Quiet Riot bassist Rudy Sarzo talks Randy Rhoads impact and Alberta charity ahead of K-Days stop

By Todd Kaufman and Alejandro Melgar

Bassist Rudy Sarzo, most known for his work with Quiet Riot and Ozzy Osborne, still often thinks of guitarist and former bandmate Randy Rhoads, who tragically died in a plane crash early in his career.

“I lost the joy of playing music, I lost my … collective consciousness family that I had an extension from Quiet Riot,” he explained to CityNews.

Sarzo, 72, says the band had a “collective consciousness,” sharing a passion and collective voice for creating music and discussion around music. He joined Quiet Riot in the late 1970s after the band failed to gain traction in the U.S.

The band’s record label, Sony, decided to release the first two albums in Japan, and while Quiet Riot was well known in the music scene in the 1970s, it wasn’t until 1977 that they released their U.S. debut album Quiet Riot that they started to hit the mainstream.

Rhoads, known for his slick guitar playing, formed the band with bassist Kelly Garni. The latter was later fired due to a bitter hatred for then-singer Kevin DuBrow, which led to Sarzo joining the mix, and he tells CityNews this was when he became fast friends with Rhoads.

Sarzo worked at Rhoads’ mom’s music school, the Musonia School of Music in Los Angeles, which was offered to him by Rhoads after his audition for the band.

The opportunity proved pivotal, according to Sarzo, as this was when they bonded.

He says Rhoads spent much of his time teaching at the school before the band got to “business,” noting the day would be wrapped up once they finished recording or rehearsing.

“I learned so much more than just learning how to teach the bass because that’s where I got the opportunity to really spend more time with Randy,” he explained.

“Once I started teaching, I would be spending more time with Randy and going, ‘Okay, so this is what’s really going on here.'”

He explains Rhoads’ talent went beyond the electric guitar, his signature instrument, and he had immense talent with guitar overall.

“I would hear him play some classically-influenced passages of certain Quiet Riot songs, but not necessarily sitting down to play a classical piece on a classical guitar as he would do between students at the Musonia,” Sarzo said.

Turns out, this is mostly attributed to his family lineage in music, as both of Rhoads’ parents were instructors at the Musonia, which they built “with their own two hands.”

“That showed me a whole different musical side of Randy,” Sarzo recalled.

 Rudy Sarzo with Blue Öyster Cult in Tampa, Florida

Rudy Sarzo with Blue Öyster Cult in Tampa, Florida in October 2008. (Courtesy Scott Heaps, Wikicommons)

Meanwhile, former Black Sabbath frontman Ozzy Osbourne was embarking on a solo career.

After a brief audition that didn’t involve any real playing, Osbourne invited Rhoads to join him, which led to Sarzo following his friend into the foray.

When asked about his time with Ozzy, Sarzo replied, “I have over 300 pages to answer that,” with a laugh, referring to his book Off the Rails: Aboard the Crazy Train in the Blizzard of Ozz.

Sarzo is still heavily impacted by the loss of his dear friend.

On March 19, 1982, Rhoads was on a small plane with two other people while on tour, a pilot named Andrew Aycock and Rachel Youngblood, a makeup artist, and crashed into a home in Florida near the Ozzy Osbourne tour bus.

The pilot attempted to fly over the bus but clipped the wing doing so, leading to it spinning out of control, crashing, bursting into flames, and killing everyone onboard.

Sarzo left the band shortly afterward, noting Rhoads as the reason he joined Ozzy in the first place.

Sarzo has played with the who’s who of rock music over his career including Ozzy, Whitesnake, Dio, Blue Oyster Cult, and even The Guess Who.

After leaving Ozzy, Sarzo was notified that Quiet Riot was planning a tribute song to Rhoads on their upcoming album and asked if he wanted to help. Sarzo agreed and stayed on to work on the entire album.

“There was a higher purpose for us making that record than just putting together a bunch of songs and seeing what happens,” Sarzo said.

“This was really a heartfelt tribute from every note on that record.”

1983’s Metal Health was a critical success and was noted as being the first heavy metal album to crack the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, even making it to the number one spot, beating out The Police’s Synchronicity before losing the spot a week later to Lionel Ritchie’s Can’t Slow Down.

Longevity, touring, and legacy

Rudy Sarzo performing at The Roxy, West Hollywood, CA

Rudy Sarzo performing at The Roxy, West Hollywood, CA on Oct. 11, 2009. (Courtesy Glenn Francis, www.PacificProDigital.com)

Quiet Riot got back together in 2010 after years of going back and forth and recently made a stop in Newfoundland with Sarzo, saying in addition to his time in The Guess Who, he “loved playing for Canadian audiences.” Sarzo rejoined the band in 2020.

“They are wonderful. They are very dedicated and very polite. Wonderful people. Very, very warm,” he said.

After 50 years of Quiet Riot and on the eve of the 40th anniversary of Metal Health, Sarzo says the key to the band’s longevity is “musical integrity.”

“I say that because that’s at the core, and I have to go back to Randy Rhoads on that,” he explained.

“He laid it out for all of us to follow. And he led by example. There was not such a thing that … you have a tyrant or a dictator in the band telling you what to do. No.

“If you’re in the presence of Randy Rhoads, and you’re not in a coma? You’re going to learn a lot.”

BANC and raising money for charities

With his Ozzy Osbourne, Whitesnake, and formative Quiet Riot years behind him, Sarzo says he has moved on to more charitable endeavours.

He started the Benevolent Artist National Charity (BANC) in Calgary with Jim Carter, a businessman, in 2017, raising money for numerous charities.

“We do events, fundraisers every year in Edmonton and Calgary,” he said.

“Last year, we did one for the Lung Association, as well as the Youth Emergency Centre, and we’re coming back again for the (Alberta) Children’s Hospital.”

The band comprises of Sarzo, Sass Jordan, Ellis Hall, Erin Carter, Derek Sharp, Will Evanovich, Pat Steward, and Steve Rokash.

“We’ve been able to raise millions of dollars for local charities every year, so I get to spend a lot of time in Edmonton and in Calgary,” Sarzo said, adding the events are private.

As of 2022, the band has raised over $4 million for charity.

Sarzo is playing with Quiet Riot at K-Days in Edmonton Sunday, July 23 with Aldo Nova.

More information about K-Days and their performance can be found online.

Top Stories

Top Stories

Most Watched Today