Let’s continue our Randy Rhoads celebration by turning to his brother, Kelle Rhoads. Randy and Kelle grew up in the same house, attended the same schools, started a band together, and worked in their mom’s music store. After Randy joined Ozzy Osbourne’s band in 1980, he returned home during breaks from recording and touring. In fact, he spent his final days off – a ten-day break the Diary of a Madman tour – at the family home in Burbank, California. Less than a week later, Randy perished in a plane crash. When I interviewed Delores Rhoads five months later, she suggested I speak with Kelle for more details about Randy’s formative years. Here, for the first time, is my complete conversation with Kelle, which took place on August 15, 1982.
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Your mom suggested that I speak with you about Randy.
Sure you can! Who else have you talked to?
That’s interesting, because Randy and Eddie were not real close. They were rivals.
Eddie had something nice to say about him.
Great. That’s really good. It wasn’t that they didn’t get along – it’s that everybody knew that they were the two best.
Your mother mentioned that you and Randy had a band when you were young.
As a matter of fact, the first band that I was in was the first band that he was in. The name of the band was Violet Fox, and I’ll explain why. We couldn’t think of a name that we could call it, so we named it after my mom’s middle name. Her maiden name is Delores Violet Kell, and we pulled the name Violet and it became Violet Fox. That was the first band he was ever in. He played rhythm guitar – not lead. At that time he didn’t think he’d ever be a lead player. I played drums. I don’t play drums at all anymore; I quit a long time ago. I’m a singer. I go by the name Kelle – Kell’s my middle name, and I added an “e” to the end of it, and that’s my professional name. It’s weird when people call me “Doug,” because very few people except my family call me that.
What guitar did Randy play in that band?
He had just gotten a huge Ovation hollowbody guitar, a big red thing. It was his first good electric guitar with pickups. You could hear it without the amp, but not too loud.
How long did Violet Fox last?
That was probably together for four or five months. I am a few years older than Randy, and we were both in our teens. He would have been in this band when he was 14 or 15, around then. We were playing parties, and we did some little shows at my mom’s music school. We were just doing very subliminal things. We didn’t even get to the stage where we were playing clubs or anything. We wouldn’t even have known how to go about that. We played some little things. For instance, we used to go to a private school, and we’d play there and little private parties and stuff like that. Never really got too much past that stage.
What private school were you at?
All the Rhoads kids went to First Lutheran Day School. It’s a parochial school.
So you were all raised in the church.
Well, you could say that. My mom’s a pretty religious person. We’re not religious fanatics, but yeah, we had a good Christian upbringing.
When Randy was very young, what did he want to be when he grew up?
The thing that I can always remember him doing is playing that guitar, because that’s all he ever did. I don’t remember him ever saying he wanted to do anything else, although I can remember real well the time before he started playing guitar.
What was he like then?
First of all, he was a very smart kid. He got good grades in school, and he didn’t even have to try. He was very intelligent. And the thing that should underscore whatever you write about him and how people related to him is he was so kind. Man, you could never meet a kinder person. I’m sure other people will mention that. He was probably the kindest human being that I ever met. Not one enemy – not one. The guy was so nice that I don’t think he could have offended anybody. And he was like that as a child. He was really a beautiful person.
Some boys who are raised without a father around grow up to be scrappers.
I know. And Randy wasn’t at all. He just got real into his music. I never even saw him get mad at anybody!
What excited him as a kid? What did he like to do?
I’ll tell you one thing that excited him – I’m not bragging on it, but I took him to his first rock concert. It was Alice Cooper in 1971, and he was amazed! We were both amazed, but he was amazed more because he’d never seen anything like that. And to see that the first time out, he couldn’t believe it. He couldn’t talk for like four hours. And I think that’s partly what made his decision: “I’ll tell ya, I think I’ll just stick with this.” It showed him what he could do with his talent. Before that, it was like he played guitar and I played drums, and we never really thought about it. We just did it.
What kind of music did Randy like to play the most?
He played a lot of rock, but in the last six months of his life or so, he was getting involved with classical music – extremely involved! He was very interested in a couple of classical artists, and he would study their music. One was Johann Pachelbel, the classical composer. That was somebody he was really influenced by. He played his music for me one day, and I said right away, “I know what that is!” I guessed it, and Randy goes, “That’s an obscure artist! How would you know that?” But I’d heard it before. Pachelbel was a Baroque-period composer, and Randy was very into him. And Randy was also very into Vivaldi. He was very into Baroque music because of all the layers and all the modes.
When was this period?
More so in the last six months of his life. He was getting very into classical music. I have every reason to believe that he would have only played rock for about another nine or ten months. I know he was planning to go back to school, because he told Sharon and Ozzy he was. He was going to study it, and he was going to really pursue that. And he really had a gift for it. What he could do on classical guitar was just sensational.
Ozzy mentioned that when Randy got his first big royalty check, he bought a high-end classical guitar.
Oh, I don’t know about that. I remember he did that, but that was overseas. I could tell you that he used to go to a lot of pawnshops. I’m not a guitar player – that’s one thing everybody always asks me: “Oh, you play guitar, huh?” I’m not a guitar player and I don’t know too much about it, but I know that in the four or five months before Randy died, he bought a couple of rare Les Pauls. I don’t know much about them, except one’s a black ’57 and it’s virtually untouched. It’s “cherry” or whatever you want to call guitars that people don’t play too much. Another thing that Randy used to do – I never heard of anybody doing this – is when he was on the road, instead of partying out after he played, he’d go to a Top-40 club and he’d go, “Hi. I’m with the Ozzy Osbourne band. Can I jam with this band?” And he’d get up and play with them, just so he could play. He didn’t take drugs, he didn’t drink, he didn’t do any of that stuff. He really was a musician’s musician.
