Gear of the Gods: Randy Rhoads

You wanted it so you got it! This week's Gear of the Gods focuses on legendary Ozzy Osbourne guitarist Randy Rhoads.

Ultimate Guitar

Spending most of his career rocking out with a classic Les Paul/Marshall combo, Randy Rhoads went on to pioneer an iconic Flying V style guitar that would become an industry standard for years to come. The mind boggles as to what else he might have introduced us to had he not died so young.

As always, buyer's guide is included for all you would-be-shredders out there.

So without further ado, all aboard for the crazy train!

1974 Gibson Les Paul Custom

For most of his career, Randy Rhoads' weapon of choice was cream-colored Gibson Les Paul Custom. Acquired for him by his Quiet Riot bandmates in the late 1970s, Randy initially thought it was a 1963 model, but later discovered it was from 1974.

Built with a four-piece body - two layers of mahogany, a thin layer of maple in the middle and carved maple top - it was rocking a pair of T-Bucker pickups, which were standard in Les Pauls of the era. Randy made a couple of cosmetic changes to the instrument including replacing the brass toggle switchplate, switching out the Grover tuners for Schallers and engraving his name on the pickguard. But, he largely kept the instrument set up as it had been bought.

The distinctive cream color of the guitar was actually due to aging. The instrument was white when bought new, but the nitrocellulouse lacquer had yellowed over time.

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Karl Sandoval Custom Polka Dot Flying V

Randy Rhoads' distinctive Polka Dot Flying V was actually inspired by an instrument owned by George Lynch of Dokken Fame. Both active in the late 1970s LA scene (Rhoads with Quiet Riot, Lynch with Xciter), the pair bonded over their love of guitars. Lynch had a custom Flying V guitar built, featuring a single pick-up, flat radius fretboard and tremolo bar. Impressed by the uncommon design - a Gibson style shape with a Fender made mechanism - Randy was keen to know where he could get one. Dokken told him to give Karl Sandoval a call and the rest, as they say, was history.

Much thicker than a standard V to accommodate for the Fender tremolo bridge sustain block, the guitar was one-piece and included a modified Danelectro neck. Pick-ups were a DiMarzio Super Distortion in the bridge position, and a PAF in the neck position. The distinctive Polka Dot pattern was Rhoads' idea.

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Jackson "Concorde" Flying V

In December 1980, while playing with Ozzy Osbourne, Randy Rhoads met Grover Jackson - the new head of Charvel Manufacturing - to discuss the plans for a new flying V guitar. Rhoads' designs, drawn on a scrap of paper, featured an asymmetrical V shaped body, with bottom wing shorter than the top. Like the Sandoval V, Randy wanted a neck-thru-body design. He also wanted to name the guitar "The Concorde" after the aeroplane of the same name. The design for the headstock was intended as an aggressive, modern update on that of the Gibson Explorer.

Pick-ups in the V were a Seymour Duncan Distortion at the bridge, and a Jazz model in the neck while the tremolo was made by Bill Gerein. The neck shape was thick and based on a fifties-era Gibson Les Paul.

The first ever Jackson guitar, the new name came about because Grover Jackson was concerned that calling it a Charvel would confuse customers accustomed to the company's bolt-on Fender-style guitars.

A second resigned Concorde, with a leaner, more angular body was delivered to Rhoads in December 1981. Unfortunately - the guitar would not see much use - Rhoads was killed in a plane crash two and half months later.

Amps and Pedals: Marshall Vintage Super Lead Plexi 100w, Crybaby Wah, MXR Distortion +

When it came to amps, Randy kept things classic, rocking a pair of vintage Super Lead Plexi 100w amp heads, cranked up to the max. He ran each amp head through a pair of 4x12 cabinets with Altec Lansing speakers

As with amps, Randy didn't mess around too much when it came to effects. Using a fairly simple rig, his pedal mainstays during the Ozzy Osbourne years were a Crybaby Wah and an MXR Distortion +

Buyer's Guide

Gibson did a limited edition Randy Rhoads custom Les Paul a couple of years ago. It's a thing of beauty and replicates the original instrument pretty much perfectly down to every detail. Unfortunately, it's currently out of production and you can expect to pay a few thousand on a used one on the rare occasion that one comes up for sale. Alternatively, it is possible to pick up a genuine 1974 White Les Paul custom for somewhere in the region of $3000-4000.

