Randy Rhoads: All Aboard!

Originally printed in Guitar World, March 2006

In an excerpt from his forthcoming autobiography, bassist Rudy Sarzo recalls his crazy life on the road with Ozzy Osbourne, Randy Rhoads and assorted midgets and meats.

On the morning of December 5, 1981, we flew from London to Los Angeles to prepare for the upcoming Diary of the Madman U.S. tour. Ozzy Osbourne and his manager, Sharon Arden, who later became his wife, stayed at the Ardens’ estate while Randy Rhoads got to spend some much needed time at home with his family and girlfriend, Jody. Meanwhile, drummer Tommy Aldridge, keyboardist Don Airey, the crew and I made the Beverly Hilton Hotel our home for the next few weeks.

A couple of days after our return, we began our preproduction rehearsals at Ren-Mar Studios in Hollywood. Originally built as a back lot for Metro Pictures, in 1915, the studio has been used for some of the most popular movies and television shows—from I Love Lucy to Hogan’s Heroes. We’d chosen Ren-Mar for our rehearsal space because it was among the few facilities in town whose ceilings were high enough to accommodate our full and massive production, the heart of which was a medieval castle replica that would be our backdrop during most of the tour.

We had already spent time at London’s Shepperton Studios, another famous movie studio, where the Beatles occasionally shot videos for their singles; but at Shepperton, we rehearsed in the looming shadows of the staging’s bare frames. Walking into Ren-Mar for the first day of rehearsal there, I wasn’t prepared for the overwhelming sight of the completed castle set. It was much bigger than I’d imagined—so big, in fact, that the six foot-high stage had to be removed, otherwise there would have been no room above to hang the lighting rig.

The castle’s façade was astounding to look at. The centerpiece of the set was a simulated stone arch with a stained-glass window that measured more than 20-feet high and served as the backdrop for the drums and a series of special effects during the show. The arch was embellished with iron crosses and flaming torches that accentuated the gothic motif. The center structure was flanked at each side by similar arches with exact reproductions of medieval balconies, gates and portcullises. These three arches were connected by two ivy-covered faux stone castle walls that measured six-feet wide by five-feet high. The center of the set was an eight-step-high staircase that doubled as a massive seven-foot drum riser, as well as the platform from which various impressive special effects would emerge during the show.

Seeing a full-blown stage set—let alone one as large as this—up close was awe inspiring. I could almost hear the audience’s reaction.

“I just know this is going to suck! I can’t fuckin’ hear myself!” Sitting high atop the towering drum riser, Tommy Aldridge was fuming. The platform consisted of a metal grid designed to make him and his kit appear to float above the stage. Unfortunately, it was so high that the sound from his monitor wedges, placed behind him at floor level, dissipated before it could reach him. Tommy yelled down to the monitor engineer: “This drum riser’s so high I’m getting a nosebleed!”

Far below him and several feet away, Randy Rhoads craned his neck to get a view of Tommy. “We’re gonna need binoculars just to see your cues!”

“I don’t know how in the hell I’m going to be able to hear you guys from up here,” Tommy complained. “I can barely hear myself.”

Randy concurred. “I can barely hear myself with all of the amps hidden by the stupid castle.” Concerned that our amps would look out of place in the set, Sharon had decided to position them behind the castle. As a result, Randy’s sound was muffled and lifeless.

“I don’t know how we’ll be able to play like this,” Tommy said, as he threw his sticks down in frustration. “Somebody get Sharon on the phone.”

Two hours later, Sharon arrived.

“What’s the problem?” she asked. She seemed more stressed than usual. After all, she was handling every detail of an extremely ambitious arena tour, and doing so while keeping Ozzy’s mood swings in check.

“Well, for starters,” Tommy griped, “why are my drums sitting on top of this metal grid? I have no coupling with any solid structures. It’s like I’m floating on air.”

“That’s because your drums are going to be raised by a forklift at the beginning of the show,” Sharon explained. “It’s all part of the intro we have prepared. You’ll get the whole idea when we have our run-through during soundcheck.”

Tommy explained that the monitor wedges weren’t loud enough to compensate for the distance between the stage and his drum platform. “So, basically, I’m screwed, right?"

“Don’t worry,” Sharon assured him. “We’ll just have the sound company come up with a drum monitor system that will take care of your problems.”

All Tommy could do was wait and hope that the techs at TASCO, the company hired to handle our audio requirements, could come up with a solution.

