- Associated Acts
Ronnie James Dio was born in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, to Italian American parents who had moved to Portsmouth from Cortland, New York, where they had grown up. The family resided in Portsmouth for only a short time before Dio’s parents returned to Cortland. Dio listened to a great deal of opera while growing up, and was influenced vocally by American tenor Mario Lanza. His first and only formal musical training began at age 5 learning to play the trumpet. During high school, Dio played in the school band and was one of the youngest members selected to play in the school’s official Dance Band. It was also during high school that Dio formed his first rock-n-roll group, the Vegas Kings (the name would soon change to Ronnie and the Rumblers, and then Ronnie and the Red Caps). Though Dio began his rock-n-roll career on trumpet, he quickly added bass guitar to his skillset once he assumed singing duties for the group.
Dio graduated from Cortland High School in 1960. Though he claimed in a later interview to have been offered a scholarship to the prestigious Juilliard School of Music, he did not pursue it due to his continuing interest in rock-n-roll music. Instead, after graduation, he attended the University at Buffalo, majoring in Pharmacology. He only attended from 1960 to 1961, and played trumpet in the university’s concert band, and did not graduate.
Despite being known for his powerful singing voice, Dio claimed never to have taken any vocal training. Rather, he attributed his singing ability to the use of correct breathing techniques learned while playing trumpet.
Dio’s musical career began in 1957 when several Cortland, New York musicians formed the band, The Vegas Kings. The group’s lineup consisted of Dio on bass guitar, Billy DeWolfe on lead vocals, Nick Pantas on guitar, Tom Rogers on drums, and Jack Musci on saxophone.
In 1958, the band again changed their name from Ronnie & The Rumblers to Ronnie and the Redcaps. Musci left the band in 1960, and a new guitarist, Dick Botoff, joined the lineup. The Redcaps released two singles: The first single was “Conquest”/”Lover” with the A-side being an instrumental reminiscent of The Ventures and the B-side featuring DeWolfe on lead vocals. The second single was “An Angel Is Missing”/”What’d I Say” which featured Dio on lead vocals for both tracks.
Explanations vary for how Padavona adopted the stage name “Dio”. One story is that Dio was a reference to mafia member Johnny Dio. Another has it that Padavona’s grandmother said he had a gift from God and should be called “Dio”. Whatever the inspiration, Padavona first used it on a recording in 1960, when he added it to the band’s second release on Seneca. Soon after that the band modified their name to Ronnie Dio and the Prophets. The Prophets lineup lasted for several years, touring throughout the New York region and playing college fraternity parties. They produced one single for Atlantic and one album. Some of the singles (such as “Mr. Misery”, released on Swan) were labeled as being by Ronnie Dio as a solo artist even if the rest of the Prophets contributed to the recording. The group released several singles during the following years, until early 1967. Dio continued to use his birth name on any songwriting credits on those releases.
In late 1967 Ronnie Dio and the Prophets transformed into a new band called The Electric Elves and added a keyboard player. Following recovery from a deadly car accident in February 1968 (which killed guitarist Nick Pantas and put Dio and other band members in the hospital briefly), the group shortened its name to The Elves and used that name until mid 1972 when it released its first proper album under the name Elf. Over the next few years, the group went on to become a regular opening act for Deep Purple. Elf recorded three albums until the members’ involvement recording the first Rainbow album in early 1975 resulted in Elf disbanding.
Dio’s vocals caught the ear of Deep Purple guitarist Ritchie Blackmore in the mid-1970s, who was planning on leaving then due to creative differences over the band’s new direction. Blackmore invited Dio along with Gary Driscoll to record two songs in Tampa, Florida on December 12, 1974. Blackmore stated in 1983 that “I left Deep Purple because I’d met up with Ronnie Dio, and he was so easy to work with. He was originally just going to do one track of a solo LP, but we ended up doing the whole LP in three weeks, which I was very excited about.” Being satisfied with the results, Blackmore decided to recruit more of Elf’s musicians and form his own band, primarily known as Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow. They released the self-entitled debut album Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow in early 1975. After that, Dio recorded two studio albums (Rising and Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll) and one live album (On Stage) with Blackmore. During his tenure with Rainbow, Dio and Blackmore were the only constant members. Dio is credited on those albums for all lyrical authorship as well as collaboration with Blackmore on musical arrangement. Dio and Blackmore split with Blackmore taking the band in a more commercial direction, with Graham Bonnet on vocals and the album “Down to Earth”.