Alternatively, a more budget conscious option is the Epiphone Les Paul Custom Black Back Pro. A 1970s inspired LP in antique ivory finish with excellent ProBucker pickups, it feels like Randy Rhoads signature model in all but name and comes in at an affordable $600.

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Kal Sandoval is still making guitars and started doing a limited edition run of Polka Dot Flying Vs a couple of years ago. If you can afford one, they're probably amazing. Head over to his website for more information.

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If it's a Jackson you're after, you've got plenty of options. The company does everything from a USA Select RR1 Randy Rhoads at around $3,500 to a more entry level JS32T Rhoads coming in at $270. A great mid-range option is the Rhoads RRXMG, which costs a very affordable $730.

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Amp wise, Marshall produced a 1959 RR Superlead Signature amp a while ago that sounds the business. It was a limited edition though, and tends to sell for around $3000 these days. Alternatively, if you're in the UK, a Hayden Lead 80 is the nuts and can be picked up for about £1000 if you shop around.

If you want something for bedroom use, you could do a lot worse than picking up a Marhsall DSL 40 Watt Valve combo for around $700.

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Pedals wise, a Jim Dunlop GCB95 Cry Baby Wah will cost you $80. An MXR Distortion + around the same.

So that's it for this week's edition. But who do you want us to cover in next week's Gear of the Gods? Vote and we'll make it happen.

By Alec Plowman

35 comments sorted by best / new / date

    this singe picture is more accurate than UG description
    Looks exactly like the pictures they used to run on the last page of Guitar World. In fact, I think I've seen this exact pic there. Good stuff.
    While I do enjoy the extra details they give in these articles, they are sort of lost without the signal chain diagrams like these. They used to be at but it got absorbed to this site
    Is it everyones usual practice to have it go guitar > wah wah > distortion > amp? I find the wah gets eaten by the distortion that way and that Guitar > distortion > wah wah > amp works better.
    Bedside Shred
    RIP RR - my favorite tune he plays on is Mr. Crowley. Kim Thayil next please. Townshend's gear was all over the place and we all know Kerry King plays the cock of Satan plugged into a dead babies ass.
    You guys left out the fact that he also used an MXR 10 band EQ, MXR Stereo Chorus, MXR Flanger and a Roland Space Echo as well as the fact that his superlead was internally modded to be jumpered. He isn't just straight into a Marshall...
    Yeah a woeful lack of effort made by UG with regards to his use of pedals. He had a custom made board several feet long which can be clearly seen in the Crazy Train video.
    Yeah, I honestly came here just to read more about the line of pedals he used back in the day, because I distinctively remember reading about how Randy had a custom pedalboard made that included the chorus and flanger and echo and eq and all these effects. Randy used far more than just a wah and distortion. Disappointing read, sorry to say
    Yes! So much this. Why wouldn't they mention this?? I don't understand how you can talk about gear and sound and not mention...the gear and sound.
    Here's something you may not know: Randy originally called Dean Guitars to have a custom V guitar made, but Dean Zelinsky blew him off because he didn't know who he was. Biggest mistake Dean ever made.
    Id say the biggest mistakes Dean ever made have six strings and occasionally 7...
    KIM KIM guys vote for Kim! And I hope there will be Jack White edition although he lost in the poll
    I liked it when he played the Les Paul best.. As a kid when I watched the "after hours" footage of Crazy Train and I don't know, I just had to have one. It's cliche but he was a huge influence.
    Bedside Shred
    Lmao why are you morons down voting this?
    No offense but who would vote for Kerry King? We all know it's his BC Rich guitars through a JCM800. Oh and an EQ pedal and a wah. There, that's done!
    Nicely done, as always. I'd like to repeat my request for some more effect-oriented guitarists in the future, though, pretty much all guitarists written about so far have used simple, if any, pedalboards. Would be really cool to have some more insight into some crazier or more spacey tones.
    Please do not vote for that prick king after yesterday's comments!!!
    Bedside Shred
    I really do not think UG should let us vote on who these next articles are going to be on. They should use their own judgement. We know all the geezers want the six-hundredth rundown on Pete Townsend crap while the babies want their emo bands covered. Give us Tosin, beyond creation, thayil, naynay shineywater and Brightblack morning light, frank Marino, mark McGuire from emeralds, etc
    I think the biggest thing they missed was the fact that his Marshalls had the cascade mod done to them