A friend and inspiration to Ozzy Osbourne, Randy Rhoads died in a shocking crash when his plane clipped a tour bus on March 19, 1982.
On March 19, 1982, a plane carrying the prolific 25-year-old guitarist, Randy Rhoads, crashed into a house in Leesburg, Florida, only a few yards from the bus where his bandmates were sleeping. Among these bandmates was Ozzy Osbourne, with whom Rhoads had been touring after helping to record Osbourne’s first solo record, Blizzard of Ozz.
Two other people participated in the fateful plane ride: a pilot named Andrew Aycock and a makeup artist named Rachel Youngblood. Aycock clipped the plane’s wing while attempting to fly over the band’s tour bus, which sent them spiraling out of control and led them to their deaths.
When Osbourne and the band emerged from the bus, they saw the gnarled, smoldering plane and knew right away that their friend was dead — and over 40 years after Randy Rhoads’ death, Osbourne still struggles with the memory of losing his friend, and metal fans forever mourn the loss of a talented musician gone too soon.
Randy Rhoads And Ozzy Osbourne’s Dynamic Partnership
In 1979, Ozzy Osbourne was seemingly at the top of his game. Black Sabbath had just released their eighth studio album, Never Say Die! and wrapped up a tour with Van Halen. In the drug-fueled ecstasy of a rented-out Los Angeles home, they were in the middle of recording their ninth album when the band dropped a major bombshell — they were parting ways with Osbourne.
Without a band, Osbourne was on a downward spiral. It took his then-manager Sharon Arden to get him back on track, and the solution, it seemed, was simple: She would manage Ozzy Osbourne as a solo act, but something was missing. He had yet to find anyone who understood music the way he did, someone who could really take the music to the next level.
Osbourne eventually found his perfect match while he was hungover in a hotel room: Randy Rhoads.
Rhoads had already earned a reputation as a talented, enigmatic performer while he was still a part of Quiet Riot, a band that once sat on the throne of the L.A. rock circuit only to fall from grace after they pared down their arrangements to be simpler and more anthemic.
Shortly after signing with CBS Records, Quiet Riot put their new, more accessible sound out into the world — or, at least, into Japan. Reportedly, CBS Records was so unimpressed with the band’s new sound, they only released the new record in the Japanese market.
Rhoads new his time with Quiet Riot was coming to an end.
Which is how Rhoads found himself auditioning for Osbourne’s new project, though, perhaps it would be better to say he found himself ready to audition. As the story goes, Rhoads hadn’t even finished warming up with a few scales before Osbourne offered him the gig.
“He was like a gift from God,” Osbourne later told Biography. “We worked so well together. Randy and I were like a team… One thing that he gave to me was hope, he gave me a reason for carrying on.”
And the impact Rhoads had on Osbourne’s life was apparent to those around him as well. Sharon Osbourne recalled, “As soon as he found Randy, it was like night and day. He was alive again. Randy was a breath of fresh air, funny, ambitious, just a great guy.”
Rhoads featured prominently on Osbourne’s first solo album, Blizzard of Ozz, but while the new band were excitedly touring and playing this new music for crowds across the country, disaster struck as Randy Rhoads’ death left everyone who knew him in shock.
The Death Of Randy Rhoads In A Tragic Plane Crash
Around noon on March 19, 1982, just outside a mansion in Orlando, Florida, where the band were staying in preparation for an upcoming gig with Foreigner in Leesburg, Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne, and bassist Rudy Sarzo were woken up by a massive blast.
“I couldn’t understand what’s going on,” Osbourne said of the incident, four decades later. “It’s like I’ve been in a nightmare.”
When they emerged from the tour bus in which they had been sleeping, they saw a horrific scene — a small plane had crashed into a house right in front of them, devastated and smoldering.
“They had been on a plane and the plane had crashed,” Sarzo said. “One or two inches lower, it would have crashed into the bus, and we would have blown up right there.”
“I don’t know what the hell happened that killed them, but everyone died on the plane,” Osbourne said. “I lost a dear friend in my life — I miss him terribly. I just bathed my wounds with alcohol and drugs.”
Speaking with Yahoo! years after Randy Rhoads’ death, Sarzo explained that the touring band had arrived at the lavish estate in a bit of random happenstance — the bus driver stopped to fix the bus’s broke air-conditioning unit. But when Rhoads decided to take an impromptu ride in the plane, what started as any other day quickly became a life-altering event.
“It always starts as just another day,” Sarzo said. “It was just another beautiful morning, after playing the night before in Knoxville, Tennessee.”
The bus driver, Andrew Aycock, happened to also be a private pilot. While the air-conditioning was being repaired, he decided, without permission, to take out a single-engine Beechcraft F35 plane and fly about with some of the crew, including keyboardist Don Ailey and Jake Duncan, the band’s tour manager.
The first flight landed without incident, and Aycock offered to do a second with Rhoads and makeup artist Rachel Youngblood — a flight which Sarzo was nearly convinced to join, only to decide against it last minute and return to bed.
Rhoads, who had a fear of flying, only boarded the plane so he could take some aerial photographs for his mother. But when Aycock attempted to fly over the tour bus, a plane wing clipped the roof, spiraling it and its three passengers off course and into the fatal crash that caused the death of Randy Rhoads.
“I was awakened by this boom — it was like an impact. It shook the bus. I knew something had hit the bus,” Sarzo recalled. “I opened the curtain, and I saw the door opening as I was climbing off my bunk… there was glass blown out of the window on the passenger side of the bus. And I looked out and I saw our tour manager on his knees, pulling his hair out and yelling, ‘They’re gone!'”
The accident itself was a tragedy, but it also brought up another issue for the band: What would happen to the rest of the tour?
The Aftermath Of Randy Rhoads’ Death
“The aftermath was just as horrible,” Sarzo said of Randy Rhoads’ death, “having to deal with the reality as we were leaving the site of this tragedy… the survival guilt hit us very, very immediately.”
And while Osbourne attempted to wash away his sorrow and guilt with alcohol and drugs, it became the duty of Sharon, manager-turned-wife, to pick up the pieces of the broken man — and the broken band.
In fact, it’s likely that the tour would have ended right then and there, with Rhoads’ death, had Sharon Osbourne not pushed the singer to continue on. Amid the tragedy, Rolling Stone reported, the band found another temporary guitarist in Bernie Tormé, who played with Deep Purple’s Ian Gillan in his solo side project.
Eventually, Tormé was replaced by Night Ranger guitarist Brad Gillis, and Ozzy Osbourne went on to have a wildly successful career — as did his wife.
But even after 40 years, Osbourne was never been able to fully move on from that fateful crash. “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,” the singer told Rolling Stone. “You never get over something like that.”
In a final recollection to Biography, Osbourne said, “The day that Randy Rhoads died was the day a part of me died.”
After reading about the death of this rock and roll icon, read about the plane crash that took the life of another famous musician, Buddy Holly. Then, explore the heartbreaking story of Bob Marley’s death.