Dio left Rainbow in 1979 and soon joined Black Sabbath, replacing the fired Ozzy Osbourne. Dio met Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi by chance at The Rainbow on Sunset Strip in Los Angeles in 1979. Both men were in similar situations, as Dio was seeking a new project and Iommi required a vocalist. Said Dio of the encounter, “It must have been fate, because we connected so instantly.” The pair kept in touch via telephone, until Dio arrived at Iommi’s Los Angeles house for a relaxed, getting-to-know-you jam session. On that first day the duo wrote the song “Children Of The Sea” which would appear on the Heaven and Hell album, the first the band recorded with Dio as vocalist in 1980.
The follow-up album, Mob Rules, featured new drummer Vinny Appice. Personality conflicts began emerging within the band. “Ronnie came into the band and he was doing whatever we told him, basically because he wanted the gig. The next album was a little different,” Iommi recalled. In 1982, conflict arose over the mixing of the Live Evil album. Iommi asserted that the album’s engineer began complaining to him that he would work all day long on a mix, only to have Dio return to the studio at night to “do his own mix” in which his vocals were more prominent. Dio denied doing anything of the sort. The conflict led to Dio and Appice ultimately quitting the band later that year.
In 1992, Dio briefly returned to Black Sabbath to record the Dehumanizer album. The album was a minor hit, reaching the Top 40 in the United Kingdom and #44 on the Billboard 200. The single “Time Machine” was featured in the movie Wayne’s World, the tenth highest-grossing film of 1992. Soon Dio and Appice again left the band, citing an inability to work with Iommi and Butler.
Wanting to continue together as a band, Ronnie James Dio and Vinnie Appice formed Dio, the band, in 1982. On guitar played Vivian Campbell and on bass Jimmy Bain, the latter whom he had known since the old Rainbow days. Their debut album, Holy Diver, included the hit singles “Rainbow in the Dark” and the title track, “Holy Diver”. That lineup recorded three albums, before the band changed members over the years and leaving Dio as the only original member. Except a few breaks, Dio, the band, was always touring or recording. They released ten albums, with Master of the Moon being the last one, recorded in 2004.
Heaven & Hell
In October 2006, it was confirmed that Dio would be joining Black Sabbath members Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, and former Black Sabbath drummer Vinny Appice to tour under the moniker Heaven & Hell, the title of the first Dio era Black Sabbath album. They chose the name Heaven & Hell as Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler were still in Black Sabbath with Ozzy Osbourne and felt it was best to use a different moniker for the Dio version of the band. Original Black Sabbath drummer Bill Ward was to be involved in this project, but he later withdrew.
In 2008, the band completed a 98-date world tour. The band released one album under the Heaven & Hell name, The Devil You Know, to critical and commercial acclaim. They also had planned to release a follow-up in 2010.
In 1974, Dio sang on the Roger Glover conducted and produced concept album The Butterfly Ball and the Grasshopper’s Feast. Along other guest-singers, the album featured Deep Purple alumni Glenn Hughes and David Coverdale. Dio provided vocals for the songs “Homeward”, “Sitting in a Dream”, and the UK single “Love is All”.
In 1980, Dio sang the tracks “To Live for the King” and “Mask of the Great Deceiver” on Kerry Livgren’s solo album, Seeds of Change. Dio, who was between stints as singer for Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow and Black Sabbath, later proved somewhat controversial among Livgren’s Christian fans, as Black Sabbath and Dio were then perceived as “satanic” by many Christians. Dio said in an interview that he did not consider the album to be a “Christian” album and had performed on it as a favor to Livgren.
In 1985, Dio contributed to the metal world’s answer to Band Aid and USA for Africa with the Hear ‘n Aid project. With a heavy metal all-star ensemble which was the brainchild of his fellow Dio band mates Vivian Campbell and Jimmy Bain, he sang some of the vocals on the single “Stars” and an album full of songs from other artists given to charity.