It was Randy’s turn to speak up. “That’s fine for T.A.,” he told her, “but my amps are so far behind and muffled by the castle walls, and I hate the sound of my guitar through the monitors. I was thinking of setting up my amps in front of the walls.”

“Sorry, Randy,” she said. “I know how important it is for you to have the right sound, but I’m afraid it would ruin the clean look of the stage.”

Randy was ready with a backup plan: “Then how about if I put a Marshall stack in front of me instead of the usual monitor wedges?” he asked.

Sharon relented. “That’s fine, as long as you hide them in the pit where they can’t be seen.”

Randy smiled with relief.

“How about you, Rudy?” Sharon turned to me. “Are you having problems too?”

I’d been dealing with my own sound issues, just as Randy had, but my problems were not nearly so dire. “Yeah,” I told her, “but I can always ask the sound company to beef up my two front wedges with 15-inch speakers and pump a bit of bass into my side-fill. It will probably sound better than my backline anyways.”

Sharon looked around the set and spied Don Airey, perched with his keyboards on a balcony 10-feet above the stage, directly behind me. “Donald, can you hear the boys all right from up there?” she yelled up to him.

Don shrugged. “If playing up here is the only way I can be onstage, then I guess I can trust the sound company to make all the necessary adjustments to my monitors,” he politely consented.

“Well, then I’ll have a talk with TASCO as soon as possible and make sure you boys are taken care of,” Sharon said, doing her best to take the reins. “I want to make sure everything’s right before I bring Ozzy down to rehearsals. I just know he’s going to take one look at the size of the set and throw a major wobbler.”

Sharon didn't disappoint us: a truckload of reinforcement sound gear arrived the next day. Tommy’s standard monitor wedges were replaced with a pair of side-fill monitors that could be rolled underneath the metal grid. With the monitors blasting directly below him, Tommy had the powerful drum sound he needed. Randy surrounded himself with a Marshall stack by tilting one cabinet in front of him and another stage left next to the side-fills. As I had requested, my backline amps were reinforced with two floor monitor wedges containing a pair of 15-inch speakers and a midrange horn. The stage-right side-fill monitor pumped with an evenly balanced mix of all the instruments. As for Don Airey: a seasoned professional, he rose above the challenges presented by such difficult circumstances to contribute his world-class musicianship. It was time for Ozzy to come down and join us.

“Fuck me, Rache!” Ozzy muttered to Rachel Youngblood, our tour seamstress, as he entered the studio and set his eyes on the castle. He looked like a kid on Christmas morning that unexpectedly got the bicycle of his dreams. “Come on guys, let’s rock and roll!” Ozzy yelled into the microphone. His uncharacteristic cheer spread across the room as we started playing the show’s opening number, “Over the Mountain.”

But the moment proved fleeting.

“Stop! Stop!” he yelled into the microphone waving his arms in the air. “I can’t hear a bloody word I’m singing.”

The solutions to our individual monitoring problems had increased the stage volume so much that Ozzy couldn’t hear himself. The sound crew gathered around them offering a few solutions. Eventually, the monitor engineer decided that placing floor wedges across the front of the stage would give Ozzy the volume he required.

“What about the side-fills?” Ozzy asked. “Add more side-fills and pump voice through them!”

“That’s not a good idea,” Sharon interrupted. “As it is, they already obstruct a good portion of the stage and I was hoping to sell those side seats.”

“We can always fly the side-fills,” the engineer suggested.

“Oh, I don’t think so,” Sharon said. “Having to pay for extra rigging every night might turn out to be too costly.”

“I don’t give a fuck how much it costs,” Ozzy bellowed. “Just bloody do it!” And with that, he walked out.

In the midst of rehearsal, Christmas arrived. I had been invited to spend it at the Ardens’ house, and upon my arrival, I found Ozzy and Randy in the game room, checking out a plush red velvet medieval throne.

"Hey Ruds," said Ozzy, as he sat on the throne, "watch this! This is how I'm going to appear onstage." He placed his arms on the armrests and his legs out front as Randy began pulling down a series of red roller blinds that covered Ozzy’s arms, legs, lap and body. When he was finished, Ozzy was completely concealed within the throne, within which he held a few strings that kept the blinds in place.

From behind the blinds, I heard him say, “Here’s Ozzy!” mimicking Jack Nicholson’s character in The Shining. In a split second, the blinds rolled back as he released the strings, and Ozzy appeared as if out of thin air.

“Wow, that’s really cool!” I said, impressed.

