One of his best friends in the early days when was Kelly Garni. Kelly and Randy started playing together around 1971 and eventually formed Quiet Riot together after combining their talents in many other bands, including Mildred Pierce, the Katzenjammer Kids and Mammoth. When they met, Randy had already started to form his own style and by age 13 Randy was already making older guitarists "look bad" with guitar playing that far exceeded his age.
Garni lists Rhoads's major influences in those days as Glenn Buxton of Alice Cooper and Mick Ronson of David Bowie. It was then that Randy started experimenting with "weird noises" and "strange sounds" that would become part of the Rhoads sound copied by many guitarists today. This music was reminiscent of Buxton. According to Garni it was at this time when Randy created many of the trademark licks and eerie sounds found on his later albums with Quiet Riot and Ozzy. Kelly and Randy would routinely spend all week looking for a gig and then every weekend playing at a party in someone's backyard in Burbank. They hardly ever got paid for the gigs, but the music was the most important thing. Garni said of the early days, "When Randy played they all jumped to attention.... Even though it was only a backyard, he put such a good show that you felt like you were at a coliseum at a major rock gig. He knew how to dazzle an audience."
During these years Randy and Kelly became well known in the area and created a local reputation for themselves which helped launch their next band, Quiet Riot, in 1975. After years being in backyard bands they wanted something more "formal." so they auditioned for a lead singer and found Kevin DuBrow. Kevin's audition was held in the kitchen at Mrs. Rhoads's house. She remembers the day well; "Kevin saying, 'Well if you don't like me just say so and I'll leave.' Randy and Kelly said, 'Now wait a minute, there are probably some things we have to work out. Let's talk about it.' That was actually the very first day for Quiet Riot."
Kevin recalled that day in a later interview, "He was just 17 at the time; I was 18. He had hair down to his waist and a thumbnail about four inches long. I looked at him and thought, 'No way can this guy play.' But I figured what the hell, and went over to his house to hear him play through this tiny amp. He plugged in, and I thought that my head was being plastered against the wall; every lead that I could ever imagine -- he played them better than anybody I'd ever heard on record."
Randy and Garni worked with Kevin until they decided to add him to the line-up. The original band members of Quite Riot included Randy on guitar, Kelly Garni on bass, Kevin DuBrow on vocals and Chris Forsyth on Drums.
Within a year Quiet Riot was the hottest band around. Soon they were regulars playing at "Starwood" in Santa Monica. While they played for free, to them the music was all that mattered. In the early days in the rock scene, groups wrote most of their own music. "Aside from playing guitar," Garni said, "Randy came up with a lot of the songs, too... Randy would come up with an idea and then we'd all jump on it; I think that's how a lot of bands go about. Randy was a very prolific writer, too -- he'd always have something new. In the early years he and I came up with a lot of riffs to jam on, but later on when Kevin came in and he and Randy wrote most of the songs."
Quiet Riot performed four or five gigs a week, soon creating enough excitement to sign a record deal with Japan's CBS Sony record label. As Garni put it in a later interview, "Well, we scored the deal to do the two Japanese albums and they did very well over there. I still have a stack of letters from fans there and we got some big write-ups in the magazines, too. They kept calling us the 'Next Big Thing' and the 'New Sound' in music."
After the success of the Japanese albums Quiet Riot tried in vain to organize a tour and land an American recording contract. "The only thing that was bad about it was that the records were never out here. So, it kind of made you feel like you really never had a record deal. You got the record and you were able to look at it, but you sure as hell couldn't go in some record store and buy it because, back then, imports weren't really that big of a thing," said Garni.
In 1978-9 Garni left the band to pursue a career as a paramedic. It was then that Rudy Sarazo joined the group as the new bassist. Although he appeared on the cover picture of the Quiet Riot II album, he didn't play on either of the Japanese releases.
A few months before the breakup of Quite Riot Randy went to the guitar workshop of Karl Sandoval and asked him to make a guitar for him. Sandoval created the trademark polka-dot guitar. In meetings with Sandoval, Randy presented hand drawn pictures of the new instrument and had all the details of the guitar. The shape, as well as the color of this new guitar would always be associated with Randy. He wanted a Flying V shape, tremolo unit, double humbucking pickups, and one volume and one tone control per pickup. Sandoval described the guitar in detail in a later interview:"The guitar has an old '60's non-adjustable Danelectro neck that has been shaved and modified to look somewhat like an arrowhead. It has a rosewood fingerboard and a wide, flat feel. The action is very comfortable. The tuners are standard Schallers. The thing that was different about it was the Strat-style side-mount jack underneath the V section, which was one of his ideas. He also wanted the toggle switches at the end of the wing. Polka dots were used because they were like his trademark, and the inlay on the fingerboard is supposed to resemble bow ties. Both of these were his ideas, too."
Quite Riot had a large following in the years with Sarazo. He later said that Randy was the "focal point of the band," his polka-dot theme expressed in his guitar and clothing was copied by many of his fans. "It was great! ...you'd see a bunch of little kids with his haircut wearing little polka-dot bow-ties and vests, trying to be like him. And then there were a lot of clone Randy Rhoads guitar players in bands," Sarazo said.
Quite Riot eventually broke up in 1980. At the time Randy thought that Quiet Riot might succeed, but later, during his tour with Ozzy Osbourne he said, "...now that I'm away, I knew it wouldn't. I have to say that. It was kind of like I was growing up at the time and didn't know it. There's a lot more room for guitar in this band than in Quiet Riot."
Sarazo said later,"[We] didn't do much traveling -- we went from Oxnard down to Riverside. We mainly were an LA club band, doing weekends at the Starwood or Golden West Ballroom. We didn't get an American record deal, which is one of the reasons why Quiet Riot broke up."
"That was frustrating," Randy stated. "We thought we were good, yet the record companies kept turning us down. We thought the success of Van Halen would help us, but actually it hurt. Most of the record company people would say, "We don't want the second LA metal band." That's why we released the albums In Japan. There's a big market for rock and roll there, and at that time we were just thrilled to get our records out no matter where It was."