The project raised $1 million within a year.
In 1997, Dio made a cameo on Pat Boone’s In a Metal Mood: No More Mr. Nice Guy, an album of famous heavy metal songs played in big band style. Dio can be heard singing backup on Boone’s take of “Holy Diver”. In 1999, he was parodied in the TV show South Park, in the episode Hooked on Monkey Fonics, which he later went on to describe as “wonderful”.
In 1999, Dio participated in a significant Deep Purple project, Concerto for Group and Orchestra, where he recorded cover versions of Deep Purple songs, and reprised his songs from the earlier The Butterfly Ball and the Grasshopper’s Feast album.
Tenacious D included a tribute song entitled “Dio” that appeared on their self-titled album. The song explains how he has to “pass the torch” for a new generation. Reportedly, Dio approved of it, and had Tenacious D appear in his video “Push” from Killing the Dragon in 2002. He also appeared in the film Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny, playing himself.
In 2005, Dio was revealed to be the voice behind Dr. X in Operation: Mindcrime II, the sequel to Queensrÿche’s seminal concept album Operation: Mindcrime. His part was shown in a prerecorded video on the subsequent tour, and Ronnie appeared onstage to sing the part live on at least one occasion (both shown on the Mindcrime at the Moore DVD).
On January 17, 2007, he was inducted into the Rock Walk of Fame at Guitar Center on Hollywood’s Sunset Boulevard.
Dio is thanked in the end credits of the 2011 film Atlas Shrugged: Part I, due to his being “one of the people who kept the project alive.”
Dio and drummer Vinny Appice performing with Heaven & Hell in Katowice, Poland, on June 20, 2007 Dio and his first wife, Loretta Berardi (born 1941), adopted a son, Dan Padavona. After divorcing Berardi, he married Wendy Gaxiola (born 1945) who also served as his manager. In the 1980s, she managed the Los Angeles rock bands Rough Cutt, and Hellion. Dio remained married to Gaxiola until his death.
Illness and death
On November 25, 2009, Wendy announced that Dio had been diagnosed with stomach cancer and was being treated at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, but that he would be back on stage when recovered. On May 4, 2010, Heaven & Hell announced they were canceling all summer dates as a result of Dio’s ill health. His last live performance was with Heaven & Hell on August 29, 2009, in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Dio died at 7:45 am (CDT) on May 16, 2010, of metastasized stomach cancer, according to official sources.
A public memorial service was held on May 30, 2010 at The Hall Of Liberty, Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills, Los Angeles. The hall was filled to capacity, with more fans sitting outside the hall watching from a screen. Friends, family, and former and current band mates of Dio gave speeches and performed including Rudy Sarzo, Geoff Tate, John Payne, Glenn Hughes, Joey Belladonna, and Heaven & Hell keyboard player, Scott Warren. On the screen was an accompanying documentary covering Dio’s career from his early days with Elf to his final project with Heaven & Hell. The Westboro Baptist Church held a small rally denouncing Dio as a Satan worshiper. Wendy Dio urged those attending the funeral to ignore the protest.