“Yeah, it was expensive as fuck, too,” Ozzy replied.

“Sharon had this bloody magician design it. As soon as he finished building she had him snuffed.”

“You’re not gonna believe the other stuff he made for Ozzy,” Randy said as he walked over to a big brown trunk and rummaged through its contents. He pulled out a leopard print cape with large sharp claws and a football helmet covered with a leopard’s head with red blinking eyes. He put them on and began chasing Ozzy around the room.

Ozzy burst out laughing. “I can’t wear that onstage! I’ll look like a total cunt!”

On the morning of December 30, we flew from Los Angeles to San Francisco to begin a day-long marathon at the Northern California rock landmark, the Cow Palace. Our schedule included last-minute preproduction adjustments, a nearly endless soundcheck, press interviews and award presentations, all of which culminated with the opening night of the tour.

For the first time since we’d begun rehearsal, we had the full production set up on our own stage. Finally, we could rehearse one of the show’s most elaborate special effects: a 10-foot gauntlet designed to lift Ozzy high above the first few rows. At the show’s end, as smoke filled the stage, the giant hand would emerge from underneath the drum riser. Ozzy would climb aboard and hold onto its handrails as the gauntlet extended out above the audience. Sparklers on each of the four fingers would be set off. For the finishing touch, he would step on a lever behind him, releasing a catapult that would hurl raw meat into the cheering crowd.

“You want me to do what?” Ozzy stood trembling on the gauntlet, staring in disbelief at Sharon.

“Ozzy, just listen to me,” she said, trying to calm him down. “All you have to do is climb on top of the hand, hold onto the handrails and step on the lever behind you to hurl the raw meat.”

For a moment, he said nothing, as if considering the prospect. Then the whining began again. “I ain’t bloody doing it! I’m afraid of heights!”

“Oh, here you pussy!” said Sharon, pushing him out of the way. “Let me show you!” She climbed aboard the massive prop, which promptly rocketed 10 feet into the air. “See how easy it is?” Sharon shouted down to him.

“Well, why don’t you bloody do it?” he replied.

“Ozzy, we’ve spent far too much money building this bloody thing for you to resist getting on it. You’re going to climb up on this thing at the end of the show even if I have to drag you up here myself.”

“Oh, bloody well,” he muttered, and wobbled off to the dressing room.

As we headed to the stage for soundcheck, Randy stopped briefly to give an interview.

“I’m not so nervous,” he casually replied, when the interviewer asked him about opening-night jitters. “It’s just that there’s so much going on and not enough time to do anything. I’m not confident about everything yet. I haven’t had time to sort everything out.”

Asked how he was dealing with his sudden fame, Randy was characteristically humble. “Since I started this, great things haven’t stopped happening. It gets to the point where you don’t know how to handle all the good news. Everything is great. You just dream of being in a band and getting the chance to do it.”

Had performing with Ozzy been among his dreams? the reporter asked. “Well, I think this is beyond it,” Randy replied, “ ’cause I’m really lucky to jump from a local band to headlining like this. When we got together it was like, ‘Let’s knock it out and see what happens.’ ”

With the interview, Randy and I continued to the stage and got on with the lengthy soundcheck. Between the castle-themed stage set and the giant gauntlet, the tour was already beginning to feel a little like a circus; even the crew had been issued hooded monk’s robes. It was just about to get a little weirder.

Following the soundcheck, as Randy and I made our way backstage, we were approached by a dwarf. “Hey, you guys look like you’re in the band,” he said. “I’m John Allen. I’ve been hired to be part of your show.”

Randy and I looked at one another and back at the dwarf. We were speechless.

“Do you know where I can find Sharon Arden?” the little man finally asked.

“She’s probably in the production office down the hall,” Randy managed to get out. He pointed in the direction of Sharon’s office, and the dwarf ambled off.

Randy sighed. “I can’t believe we’re gonna have a dwarf onstage with us. This band is turning more into a circus every day.”

For Randy, the news that Sharon had hired John Allen to perform with us was especially hard to accept. Just the evening before, Guitar Player and Sounds magazines had presented him with the award for “Best New Guitarist.” Cradling his trophies and smiling for the camera alongside Ozzy, Randy felt he had achieved one of his dreams. Moreover, he suddenly realized that both his peers and the public appreciated his talents. These accolades proved to be the defining moment that inspired Randy to make a commitment to raise his musicianship to the next level. Undoubtedly, the Osbourne circus would have played a lesser role in his future musical endeavors.

