat venue in the Bayou City's Montrose area]. I was already sitting at the bar when Daisley came into the bar.
“I turned and looked at Bob and said, ‘You have gone all white. What's wrong?’ Bob said, ‘Lee, there was a plane crash this morning and Randy was in it... and he is dead.’ That was it. Oh, God, to hear that - I just turned and cried my eyes out. Bob and me were crying our eyes out over him, ‘cause we loved him. He was such a lovely guy.”
Whatever justifiable legacy remains for Randy's musicianship, his memory should forever include his selfless nature, and his easy and ready willingness to help others, particularly when it came to music precision and creativity, and playing appreciation.
On his tomb in San Bernardino is the inscription, “An inspiration for all young people.”
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