Photo Gallery: Ozzy Osbourne's Guitarists Throughout the Years
If you've ever been asked to play guitar for Ozzy Osbourne, you're either a master virtuoso or you're still dreaming. It's arguably the most celebrated gig in rock and roll, and Ozzy has kept a rotating who's who of heavy metal guitar gods by his side since going solo in 1979.
After recording and performing with Black Sabbath for more than a decade, Osbourne knew an integral part to his solo success would be finding a suitable guitarist to make up for the absent Tony Iommi. Ozzy hit paydirt in 1979 when he made one of the greatest discoveries in heavy metal: a young, classically trained player from Southern California named Randy Rhoads.
With Rhoads, Osbourne relaunched his career with Blizzard of Ozz. Osbourne's collaboration with the pioneering guitarist, however, was short-lived as Rhoads died tragically in a plane crash in 1982.
Undeterred, Ozzy moved forward, working with a succession of talented musicians. Below is a visual guide to Ozzy's six-string sidemen, from his first days out of Black Sabbath to today.
Bernie Torme: 1982
After Rhoads' death, Torme was brought in for makeup dates from previously canceled shows. He toured with Osbourne for less than a month before leaving to focus on his own band, Electric Gypsies. Today Torme runs his own record label and recording studio in England.
Brad Gillis: 1982
Gillis replaced Torme for the rest of 1982 but left to form Night Ranger soon after. He appears on the album Speak of the Devil, a compilation of Black Sabbath covers recorded at the Ritz in New York City.
Jake E. Lee: 1982-87
Lee added the first sense of stability to the Osbourne camp after Rhoads' death. The former Dio guitarist narrowly beat out George Lynch for the coveted gig. Lee appears on Bark at the Moon and allegedly wrote much of the material for The Ultimate Sin while Ozzy was in rehab. In 1987 Lee was relieved of his guitar duties with Osbourne. He's since remained out of the spotlight but continues to record and perform.
Zakk Wylde: 1987-92; 1995; 1998; 2002-04; 2006-09
While Rhoads' time with Osbourne is notable for its brevity, Wylde's legend is cemented in his duration as Ozzy's guitarist. With the exception of Iommi, no other guitarist has played with the Godfather of Metal as often. Though Ozzy dismissed Wylde in 2009, the separation was cited as amicable, leaving hope among many longtime fans that a reunion is possible.
Steve Vai: 1994
Vai began working with Osbourne in 1994, writing and recording for Ozzmosis. Although he co-wrote the song "My Little Man," Vai does not appear on the album as his parts were replaced by Zakk Wylde.
Alex Skolnick: 1995
Skolnick's tenure with Osbourne is the shortest (if you discount Vai, who was never officially hired). He's known to have played only one gig with Ozzy, in Nottingham, England, before being passed over for Joe Holmes. His status with Osbourne resides in most fans' heads as "what could have been?"
Joe Holmes: 1995-98; 2000-01
Former Lizzy Borden guitarist Joe Holmes signed on with Ozzy in 1995 when Osbourne needed a replacement for Zakk Wylde. Although born in New Jersey (Wylde's home state), Holmes pursued his musical career in Los Angeles, where as a teenager he took lessons from Randy Rhoads.
Jerry Cantrell: 2004-06
Having used Osbourne's rhythm section for his second solo album, Degradation Trip, Cantrell agreed to play guitar on Under Cover, Osbourne's collection of cover songs. Wylde returned to the Osbourne camp shortly after.
Gus G.: 2009-present
In 2009, Osbourne dismissed Zakk Wylde, citing his contributions were too similar to that of Black Label Society. Wylde was replaced by Firewind guitarist Gus G. Although less well known in the states, Gus G. was renowned throughout Europe and Japan before working with Ozzy, having played in popular Euro bands Arch Enemy and Dream Evil.
Randy Rhoads: 1979-82
It's hard to overstate Rhoads' contribution to the boom in guitar virtuosity that arose in the Eighties. For many he is the ultimate heavy metal player, perfectly blending the technical brilliance of classical music with the intuitive emotion of rock and roll. Tragically, Rhoads died in a plane crash while on tour in Florida in 1982, having recorded only two full-length albums with Osbourne.