As show time approached, the intensity backstage built to a fever pitch. The inclusion of Little John required last-minute changes that added extra duties to our already strained road crew.

At long last, it was time to go onstage. As we took our places behind the three Kabuki curtains concealing the stage from the audience, the deafening roar of the sold-out crowd filled the 10,000-seat arena and sent a chill through every nerve in my body. From my vantage point inside the portcullis on stage right, I could see no one in the band, only the red velvet throne perched high on top of the massive drum riser. Inside, a nervous Ozzy waited for his cue.

An edited version of the acoustic guitar intro to “Diary of a Madman” blasted through the P.A. Next came the heavy guitar riff cue, the signal for the curtains to drop to the group and Ozzy to release the cords that held the throne’s roller blinds in place. Hearing it, Ozzy materialized onstage. The curtains, however, remained up.

Confused, Ozzy wobbled off the throne. Grabbing a four-foot black plastic cross at the foot of the drum riser, he began shaking it at the curtains, as if summoning them to come down. Backstage, chaos ensued as Sharon began yelling at production designer Simon Woodruff and the crew raced to fix the problem before the intro music ended. When the music finally stopped, the curtains remained in place, and the cheers from the audience turned to thunderously hostile boos.

As the crew desperately ran in all directions, Sharon exasperatedly tugged at one of the sheets, attempting to bring it down on her own. The jeers from the crowd grew to a deafening pitch. Finally, a crew member climbed to the top of the lighting rig and dropped each of the three curtains one eyelet at a time, slowly revealing the stage to the agitated crowd. Our coup de theatre had been ruined.

I feared that recovering from such a debacle would be difficult if not impossible. But as soon as Tommy ripped into the drum intro of “Over the Mountain” and the flash from white sparklers flew across the stage, we left the unfortunate episode behind and got on with the show. Playing my fretless maple Fender Precision, I was conscious of my given perimeter of the stage and did my best within my boundaries to project to the back of the venue.

Settling into the performance, I was impressed by how great the stage production and the band looked. Ozzy wore a medieval jumpsuit and jacket made of red chain mail, accentuated by a studded leather belt and codpiece. Randy looked like a textbook rock-guitar god, dressed in black leather and studs—Sir Lancelot strapped with a Les Paul. Tommy, a total creature of comfort onstage, wore matching white tank top and tights while his drum tech stood behind him in plain sight of the crowd, dressed in an authentic, black, hooded executioner’s outfit. Don, playing from the castle balcony behind me, got into the full spirit of the Gothic theme and wore one of the hooded monk’s robes that a crewmember had refused to wear. I wore black leather pants and a suede top with a studded belt and knee-high red leather boots.

As we began the next song, “Mr. Crowley,” the stage went dark and Don broke into his eerie keyboard intro. His backlit silhouette spread across the stage while Ozzy stood center stage inside a cone of overhead lights. Pillars of smoke that rose from beneath the monolithic drum riser further enhanced the production, which climaxed with spectacular pyrotechnics.

As we pounded out the intro to “Crazy Train,” the castle was bathed in bright white lights to complement the song’s uptempo feel. It gave the audience its first glimpse of the intricate details of the impressive stage set. The lights were brought down for the moody “Revelation (Mother Earth),” then raised again as we segued into “Steal Away,” the bright overhead lights accentuating the intro riff.

Immediately after the song ended, Little John appeared onstage from a tiny trap door in front of the drum riser dressed in a brown, hooded monk’s robe. He offered Ozzy a drink from a goblet. Ozzy then introduced him to the crowd and proceeded to playfully kick him off the stage back in the trap door. Some of Little John’s other comic relief antics included going onstage to wipe the floor and pick up debris while Ozzy chased after him. Ozzy continued his antics during the guitar solo in “Suicide Solution,” grabbing Randy by the hair and pretending to lift him off the ground. Meanwhile, I played my Music Man Sabre bass upside down while I banged my head in a trance.

From “Suicide Solution,” we segued into Randy’s guitar solo. As we exited the stage, the spotlights focused on Randy, leaving the castle softly lit in the background so that all eyes could fall on him during his spectacular solo. As his solo concluded, we came back onstage and segued into an instrumental passage that linked his solo to Tommy’s. Randy and Don played the instrumental’s riff in unison, something that added a rich texture to the sound. Tommy’s drum solo included all his signature techniques, including a crowd-pleasing, barehanded drum solo finale accentuated with pyro explosions. Immediately after he took his bow, we reprised the instrumental passage as Ozzy returned to the stage.

