Friday, September 4, 2015

#CollisionWithFame: Randy Rhoads, March 19 1982

Great guitarists are rare, but once established their talents endure forever.  Randy Rhoads was headed for greatness when he had his collision with fame. Emerging on the rock scene as one of the founding members of Quiet Riot, Rhoads had gone on to join Ozzy Osbourne when Osbourne left Black Sabbath in 1979. By 1982, Rhoads had emerged as a true great at age 25.  Then he signed on with a Darwin Award-worthy pilot for a one-way flight.  
            March 18 1982: Ozzy Osbourne and the Blizzard of Ozz played the Knoxville Civic Coliseum near the campus of the University of Tennessee.  Their next gig was a music festival in Orlando.  Driving south all night through Georgia on I-75, the tour bus stopped in Leesburg at the mansion of Jerry Calhoun, owner of the company that provided the tour bus.  Bus driver Andrew Aycock (who had been doing cocaine lines) took off from the bus accompanied by Rhoads and a member of the crew. The rest of the band and road crew stayed on the bus to sleep. 

Aycock, who had trained as a pilot, commandeered a Beechcraft Bonanza from the nearby residential airport and took up Rhoads and the band’s hairdresser, Rachel Youngblood.  The NTSB probable cause report sums things up nicely:

The pilot, who was a rock group driver, took an aircraft from the hangar without permission to joy ride members of the group. During the 2nd flight, the aircraft wing hit the bus during one of several low passes over the area. The aircraft then hit a tree and a residence. A post crash fire occurred. The pilot's last medical certificate was dated 11/16/79.

Aycock had not qualified with the flight surgeon in three years and had not undergone his biennial flight review.  The threesome was buzzing the tour bus in an effort to wake up the sleeping band members.  On the third pass, the wheel of the Beechcraft caught the driver’s side of the bus, causing the plane to collide with and demolish the front of Calhoun’s mansion.  According to the  NTSB, “There were no injuries to persons on the ground but the bus with which the aircraft collided was damaged, the tree was severed, 2 automobiles in the garage of the Georgian type residence were destroyed and the residence was extensively damaged when the post crash fire spread to the main part of the structure.”  

No one in the house was injured but the 25 year old emerging rock legend, the 36 year old driver/pilot, and the 58 year old hair dresser died on impact with the house.  First Bernie Torme and then Brad Gillis succeeded Rhoads as lead guitarist for the Bliszzard of Ozz. Torme left tour almost immediately because he was emotionally troubled by stepping in for Rhoads so immediately, while Gillis soon moved on to perform with Night Ranger.