- Ronald James Padavona
- Heavy metal
- hard rock
- blues rock
- french horn
- Born July 10, 1942 – Portsmouth, New Hampshire, United States
- Died May 16, 2010 (aged 67) – Los Angeles, California, United States
- 1957 – 2009
- The Vegas Kings (1957–1958) & Ronnie & The Rumblers (1958)
- Ronnie James Dio – bass
- Billy DeWolfe – Vocals
- Nick Pantas – guitar
- Jack Musci – saxophone
- Tom Rogers – Drums
- Ronnie (Dio) & The Red Caps (1958–1961) (The name ‘Dio’ was added on their second single release)
- Ronnie James Dio – Vocals/bass
- Nick Pantas – guitar
- Dick Bottoff – guitar
- Tom Rogers – Drums
- Ronnie Dio & The Prophets (1962–1967)
- Ronnie James Dio – Vocals/bass
- Nick Pantas – guitar
- Dick Bottoff – guitar
- Tom Rogers – Drums
- The Electric Elves (1967–1969)
- The Elves (1969–1970)
- Elf (1970–1975)
- Rainbow (1975–1979)
- Black Sabbath (1979–1982, 1991–1992, 2006 [Recording of three new songs for Black Sabbath: The Dio Years)
- Dio (1982–1991, 1993–2010)
- Hear ‘n Aid (1985)
- Heaven & Hell (2006–2010)
Ronnie & The Red Caps
|1958||Conquest||Lover||7”||Reb||59-45-105||USA||Ronnie didn’t sing lead vocals on either of these tracks.|
|1958||Judy I Love You||–||7”||–||–||–||Unreleased|
|1960||An Angel Is Missing||What I’d Say||7”||Seneca||S 178-102||USA||Released as “Ronnie Dio and the Red Caps”|
Ronnie Dio & The Prophets
|1962||The Ooh-Poo-Pah-Doo||Love Pains||7”||Atlantic||2145||Canada, USA||–|
|1962||Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow||Bad Man In Town||7”||Audiodisc/Swan||–||USA||Unreleased, acetate only|
|1963||Gonna Make It Alone||Swingin’ Street||7”||Lawn||218||USA||–|
|1963||Mr. Misery||Our Year||7”||Swan||4165||USA||–|
|1963||Che Tristezza Senza Te (Mr. Misery)||Our Year||7”||Derby||DB 5084||Italy||“Mr. Misery” sung in Italian, “Our Year” sung in English|
|1964||Mr. Misery||Our Year||7”||Stateside||35-ESS.21||India||–|
|1964||Love Potion No. 9||Love Potion No. 9||7”||Valex||001||USA||–|
|1965||Say You’re Mine Again||Where You Gonna Run To Girl||7”||Kapp||697||Canada, USA||–|
|1965||Smiling By Day (Crying By Night)||Dear Darling (I Won’t Be Comin’ Home)||7”||Kapp||725||Canada, USA||–|
|1965||Walking Alone||The Way Of Love||7”||Kapp||770||Canada, USA||–|
|1967||Walking In Different Circles||10 Days With Brenda||7”||Parkway||P-143||USA||–|
|1963||Dio At Domino’s||LP||Jove||J-108||USA||The album sleeve notes this is a “live” recording, but it is not live in the sense of being recorded at a concert. Most likely, the album was cut live in the studio.|
The Electric Elves
|1967||Hey, Look Me Over||It Pays To Advertise||7”||MGM||K 13839||USA||–|
|1969||Walking In Different Circles||She’s Not The Same||7”||Decca||732507||USA||–|
|1970||Amber Velvet||West Virginia||7”||MCA||MU 1114||Sweden, UK||–|
|1970||Amber Velvet||West Virginia||7”||Decca||732617||USA||–|
|1971||Live At The Beacon||LP||–||–||USA||Bootleg|
|1972||Elf||LP, CS, CD||Epic||–|
|1974||Carolina County Ball||LP, CS, CD||Purple, Line, Safari, MGM||Known as L.A. 59 in USA|
|1975||Trying to Burn the Sun||LP, CS||Safari, Interfusion||–|
|1974||The History of Syracuse Music, Vol. VI||LP||ECEIP||Various Artists compilation, includes a live version of “Rockin’ Chair Rock ‘N’ Roll Blues”.|
|1978||The Gargantuan Elf Album||CD||Safari||Both Carolina County Ball and Trying to Burn the Sun albums on one CD, minus the song “Happy”.|
|1989||20 Years of Syracuse Rock||CS||–||Various Artists compilation, includes a live version of “Hoochie Koochie Lady”.|
