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Randy Rhoads: The L.A. Scene

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Randy's first rock band was with his brother Kellie, who would later form his own band during and after Randy's death. "We got the group together when Randy was about 14 and named it Violet Fox after my mother's middle name, Violet. I played drums. Randy played rhythm guitar on a big red Ovation; at that time, he didn't think he'd ever be a lead player. This band was together for four or five months, and we played some parties and some little shows at my mom's school."

"By the time he was 13 or 14, his little group was playing for parties and picnics, in the park, and down on the Burbank Mall. He was playing a lot by then. I used to go with him and load up the equipment," his mother recalled.

Kellie remembered Randy's first rock concert as a defining point in his life. In 1971 they attended an Alice Cooper concert and it was then that Randy realized where his life could go. Kellie recalled that "He never saw anything like it, and he couldn't talk for four hours. I think that kind of showed him what he could do with his talent, and that's partly what made him decide to play rock. Before that, he played rock guitar and I played drums, but we never really thought about it."

Soon after Randy found his own stage experiences confirmed his desire to play Rock and Roll. Randy said "When I first got up and played for people, it was a fluke. These guys used to jam on a mountain in Burbank, and I thought that I wanted to get up and play. When I first did it, people started clapping. A friend had shown me the beginning blues scale. That sort of showed me how to connect the barre chords to a little scale. From then on, it was just add-ons."

The Rhoads family couldn't afford many luxuries while Randy was growing up. With the responsibility of running Musonia and raising three children, his mother could not even afford a hi-fi system or television. This may have inadvertently shaped Randy's individual style. He couldn't listen to much popular music at home and at Musonia he was constantly surrounded by classical music and other styles far removed from Rock and Roll. So Randy was forced to develop on his own and find his own guitar style before being exposed to Rock and Roll.

When Randy was about 16 he started teaching at Musonia. He was a very popular teacher from the start. He understood his students completely and related with them very well. "They would come out of the room walking on clouds because of the good experience," said his mother. This was the first time Randy had a chance to study other guitarists and copy their licks and it was then that he began to develop his own rock style. Randy spoke of this later in an interview, "The way I started to get a style was by teaching. People wanted to learn everybody's licks, and at first that was okay. Then I thought, 'Wait a minute -- you've got to get your own style.' So I started combining what they wanted to learn with a bit of technique. Every day with every student I'd learn something. When I started to get a lot of students, I thought, 'Enough with the licks. I'm going to have to get them to learn to find themselves.'"

Randy said later in an interview, "When you teach something to a student, it clicks in your head. You may find the answer to another problem you have been trying to figure out. I taught eight hours a day, six days a week, every half hour a different student. I had little kids, teenagers, and even some older people. When you sit there and play all day long, you're going to develop a lot of speed. I learned to read, too, but I have to look at it, think about it, and then play it. About the third time I do a piece, I can read it. I think half of your sound comes in the way you play. A lot of it is in your hands. If you practice with a lot of muting and then go out and do it louder onstage, you've still got the same sort of sound. You can't be lazy. You have to want to play. You have to love the guitar. I did. As a matter of fact, I was afraid of competition because I thought that everybody was better than I was. It was so close to me, I thought everybody was great. Therefore I couldn't copy licks; I just learned my own."

One of Randy's former students, Keith Baim, not only gives Randy credit for helping him develop his own style but for teaching him to feel and express the music within himself. He took lessons with Randy for about six months at Musonia. "I was extremely fond of Randy and had a great deal of respect for him, as did his other students, who numbered in the forties or more. Randy had much more than talent; he had charisma. He was friendly, and, above all, enjoyed teaching and helping others to become better players. He'd almost always run late, and we would spend about half an hour a week laughing, talking, and learning. He would say, 'Keith, make your guitar part of you. Use it to express how you feel.' He emphasized that phrasing is the most important aspect of one's playing: 'People don't talk in monotone, and you shouldn't play guitar that way. Accent your playing.' He worked very hard with me to help me develop my own style. Needless to say, he was a huge influence and was more inspiration than is imaginable."

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