Ozzy Osbourne’s Iconic Axemen

By Tom MacIntosh

Ozzy Osbourne had incredible persuasive talents and the good fortune to attract some very fine guitar players to join his lineup in his solo career after Black Sabbath. Here we will put together a list of some of the shredders he employed and had an impact on his work. (in no particular order)

Randy Rhoads

Rhoads was a giant force in neo-classical guitar styles, and became a legendary guitar hero despite his truncated life at age 25, influencing legions of budding young guitarists including names like Tom Morello, who named his son Rhoads in honour of his fallen idol. He played on just two of Osbourne’s albums,
Blizzard of Ozz and Diary of a Madman. The classics Crazy Train and Mr. Crowley, showcase Rhoads dexterity handsomely, but his solo work on Suicide Solution and Goodbye to Romance, with his iconic axe: the Karl Sandoval polka-dotted Flying V is mesmerising. On what may be the best 49 second song ever, Dee, is a lovely acoustic instrumental stroll in the park, reminiscent of what Tony Iommi used to do with Sabbath in years past.

Check him out on: Tribute (1987)

Zakk Wylde

Wylde is another rock god who has played on various occasions with Osbourne since 1987. He also heads his own outfit called Black Label Society. His contributions to Ozzy’s catalogue begin with what some say is the best post-Rhoads song
No More Tears, then on Mama I’m Coming Home, where he brandishes a Gibson Chet Atkins CE, Dreamer, I Don’t Wanna Stop, and Gets Me Through. He uses a variety of tools, but is most famous for his razzle-dazzle flying Vs like the Dean Razorback Bullseye (a gift from the late Dimebag Darrell), and signature weapons the Wylde Audio War Hammer, the Gibson Zakk Wylde Flying V with Floyd Rose, and “The Rebel” his Gibson Les Paul Custom.

Check him out on: Live at Budokan

Jake E. Lee

Lee played with Ozzy’s gang from 1982-1987. He and his Strat formerly graced the stages with glam metal band Ratt
and the heavy metal ensemble Rough Cutt. He replaced Rhoads with an exciting energy, especially on Bark at the Moon which appeased fans doubts about who he was. He left the band after disagreements on song credits with Sharon Osbourne, who promptly fired him after the tour of the album The Ultimate Sin. He went on to form other blues/rock bands like Badlands and Wicked Alliance, and finally Red Dragon Cartel, releasing a self-titled release in 2014.

Check him out on: Bark at the Moon (1983)

Gus G

Konstantinos Karamitroudis
a.k.a. Gus G first appeared with Osbourne at Blizzcon 2009, where he can be seen playing 2 ESP Eclipse II axes, one in Amber Cherry Outburst tuned to Standard D, and another in Vintage Black, tuned to Dropped C. Although he toured intermittently, his on and off stay with the group spanned nearly 10 years because of his dextrous fret work and true passion for classic heavy metal, which is why he was chosen to replace Zakk Wylde on 2 of Ozzy’s albums, Scream (2010) and iTunes Festival London 2010. He has also performed with German metal band Mystic Prophecy, Greek melodic death metal band Nightrage, Swedish metal band Arch Enemy, and another Swedish heavy metal set Dream Evil.

Check him out on: Days of Defiance

Jerry Cantrell

Named the “Riff Lord
” by Brit hard rock/metal magazine Metal Hammer (2006), Cantrell shreds most likely a G&L Rampage guitar (founded by Leo Fender) on his only Ozzy album of covers, Under Cover. He is the founder of grunge rock group Alice In Chains, where he not only plays lead guitar but composes and has an amazing voice. He is notorious for his use of the wah pedal and strange time signatures. When asked about his style in an interview with Guitar World magazine he says,  “I really don't know where that comes from; it just comes naturally to me. I could sit down and figure it out, but what's the use? Off-time stuff is just more exciting – it takes people by surprise when you shift gears like that before they even know what the hell hit 'em. It's also effective when you slow something down and then slam 'em into the dash…” He certainly brings the thunder on Ozzy’s covers of King Crimsons 21st Century Schizoid Man, Sunshine of Your Love by Cream, and his lovely touch in the Beatles In My Life.

Check him out on: Under Cover

Bernie Tormé

Tormé took the invitation from Osbourne after years of stellar work with former Deep Purple
s Ian Gillan in his band called simply Gillan. Even though Gillan released 3 top 10 albums in the U.K., (Mr. Universe, Glory Road, and Future Shock) Tormé was frustrated over the amount of money he was being paid, so he left. His stint with Osbourne was brief (10 days) but he was a formidable bridge for Ozzy, who had just lost his mate and lead guitarist Randy Rhoads. He played in a few gigs but his bluesy touch wasn’t a good fit for the band. He went on to headline groups such as Atomic Rooster and Desperado.  

Brad Gillis

Right after the swift departure of Tormé, Gillis was called up to fill the void. He went on the 1982 tour Diary of a Madman, and provided sizzling support on lead with his longtime friend the ‘62 Fender Stratocaster and a ‘71 Gibson Les Paul on his only record with Osbourne Speak of the Devil, which was an album of Black Sabbath covers.He quit the band and returned to his outfit Night Ranger
after being treated poorly by Osbourne who was heavily into the drugs and booze after the demise of his mate Rhoads.

Check him out on: Midnight Madness ( Night Ranger, 1983)

Joe Holmes

Holmes was a fixture on Osbourne’s tours between 1995-2001, but didn’t record but the one song Walk On Water,
which was featured in the Beavis and Butt-Head Do America soundtrack. He had previously jammed with David Lee Roth and was a Randy Rhoads student, so he fit the bill. Although he didn’t play on the album Down to Earth, he is credited for co-composing tracks Can You Hear Them, Junkie, and That I Never Had.

Tony Iommi  

Tony Iommi was one of the founding members and the main composer of Black Sabbath and is widely considered one of the greatest guitarists of all time. He wasn’t hired by Osbourne, but must be mentioned here for his immense influence on not only metal history, but the one he had on Ozzy; he was the first example of what Ozzy admired in a great guitarist. He was ranked #1 on Metal Hammer’s list of “Riff Lords”, Guitar World claims that “grunge, goth, thrash, industrial, death, doom...whatever. None of it would exist without Tony Iommi
. His influence was a main force behind such rock Gods as Slash, Jeff Hanneman (Slayer), Zakk Wylde, Tom Morello, James Hetfield and Billy Corgan to name just a few.

Two others we could mention here are Alex Skolnick, who played with Osbourne in 1995, and virtuoso Steve Vai, who wrote and recorded the Ozzmosis album, but due to legal troubles it had to be redone and cut with Wylde on guitar. But they didn’t spend any real time writing and recording with the Prince of Darkness.

Say what you like about Ozzy Osbourne, to some he’s a stammering lush, even a madman, but he is a clever trevor who knows the business, which is can explain his ‘staying power’ of over 40 years. And he could definitely pick guitar players as the list above will attest; they were simply some of the best.