We could easily say, without any hesitation, that Ozzy Osbourne is one of the main driving forces of heavy metal. As if being a member of Black Sabbath – a band that started it all – wasn’t enough, Ozzy began his solo career in the late 1970s, ultimately becoming the leading artist of the genre. However, it should be noted that the singer has always been backed by some of the most proficient musicians in rock ‘n’ roll, most notably some of the best guitar players of the past fifty years or more. Of course, coming from a band where a musical giant like Tony Iommi played, he sure had high standards in picking out the best 6-string virtuosos out there. Let’s use the opportunity and go over all the guitar players that played in Ozzy Osbourne’s band.
Before it all began…
According to Ozzy’s original bassist Bob Daisley, Ozzy first tried to hire an unknown guitar player and a drummer. But the thing didn’t really work out and they were dismissed after just one rehearsal. Other sources state that Ozzy hired former members of a forgotten proto-metal band Necromandus – bassist Dennis McCarten, guitarist Barry Dunnery, and drummer Frank Hall during a brief departure from Sabbath in 1977. It’s not certain who Daisley was referring to, but it is possible that Dunnery and Hall were Ozzy’s first choice for guitar and drums after he finally parted ways with Sabbath in 1979.
But officially, the first guitar player in Ozzy Osbourne’s band was the almighty Randy Rhoads. Being just a young 20-something guitar virtuoso, Randy was hired right away on the spot after Ozzy heard him warming before the audition. Now, it may be that the singer was just high and/or drunk since he made this decision without an actual rehearsing. Nonetheless, it was one of the best decision Ozzy has ever made.
Unfortunately, Randy died young after the tragic airplane accident in 1982. All of the guitar players that came after him looked up to Randy’s work. His work on Ozzy’s first two albums, “Blizzard of Ozz” and “Diary of a Madman,” is essentially a blueprint for heavy metal guitar playing of the 80s and early 90s.
Right after Randy’s passing, Bernie Torme was hired by Jet records to fill in the lead guitarist spot. However, after playing some shows, it was pretty evident that his bluesy style just didn’t go so well with Ozzy and his preferred style. So the two parted ways and it wasn’t until 2018 that they met again over at Sweden Rock festival.
Aged 66, Bernie passed away on March 17, 2019.
Known as a member of Night Ranger, Brad Gillis was hired as a replacement for the “Diary of a Madman” tour. Although the idea was to keep him in the band after the tour, he was not exactly happy about how he was treated by Ozzy. So he left the band right after the tour ended in 1982 and went back to Night Ranger.
However, his playing became an official part of Ozzy’s history as he’s present on the 1982 “Speak of the Devil” live album.
Most would not count the famous Dokken guitarist George Lynch as an actual real member of the band and many are not even familiar with his involvement with Ozzy. As Gillis already announced his departure, Lynch was hired to go on the tour for a few months and see how things work out. After only playing some soundchecks, Lynch was fired after Ozzy decided to bring in Jake E. Lee.
According to recent interviews of both guitar players, Lynch was let go in front of Jake. In Lynch’s own words – Ozzy and his wife Sharon were looking for someone with longer hair.
Jake E. Lee
Ozzy finally got a first solid (and seemingly permanent) guitar player after Randy’s passing. Jake E. Lee officially joined the band back in late 1982. He has written a substantial part of the music on Ozzy’s famous 1983 album “Bark at the Moon,” including the title track. Unfortunately, he never got any credit for it. He also took part in the recording and the creative process of “The Ultimate Sin” album, where he was actually credited for his writing input.
Although a phenomenal guitar player, Jake was dismissed in 1987 in a pretty unusual manner. Sharon took him out for dinner, they had a nice chat, he went home, and, through his musician friends, found out that he was actually fired. After calling Sharon back to clear things up, she explained to him that his services would no longer be needed but she just couldn’t gather enough strength to tell him that over dinner.
According to Jake, Sharon offered him the spot again in 2008. But after asking her if he could get his songwriting credit, she just ended up never calling him back again.
Probably the best known of all the Ozzy Osbourne’s guitar players is the almighty Zakk Wylde. He first joined the singer back in 1987 and has been an on and off member throughout these last few decades. Now that Ozzy is doing his (second) last tour, it was only obvious that he was going to get good old Zakk on board.
He recorded five studio albums with Ozzy and has had a huge role in the songwriting process. His riffs, solos, and his unique playing style have been heavily inspired by Randy Rhoads, and he shows his respect and admiration of Ozzy’s original guitar player even to this day.
The guitar virtuoso Steve Vai actually worked with Ozzy for a brief period back in the mid-1990s. But even though there were some writing sessions involving two of them, and despite actual plans to record guitars on “Ozzmosis” album, Vai ended up parting ways with the singer not long after he joined the band.
Another guitar player that also didn’t spend much time with Ozzy was Testament’s Alex Skolnick. After a pretty successful audition in 1995, Alex played one show with for the singer in Nottingham, England. According to what Alex said, Ozzy was pretty satisfied with his performance, but, unfortunately, Sharon was not. So he was laid off.
Joe Holmes spent the second half of the 1990s and the early 2000s as Ozzy’s lead guitar player. However, the only official studio recording he’s done for Ozzy was a song called “Walk on Water.” Other than that, he was pretty just there for the live shows.
But what’s really interesting about Holmes is that he took some guitar lessons from Randy Rhoads back in the day. Even Ozzy noticed it himself, claiming that Holmes plays Randy’s stuff just like Randy. “It’s like I can see Randy’s fingers,” Ozzy once said.
Kind of an unusual to see an important grunge musician doing some music with a classic 80s metal singer like Ozzy. But Cantrell is a very versatile guitarist who always finds a way to surprise us all. Too bad he only recorded on just one of Ozzy’s records, the cover album called “Under Cover,” released in 2005.
Ozzy’s camp got some fresh blood in 2009 when they spotted a young and talented Greek musician Konstantinos Karamitroudis, also known as Gus G. There’s no other way to put this – he’s a shred monster. He’s fast, he’s precise, his playing is melodic and intricate, his vibrato is controlled, his bending is extremely precise, and we could just go on for days praising his skills.
Luckily enough for all the guitar lovers out there, he didn’t end up being just a live member and we got the chance to hear him record on one of Ozzy’s albums – 2010’s “Scream”.
Check out our playlist of Ozzy Osbourne tracks featuring some of the guitarists above!