“Fingers of Fury: The Eccentric Evolution of Ozzy’s Guitar Heroes”

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Written By Sebastian Melmoth

From Rhoads to Wylde, a story of Ozzy’s leading men. A riotous romp through guitarist lore and six string shenanigans. The legendary tale of Ozzy Osbourne’s guitarists unfold like a rock ‘n’ roll rollercoaster ride through the archives of heavy metal history through frets and fables.

Enter the realm of rock and roll royalty, where the enigmatic figure of Ozzy Osbourne reigns supreme. With a very distinctive sound of double vocal heard ’round the globe, Osbourne has unleashed over 100 million records upon eager ears, leaving a trail of metal mayhem in his wake, both solo and as the wild frontman of Black Sabbath.

But rewind the tape to the swinging ’60s, where our story begins. In a dark and smoky club, a young Osbourne takes the stage, belting out tunes with Rare Breed alongside the bass wizard Geezer Butler. Though their time together was short-lived, fate had other plans. In a cosmic twist of destiny, Osbourne, Butler, and a couple of other musical misfits unite to form the legendary Black Sabbath in 1969, with Tony Iommi’s downtuned riffs and Bill Ward’s thunderous beats completing the lineup.

And thus, the saga of heavy metal’s pioneers is born. With Sabbath’s earth-shattering sound, they lay the foundation for a genre that would shake the very foundations of music itself, forever enshrining their place in rock history.

In 1979, Sharon Osbourne bravely donned her managerial cape and took on the Herculean task of wrangling the wild force that is Ozzy. Little did she know, she was about to embark on a ride through the tumultuous world of rock ‘n’ roll.

Fast forward a decade, and things take a turn for the chaotic. Ozzy finds himself booted unceremoniously from thy sacred halls of Black Sabbath, courtesy of his old pals and their concerns about his affinity for, shall we say, recreational substances. But fear not, for where there’s a will, there’s Sharon. In a tale fit for a rock opera, she swoops in like a guardian angel, rescuing Ozzy from the clutches of his hideaway, where he’d been living it up for a solid three months.

Not content with just being a savior, Sharon adorns her manager cap and takes the reins of Ozzy’s career. Oh, what a tangled web of rock ‘n’ roll drama!

Ozzy Osbourne is fresh off the Black Sabbath carousel with Tony Iommi, who’s guitar infused soulful, blues-solos with ominous, minor-key riffing essence of rock ‘n’ roll decides he needs a new axe-slinger. So, he rings up some guitar gods like Gary Moore and George Lynch, but it’s like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. Then enters Randy Rhoads, the maestro of metal, who alongside Ozzy, cooks up a storm of pop infused rock and roll darkness with a side of neoclassical fireworks!

Randy Rhoads (1979-1982) Randy Rhoads and Ozzy Osbourne’s fates were sealed together, their partnership forever etched in rock history. In a whirlwind of creativity, Rhoads, a guitar virtuoso of petite stature but monumental talent, catapulted Osbourne from the shadows of ’70s rock into the blazing spotlight of ’80s heavy metal. With a fusion of infectious melodies and breathtaking neoclassical prowess showcased in albums like Blizzard of Ozz and Diary of a Madman, Rhoads emerged as a formidable force, solidifying his place as one of the era’s most influential guitarists.

Tragedy strikes when Rhoads was killed in a plane crash on March 19, 1982, at the age of 25 leaving Ozzy in a state of deep mourning as the duo had develop a close friendship. The singer paused his Diary of a Madman tour for two weeks following Rhoads’ death. Ozzy then began searching for a replacement.

The trek resumed on April 1 1982 with former Gillan guitarist Bernie Torme and he takes a stab at it. Bernie had to learn Osbourne and Black Sabbath material with only a week’s notice. After other big name players like Gary Moore and (allegedly) Michael Schenker turned down the gig Torme couldn’t fill Rhoads’ shoes. It wasnt really happening. Let’s just say it’s like asking a cat to bark. Then Night Ranger guitarist Brad Gillis (1982) steps in to complete the Diary of a Madman tour. In an interview with Guitar World in 2021, Gillis called his first night of the tour a “horrendous experience.” He said Osbourne didn’t even show up to soundcheck, and the guitarist botched part of “Revelation (Mother Earth),” which earned him a solemn pep talk from Osbourne’s wife and manager, Sharon but not before getting a stern warning: “Don’t fuck this up, Bradley!”

Enter Jake E. Lee, (1982-1987) the man with the plan and the licks to match previously from Rough Cutt and Ratt. With him, Ozzy finds his mojo again, churning out hits like “Bark at the Moon” and “The Ultimate Sin.” But hold onto your hats, folks, because here comes hurricane Zakk Wylde (1987-1992, 1995, 1998, 2001-2009, 2017-present) the wild man with a guitar and a heart of gold. He sticks around longer than a bad habit.