Did Randy enjoy listening to guitarists outside of rock and classical?
He listened a lot to some of the great contemporary jazz guitarists. He liked Al Di Meola a lot. He liked [bluesman] Luther Allison, and he liked a couple of other things. He’d say, “Have you heard this?” He was very much into that.
What were some of the biggest non-musical days in Randy’s life? For instance, your mom mentioned a trip they’d taken to Chicago.
That was real important. Another thing that was interesting about that period is that I decided that I should have long fingernails – this was about ten years ago. And he thought that was a great idea too. I’ll never forget, as long as I live, going on that train from Chicago to New York, and we were doing our nails. Back then people didn’t have long fingernails – sometimes even women didn’t – so we had a good time.
Delores also mentioned being chased back to the train station in Chicago.
That wasn’t with me. I don’t know if I’ve heard that one.
Did Randy have many girlfriends?
He kind of did. He had a lot of admirers, but he was pretty much into one girl at a time. And the last girl he was with is the one he was with the longest, and he would have married her. He most definitely would have married her. I think they were together seven years.
I read an interview where he said she was the only thing that could distract him from his guitar playing.
Nothing could have. Nothing could have ever distracted him. He would have played no matter what. He had another hobby that he really enjoyed, and it was miniature trains. When he got back from Europe, he had the lowest-gauge trains you could get, the little tiny ones. And I could always tell when the road was really bad or when he really hated it, because when he got home, if he intensely got into those models, he was bummin’. I don’t think he liked being on the road at all. See, people like my brother shouldn’t get involved with rock and roll. They’re higher people. I don’t think he could understand a lot of it. He wasn’t raised that way. And a lot of times there were confusing things that conflicted with the way he was brought up, that conflicted with his own morality. He was a good person, and I know he saw a lot of things that really blew him away.
When’s the last time you saw Randy?
The last time I saw him was March of this year .
Was this in California?
Yeah, it was right after he had his teeth pulled. I saw him because I wanted to wish him goodbye. I’d been working on a tape – it’s all completed now – and he wanted me to rush a copy to him on the road when he was touring. He said, “I’ll leave an address in advance for a city we’ll be playing, and you can send it to that hotel and I can get it.” Last I heard from him.
He’ll be well remembered.
I think he will be. I think he’ll be remembered a lot the same way James Dean is – somebody who died real young and who was able to make a few accomplishments. Someone who would have been totally outstanding, but God took him back. What can you say? You asked me about things that were really important to him outside of his music. When we took that trip, that was important. Those trains were important to him. But another thing that was important to him was anything that had to do with family matters. The guy really was into family situations like Christmas, when people got together. He was a very family-oriented type of person. For instance, he absolutely went crazy over Christmas decorations. He never wanted to take them down, but he could decorate a house so fast, and it would all look incredible. The guy was awesome. What he could do to a Christmas tree!
Was there much sibling rivalry between you?
No. There really wasn’t in the whole time he was with Ozzy. Now, when he was in Quiet Riot, for a while there he went through kind of a weird stage – I don’t know, maybe it was me. But I felt for a while he actually got kind of an attitude there, and it was a little bit hard to reach him. But there wasn’t a lot of rivalry. I guess he was just going through a growing stage. But especially ever since he joined up with Oz, he became more humble – which I could never understand!
How did being in Ozzy’s band change him?
It sure gave him a chance to see the world! I mean, going from a local boy to doing that – what an incredible leap. It really made him a lot more worldly wise. I think it made him more humble – I really do – and it gave him even more respect for his talent. He always knew what he could do, but I think after that he really understood that he could do it. People always told him, “One day you won’t be in this anymore, and you’ll have a career on your own.”
Did he want to be a “rock star”?
He wanted to up until the time he got it. Then he just wanted to be a fabulous musician. I’d have to say that in the latter part of his life, the rock star thing wasn’t so important. Getting to play was important. He was a musician first.
Do you remember the white Les Paul he got during Quiet Riot?
Yeah, I sure do. The story on that was it came from a guy that managed the band at the time. I won’t even mention his name, because I don’t even want to do him any justice. This is really early Quiet Riot, now. We’re talking about when the band first got together. The guy came through, though. He got it for him. I think it was Randy’s favorite guitar onstage, because it’s the one he used. I know I never want to see it again – I couldn’t handle it.
Where are the Ozzy guitars?
I have no idea. Only my mom knows that. I do have something that I regard as extremely precious – I’ve got the ring that he wore that’s got his initials on it. It made me really happy to get that ring, because I didn’t think we were going to get that. It’s very important to me – I’ve never taken it off.
Did he have guitar picks with his name on them?
He had them someplace, but see, he didn’t use the whole name. He just used two “R’s,” like the Rolls-Royce insignia. I don’t think there are any left. He gave them all away.
Anything you’d care to add, Kelle?
Randy was really, really well loved, and rightfully so. He was not only an incredible musician and an incredible teacher, but he was a good person. He was an awesome human being. I can’t think of anybody who had more of an untimely death. But then again, I can’t think of anybody that deserves to be in heaven more than Randy.
Later in the 1980s, Kelle Rhoads sang in the band Rhoads, which released a self-titled album in 1986. These days, he is an accomplished pianist and composer with two albums to his credit, Titanic Overture and Portraits of Oblivion. [These are available online through www.ameoba.com and through Kelle’s MySpace page, www.myspace.com/kellerhoads. For information about purchasing them via check, Kelle suggests calling Musonia Music at (818) 761-0521.] His third CD, Pride and Profanity, is due in March 2011.
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© 2010 Jas Obrecht. All rights reserved. This interview may not be reposted or reprinted without the author’s permission.