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Zakk Wylde remembers tackling Randy Rhoads’ guitar parts for the first time

Zakk Wylde
(Image credit: Gina Wetzler / Getty)

With 2022 marking the 40th anniversary of Randy Rhoads death, we’ve been asking the great and good of rock guitar for their reflections, including the mighty Zakk Wylde...

Wylde has always worn his heart and influences unashamedly on his sleeve. And when it comes to the man he reverently refers to as “Saint Rhoads,” he’s not only a huge fan but a disciple in the truest sense of the word. 

As is now the stuff of rock legend, Zakk joined Ozzy Osbourne in 1987 as an unknown teenage guitarist from New Jersey. 

Then, after the writing and recording of Ozzy’s No Rest for the Wicked, he was thrown into the spotlight, performing on arena stages all over the world. In addition to Ozzy’s new songs, the set list obviously included many Randy Rhoads crowd favorites. No pressure whatsoever!

How did the young guitarist handle walking out on an arena stage with Ozzy for the first time, knowing he was going to play Crazy Train, I Don’t Know, Mr. Crowley and Flying High Again to thousands of rabid fans? 

“Aside from the pressure of playing them, because I obviously wanted to play each of his solos as spot-on as I possibly can, the added pressure was having the bullseye on my Les Paul,” Zakk says. “As Oz said, ‘If you clam out on any of these songs or solos, they know where to aim the tomatoes and vegetables!’”

The added pressure was having the bullseye on my Les Paul. As Oz said, ‘They know where to aim the tomatoes and vegetables’

Speaking of pressure, Zakk’s first-ever live show with Ozzy was a veritable “trial by fire.” His debut was to the inmates of Wormwood Scrubs Prison, England, in 1987. 

“The boss [Ozzy] told me this,” Wylde says with roaring laughter. “’Zakk, you’re the closest thing to Pamela Anderson these guys are probably ever gonna see! So you’d better not mess up. ’Cause, if you do, I’m leaving you here, man!’” 

Thankfully the young guitarist played the proverbial blinder and earned his “get out of jail free” card.

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