Dio - Biography

Legendary metal singer Ronnie James Dio was born Ronald Padavona in Portsmouth, New Hampshire on July 10, 1942. He made his first recordings in 1958 with his teenage doo-wop band Ronnie & the Red Caps, who had formed in Cortland, New York the previous year as the Vegas Kings. Dio initially played bass guitar and trumpet in the band behind singer Billy De Wolf, who sang the lead vocal on the B-side of the Red Caps’ first single “Conquest” (an instrumental) b/w “Lover” (1958 Reb). Dio made his recording debut as lead vocalist on the next single, credited to Ronnie Dio and the Red Caps: “An Angel Is Missing” b/w “What’d I Say” (1960 Seneca). Founding Red Caps Dio, guitarist Nick Pantas and drummer Tom Rogers changed their name to Ronnie Dio & the Prophets in 1961, recording “The Ooh-Poo-Pah-Doo” as a single for Atlantic. The live album Dio at Domino’s (1963 Jove) followed, along with a series of singles for a series of labels that took the band into 1967.


Around the time of the Summer of Love, singer/bassist Dio and guitarist Nick Pantas—who had been playing together for a decade by this point—formed a new band, the Electric Elves. After recording the promotional single “Hey, Look Me Over” b/w “It Pays to Advertise” (1967 MGM), the band shortened its name to the Elves and recorded two more singles for Decca. In the early hours of February 12, 1970, the Elves were driving back from a show when their car crashed, killing Pantas and hospitalizing keyboardist Doug Thaler. Some of the surviving members of the band soldiered on as Elf on the albums Elf (1972 Epic), L.A. 59 (1974 MGM 1974) and Trying to Burn the Sun (1975 MGM).    


In 1975, guitarist Ritchie Blackmore, who had just left Deep Purple, persuaded most of Elf to join him in Rainbow. After Elf’s first album, Dio had stopped playing bass, freeing his hands to make the devil-horns sign he popularized while onstage. Dio fronted Rainbow on Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow (1975 Polydor), Rising (1976 Polydor), the double-live On Stage (1977 Polydor) and Long Live Rock ‘N’ Roll (1978 Polydor), after which he left. Black Sabbath invited Dio to replace singer Ozzy Osbourne in 1979. Though the albums Black Sabbath made with Dio—Heaven and Hell (1980 Warner Bros.), Mob Rules (1981 Warner Bros.) and the double-live Live Evil (1982 Warner Bros.)—marked a departure from the band’s classic sound, this period of Sabbath’s career has many loyal partisans. In the fall of 1982, Dio and drummer Vinny Appice, who had replaced Bill Ward in Black Sabbath after Heaven and Hell, left to form the band Dio, recruiting former Rainbow bassist Jimmy Bain and Irish guitarist Vivian Campbell.       


Dio’s first album, Holy Diver (1983 Warner Bros.), included the title track and “Rainbow in the Dark.” The same lineup recorded The Last in Line (1984 Warner Bros.) and Sacred Heart (1985 Warner Bros.). Dio was instrumental in organizing 1985’s Hear ‘n Aid project, a metal supergroup that recorded Dio’s song “Stars” for a “We Are The World”-style charity single in aid of starving people in Africa. Dio fired Vivian Campbell in 1986 shortly before a European tour and hired guitarist Craig Goldy (or Goldie), who played on the next album Dream Evil (1987 Warner Bros.). Between Dream Evil and Dio’s next album, Lock Up The Wolves (1990 Reprise), guitarist Goldy, bassist Bain and drummer Appice left; they were replaced by Rowan Robertson, Teddy Cook and Simon Wright respectively.  


The band Dio went on hiatus in 1991 when Mob Rules-era Black Sabbath reunited for a new album, Dehumanizer (1992 Reprise), and a world tour. Just as they had a decade before, Ronnie James Dio and Vinny Appice left Sabbath after the tour to work together in Dio. With guitarist Tracy G and bassist Jeff Pilson, Dio recorded Strange Highways (1994 Reprise) and Angry Machines (1996 Mayhem). After the live album Inferno: Last in Live (1998 Mayhem), Appice left Dio to fill in for Bill Ward in Black Sabbath, who had recently reunited with Ozzy. As before, Simon Wright took Appice’s place, and Craig Goldy and Jimmy Bain returned to the band the following year. This lineup recorded Magica (2000 Spitifre) and, with Doug Aldrich taking Goldy’s place, Killing the Dragon (2002 Spitfire). Goldy returned on Master of the Moon (2004 Sanctuary). Rudy Sarzo, who had played bass in Ozzy’s band, Quiet Riot, and Whitesnake, joined Dio on the subsequent tour.    


Black Sabbath reunited with Dio once again in 2006 to record three new songs for the best-of compilation Black Sabbath: The Dio Years (2007 Rhino), behind which they toured the world under the name Heaven & Hell. Heaven & Hell continued to tour through 2008 and 2009 and recorded a new studio album, The Devil You Know (2009 Rhino). Aside from a short European tour in the summer of 2008, Dio the band went on hiatus during this period. Ronnie James Dio was diagnosed with stomach cancer in November 2009, shortly before Dio was to tour Europe. In May 2010, Heaven & Hell cancelled their planned summer tour. Ronnie James Dio died in Los Angeles on May 16, 2010. 


Steve Earle and the Dukes
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