As we sustained the final chord, Ozzy introduced Randy and Tommy, as we gently segued into the soft intro of “Goodbye to Romance.” It was here that Little John made his return appearance, this time wearing a noose around his neck. The dwarf was promptly hoisted up, via a safety harness under his robe, some 20 feet above Tommy. As we performed the melodic ballad, Little John’s body twitched and writhed much to the crowd’s amusement as he acted out his execution. During “Flying High Again” the castle walls were bathed with bright colors to accentuate the bright tempo of the song.

For the Black Sabbath portion of our show, the castle was lit up to look like a cathedral. The center arch framed a luminous screen with the image of a colorful stained glass window projected on it. As Tommy began pounding the ominous bass drum intro of “Iron Man,” a rotating black cross was projected on the screen above his head. Ozzy yelled for all the house lights to come up so he could see the faces in the crowd as the band thrust into the lumbering classic.

From “Iron Man” we lurched into “Children of the Grave.” A menacing skull appeared on the screen as spotlights swept over the audience like searchlights looking for escaped convicts.

At Sharon’s insistence, we had eliminated the encore from our set, much to Ozzy’s disapproval. Rather than leaving the stage after “Children of the Grave” and waiting for the audience’s call for more, we went straight into the metal anthem “Paranoid,” ending the set with a climactic display of pyrotechnics as we hit the last chord and quickly exited the stage.

As the audience began yelling for more, the stage filled with smoke—Ozzy’s cue to jump aboard the 10-foot gauntlet and catapult the raw meat into the crowd. “Go on, Ozzy!” Sharon prodded him. “Just remember: all you have to do is get on the hand and step on the lever after the pyro on the fingers go off.”

The front steps of the drum riser raised slowly as the gauntlet crept onto the stage from below. Wobbling across the stage, waving his hands through the smoke, Ozzy labored to find his way onto the Hummer-sized prop. A minute later, he returned backstage, frustrated with the whole fiasco. The audience was beginning to boo.

“Sharon, I can’t find the bloody hand! There’s too much fuckin’ smoke!”

“You get back out there and get on it!” she insisted.

“Fuck off!” he replied. “You do it!” And with that, he headed back to the dressing room, as a wave of audience disapproval reverberated through the arena.

The following morning, December 31, we boarded an early flight back to Los Angeles. The trip back home was quieter than usual; everyone was still reeling from the aftershock of the previous night’s fiasco. Sharon was determined not to repeat the same mistakes during the sold-out New Year’s Eve concert at the Los Angeles Sports Arena that evening.

Our equipment trucks caravanned through the night and arrived at daybreak for an early morning load-in. As the production was being set up, every single item was double-checked. This included the motor that turned the curtain rod and made the Kabuki curtain fall on cue. As it happened, though, the motor itself was not faulty; in the midst of the opening-night pandemonium, a staffer had forgotten to plug it in. An overlooked detail like that can ruin a whole show. Rather than take chances for the New Year’s Eve show, Sharon had decided to drop the opening act for that evening and push our show time a couple of hours later than scheduled to give our crew sufficient time to set up the elaborate production.

Much to Sharon’s chagrin, the traditional encore was back in our set. Overnight she had come to the conclusion that you cannot do away with one of the 10 Commandments of Heavy Metal: “Thou shall get off the stage, wait for the crowd to chant your name, return to the stage and play some more.” From this night forward, “Paranoid” was back where it belonged.

Still, everyone was feeling tense. For one thing, Don Arden had arrived and made his presence known backstage, telling everyone in his own eloquent way that “heads will roll if there are any fuckups.” Adding to the band’s stress was the fact that we were playing at home. We were aiming not only for a flawless production but also a flawless performance. When the lights finally came down and we took our places onstage, the deafening roar of the crowd sent a lump down my throat the size of a golf ball.

Once again, I could see Ozzy sitting nervously inside the throne as the “Diary of a Madman” acoustic guitar intro came blaring through the P.A. At the heavy guitar riff cue, the three Kabuki curtains dropped to the ground and crew members pulled them offstage. The thunderous roar from the audience nearly drowned the musical intro as the medieval castle and the red velvet throne perched at the top of steps were suddenly revealed.

Right on cue, Ozzy materialized onstage amid a puff of smoke surrounding the throne. He then quickly stood up, walked down the steps, grabbed the cross and ran across the stage. Simultaneously, the portcullis gates over Randy and me were slowly raised while Ozzy’s throne was pulled back off the riser and Tommy’s drums were slowly elevated.