A flood of hopeful guitarists bombarded Ozzy with audition tapes, each vying to fill Jake E. Lee’s shoes. Yet, fate intervened when Ozzy blindly plucked a tape from his bag, sealing the deal with Zakk Wylde in one fell swoop. Wylde’s baptism by fire came at Wormwood Scrubs Prison, where he belted out his first chords for Osbourne, a mere 20 years young.

Since that momentous debut, Wylde has embarked on three significant tours with Osbourne, sprinkled with session gigs and spontaneous performances, earning him the title of Ozzy’s most enduring guitarist and side kick. His unmistakable, wah-drenched solos reverberate through the halls of albums like “No Rest for the Wicked,” “No More Tears,” and “Black Rain,” showcasing his virtuosity across decades of musical evolution.

Reflecting on their bond, Wylde mused to Metal Hammer in 2022, revealing a relationship that transcends mere music. “I’m Ozzy’s right-hand man,” he declared proudly. “Whether it’s tuning guitars, fetching groceries or feeding the dogs while they are out of town, I’m there. “Need milk? Consider it done.”

Then there’s former David Lee Roth guitarist Joe Holmes (1995-2001) who steps in during Ozzy’s retirement hiatus, bringing a touch of Rhoads’ spirit back to the stage. He worked with Ozzy during Ozzmosis and the aptly titled Retirement Sucks Tour. Although Wylde played on Ozzmosis, an informal Guns N’ Roses audition kept him from touring. Interesting enough, Joe Holmes took guitar lessons from Randy Rhoads as a teenager. Holmes left Osbourne’s band in 2001 during the sessions for Down to Earth, for which he co-wrote three songs: “That I Never Had,” “Junkie” and “Can You Hear Them?” You can listen to his playing on the 1996 Beavis and Butt-Head Do America track “Walk on Water,” as well as a live version of “Perry Mason” that first appeared on the 1997 Ozzfest Live compilation.

And let’s not forget Jerry Cantrell (2004-2005) who joins the fray for a hot minute, adding some grunge flavor to the mix before heading back to his Chains. Cantrell played on two solo albums along side Wylde, (2001’s Down to Earth and 2007’s Black Rain), Osbourne released the 2005 covers LP Under Cover, the bulk of which previously appeared on the Prince of Darkness box set released earlier that year. Despite this all star studded band including Alice in Chains guitarist Jerry Cantrell, Faith No More drummer Mike Bordin and the Cult bassist Chris Wyse the album didnt do very well and received lukewarm reviews.

But wait, there’s more! Gus G (2009-2017) takes the reins for a while, proving he’s got the chops to keep up with the the godfather of heavy metal. Osbourne announced he was parting ways with Wylde in 2009, telling Classic Rock that he “felt like his stuff was beginning to sound like Black Label Society.” The maestro rose to the challenge of stepping into Wylde’s shoes, delivering a feast of robust riffs and lightning-speed solos on 2010’s “Scream.” His scorching fretwork, particularly on the lead single “Let Me Hear You Scream,” captivated audiences with its raw intensity. G continued to grace Osbourne’s stage until 2017, when the singer revealed Wylde’s triumphant return yet again.

And just when you thought it couldn’t get any crazier, along comes Andrew Watt (2020-2022) and his band of merry men, including Slash, Tom Morello, and Eric Clapton, turning Ozzy’s sound into an auditory smorgasbord!

In a bold move, Osbourne decided to shake things up for his 2020 release, “Ordinary Man,” joining forces with the dynamic producer and multi-instrumentalist Andrew Watt. Known for his diverse portfolio spanning from Justin Bieber to Miley Cyrus and Post Malone, Watt brought a fresh perspective to the table. Not content with just producing, Watt also lent his skills on the guitar for the majority of the album, infusing it with his signature sound. He also dialed up some heavy hitters like Slash and Tom Morello, who jumped at the chance to contribute their magic to the mix.

Fast forward to 2022, and Osbourne’s musical adventure continues with “Patient Number 9,” once again under the guidance of Watt’s production. This time, the roster of talent reaches even greater heights, boasting legends like Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton alongside the return of Zakk Wylde. But the pièce de résistance? A groundbreaking collaboration with none other than Osbourne’s old mate, Tony Iommi, marking a historic moment in the Ozzy’s solo career.

So there you have it, folks, a brief albeit epic tale of Ozzy Osbourne’s guitarists – a journey filled with highs, lows, and enough rock ‘n’ roll antics to make even Keith Richards blush!

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