|1994||The Elf Albums||CD||Connoisseur Collection, Festival||Both Carolina County Ball and Trying to Burn the Sun albums on one CD.|
|1972||Live At The Bank||LP|
|1973||Live! And My Soul Shall Be Lifted||LP, CD|
- Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow (1975) UK Silver
- Rising (1976) UK Gold
- On Stage (1977) UK Silver
- Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll (1978) UK Silver
- Finyl Vinyl (1986)
- Live in Germany 1976 (1990)
- Ritchie Blackmore: Rock Profile Volume Two (1991)
- Live In Munich 1977 (2006)
- Deutschland Tournee 1976 (2006)
- Live In Cologne (2007)
- Live In Düsseldorf (2007)
- Live In Nurnberg (2007)
- The Polydor Years: 1975-1986 (2007)
- Heaven and Hell (1980) US Platinum UK Gold
- Black And Blue (VHS) (1980)
- Heavy Metal: Music from the Motion Picture (1981) (One track, an alternate take of “The Mob Rules”)
- Mob Rules (1981) US Gold UK Silver
- Live Evil (1982)
- Dehumanizer (1992)
- Black Sabbath: The Dio Years (2007)
- Live at Hammersmith Odeon (2007)
- The Rules of Hell (Boxed Set) (2008)
- Holy Diver (1983) US Platinum UK Silver
- The Last in Line (1984) US Platinum UK Silver
- Sacred Heart (1985) US Gold
- Intermission (1986)
- Dream Evil (1987)
- Lock up the Wolves (1990)
- Dio – Sacred Heart: The DVD (1991)
- Diamonds – The Best of Dio
- Strange Highways (1994)
- Angry Machines (1996)
- Inferno – Last in Live (1998)
- Magica (2000)
- The Very Beast of Dio (2000) US Gold
- Killing the Dragon (2002)
- Master of the Moon (2004)
- We Rock ~ Dio (DVD 2005)
- Evil or Divine – Live In New York City (2005)
- Holy Diver – Live (2006)
Heaven and Hell
- Live from Radio City Music Hall (2007) US Gold
- The Devil You Know (2009)
- Neon Nights: 30 Years of Heaven & Hell (2010)
- Bobby Comstock & The Counts: “Run My Heart” 7″ Single (1963)
- Austin Gravelding: Self Made Man (1970)
- Roger Glover: The Butterfly Ball and the Grasshopper’s Feast (1974)
- David Coverdale: Northwinds (1978)
- Kerry Livgren: Seeds of Change (1980)
- Heaven: Where Angels Fear to Tread (1983)
- Rough Cutt: Rough Cutt (1984)
- Hear ‘n Aid: Hear ‘n Aid (1986)
- Eddie Hardin & Guests: Wizard’s Convention (1994)
- Dog Eat Dog: Play Games (1996)
- Munetaka Higuchi With Dream Castle: Free World (1997)
- Pat Boone: In a Metal Mood: No More Mr. Nice Guy (1998)
- Various Artists: Humanary Stew: A tribute to Alice Cooper (1999)
- Various Artists: Not The Same Old Song And Dance: A Tribute to Aerosmith (1999)
- Deep Purple: Live at the Royal Albert Hall (1999)
- Deep Purple: Live at the Rotterdam Ahoy (2001)
- Deep Purple: The Soundboard Series (2001)
- Kerry Livgren: The Best of Kerry Livgren (2002)
- Eddie Ojeda: Axes 2 Axes (2005)
- Ian Gillan: Gillan’s Inn (2006)
- Queensrÿche: Operation: Mindcrime II (2006)
- Tenacious D: The Pick of Destiny (2006)
- Queensrÿche: Mindcrime at the Moore (2007)
- Girlschool: Legacy (2008)
- Various Artists: We Wish you a Metal Xmas and a Headbanging New Year (2008)
- David “Rock” Feinstein: Bitten By The Beast (2010)
- The Rods: Vengeance (2011)
- The Black Sabbath Story (Documentary, vol. 2) (1992)
- Metal: A Headbangers Journey (Documentary) (2005)
- Heavy: The Story of Heavy Metal (Documentary) (2006)
- Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny (Film) (2006)
- That Metal Show – Season 2, Episode 8: Heaven & Hell (2009)
- Eagle Rock Entertainment
- Electrosound Group Midwest
- Niji Entertainment Group
- Warner Bros.
- Black Sabbath
- Hear ‘n Aid
- Heaven & Hell
- Ronnie & The Red Caps
- Ronnie & The Rumblers
- Ronnie Dio & The Prophets
- The Electric Elves
- The Elves
- The Vegas Kings