Much to everyone’s relief, the intro was perfectly executed, culminating with the pyrotechnic explosions and Tommy’s “Over the Mountain” drum fill. With the production uncertainties behind us, we were able to focus on the music. After we finished our encore, Ozzy came back onstage and reluctantly climbed on the hand. I could see the fear on his face as he rode the gauntlet high above the first couple of rows. As he settled down, Ozzy waved at the cheering crowd while sparklers flew from the fingers directly in front of him. He then took one step back and released the catapult, launching raw meat into the audience. Most of it landed on the back of his head.

“Sharon, the whole thing’s daft,” Ozzy complained as he got off the stage. “You’re making me look like a total cunt!”

“Don’t worry, Ozzy. I’ve got an idea,” Sharon assured him, as she put a bathrobe over his shoulders.

The following day, January 1, we traveled to Phoenix, Arizona, to perform that evening at the Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum. After our soundcheck, Sharon was on a mission to carry out her new plan that would replace the gauntlet. The catering lady and Little John were brought to the dressing room.

“I need for you to put any leftover meat from the deli trays in this bucket and bring it to me before the show,” she explained to the woman, who looked puzzled. “Don’t worry,” said Sharon. “We’re not going to eat it. We’ve got better use for it,” she explained.

“Now, John,” she said, turning to the dwarf, “instead of having Ozzy release the meat into the crowd from the gauntlet, I want you to go across the stage during ‘Paranoid’ and throw the meat out into the audience while the boys are playing. Do you think you can handle that?”

Little John strained to lift the heavy bucket. “Oh, I think I can handle it,” he assured her as he dragged the bucket out of the dressing room.

That night, Little John appeared onstage during our encore dragging the lunch-meat bucket behind him. He’d added white face paint, penciled-in scars and fake blood to his costume, making him look like a young trick-or-treater. The crowd was amused by the sight—that is, until Little John started throwing the congealed cold cuts at them.

As he slowly made his way across the stage, there was a ripple in the first 20 rows as the audience ducked to avoid getting hit with lunch meat. It was an amazing sight. The tables turned when the audience began throwing the meat back at Little John, who took this as his cue to run offstage. With the dwarf gone, the audience proceeded to target Ozzy, Randy and me. We ducked and side stepped as the meat flew in our directions, trying our best to play our encore. When it was over, we quickly exited the meat-littered stage.

Sharon was waiting in the wings and gave Ozzy a big hug, exclaiming, “Now that’s a bloody great heavy metal show!”

Several evenings later, Randy and I sat in the front lounge of the tour bus, watching a movie during the after-show drive. I’d noticed that he didn’t seem himself. There was a look on his face I hadn’t seen in quite a while.

“Is everything all right?” I asked.

Randy lit up a cigarette. “Ruds, I don’t even know where to begin,” he said. “I don’t feel like I’m myself anymore. Maybe it’s because we’ve been spending so much time in L.A. It seems that everyone wants to hang out with me. Like the other night in San Diego when everyone came down from L.A.—I got drunk and started throwing furniture out the window with Ozzy. That’s not really me. That’s not the reason why I started playing the guitar.

“I don’t know. Maybe it’s because since we started this tour I feel like I have to compete with the stage. I look behind me and I see this great big castle, the enormous drum riser, Little John running around the stage. I just feel like I’m in a circus.”

“Wow, I’m surprised,” I replied. “I thought that after you got those Best New Guitarist awards you’d be feeling on top of the world.”

He shook his head. “They’ve just motivated me to get back to where I was before we started touring—you know, putting all my spare time into writing and learning classical guitar.”

“With our schedule?” I asked. “How are you gonna pull that off?”

“Oh, I’ve got some ideas,” he said. The next morning, January 7, we arrived in Albuquerque, New Mexico, for that evening’s performance at the Tingley Coliseum. After an early check-in, I met Randy for breakfast. When I arrived, he was browsing through the local phone book.

“What are you looking for?” I asked.

“A classical guitar teacher,” he replied, as he examined a local music store’s half-page ad. “Looks good. I’ll call them after breakfast and book an afternoon lesson.”

Later, at soundcheck, I asked Randy how his lesson had gone.

“Well, when I got to the music store, the teacher turned out to be a fan. All she did was ask me how I played the songs."

"So you wound up giving her the lesson instead?" I asked.

"Not only that, but I payed for it, too!" We both laughed.

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