Dio - The Early Years and Roots

Here is a recently revised history of Ronnie Dio’s early days, courtesy of Luke Hatton and various other sources, mostly Tapio KeihŠnen’s Dio Pages and Matthew Baker’s (now apparently disappeared) Dio website. I thank them for the information they have researched. Be sure to stop by their websites.

If you know of any other inaccuracies in the history below, please let me know! I want this to be a properly informative site. Thank you, and enjoy!

I got an interesting email from Steve Edwards from Elf, so I thought I'd add a couple of this thoughts in here as well. His additions (there are only a couple, and they are toward the bottom) will be shown in green.

I recently heard from Doug Thaler, former member from the Early Years. He was a wealth of information. I heard from him when he emailed me some corrected information to much of the history written below. I want to thank Doug for doing so.
As you read, the text in red is what Doug Thaler had to add or correct on the matter. He has provided some great insights into the bands!

Shortly after hearing from Doug Thaler, I decided to email Dick Bottoff. I had exchanged emails with him several
months earlier. I figured if Doug was willing to share some insights, Dick might be willing as well. And I was right! Dick was very happy to provide me a little information. He also promised more, so stay tuned. As you read, the text in blue is what Dick Bottoff had to add or correct. (He added some more information in March 2012.) Many thanks to Dick! (Note: both Doug and Dick contributed their thoughts in mid-2001. They make mention of several people and places as they are now. “Now” is mid-2001. You never know when things change.)

How many rock
stars can brag about recording and touring consistently in four different decades? That’s just one of the many claims to fame enjoyed by Ronnie James Dio. Born on July 10, 1942 (according to my most recent source), this Cortland, New York native began his recording career back in 1958. Even back then, the seeds of Ronnie James Dio’s future musical excesses had already been sown. After more than 40 years in the rock business, Ronnie James Dio has shown he still has what it takes to get the job done.

Roots

The mystery surrounding Ronnie’s age is still going. He himself says the age is not important, the only thing that matters is the music. He was born in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, but was raised in Cortland, near Syracuse in New York State in the USA, in a quiet, Italian, middle class community. Ronnie changed his name sometime (the exact date is unknown) from Padavona to Dio - Which means “God” in Italian.

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I want to add a new interjection here. I was directed to a blog post by Dan Ford who, after Ronnie’s death, did a little research into Ronnie’s birth and parents. I thought it was interesting, so with Dan’s permission, I’m re-posting some of it here.
The original blog post can be found here.

Yesterday a great singer died: Ronnie James Dio – just Dio to fans like me. Ronnie James Dio was born Ronald James Padavona 10 July, 1942 in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, an only child in an Italian family. They lived in Portsmouth until the family moved to Cortland, New York early in his life. With his first wife, Loretta Berardi, Dio adopted a son, Dan. His second marriage was to Wendy Galaxiola. Dio's father Pat, Wendy and Dan, and two grandchildren survive him. All this is from Dio's obituaries today. I found myself wondering what his family's story was. Here's what I found today. I guessed his father Pat might have been born 25 years (+/-) prior to 1942. I searched for Pat* Padavano in New York with that approximate age and came up with just one good candidate in the 1930 census: Patrick Padavano, age 11 (born abt 1919), with older brothers John and Peter, living in Cortland, New York. The head of the house, presumably Dio’s grandfather, was Anthony Padavano, a steel worker in a wire mill. Anthony and his wife were born in Italy, and in 1930 they owned their own home worth about $5000. Anthony Padavano does not appear ten years earlier in the 1920 census. On the other hand, Antonio Padavano is in Cortland in the 1920 census along with the rest of the family to confirm this is the same fellow. When researching immigrants expect name changes. Patrick’s older siblings are John and Piero – not Peter, another name change. Neither Antonio nor his wife could read or write English. Finally, the earliest record I found today for Antonio in this country is his 1917 WW I draft registration record. Back then he's married with only his two oldest sons.



Anyway, I thought that was an interesting bit of research. If anyone wants to expand on, or correct, any of this, I’d love to hear from you. To continue...
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Nowadays there is a street named after him in Cortland - Dio Way, located between Central Avenue and East Court Street. The street was named on 15 November 1988.

Ronnie James Dio’s main interests already in his childhood were music and romantic fantasy literature, such as the works of Sir Walter Scott and the Arthurian legend. He has also always liked science fiction literature, spaceships, aliens and the like, as well as sports - that is probably because his father played softball for some local team when Ronnie was a child and the whole family went to watch the games.

“I’ve been a musician for as long as I can remember, but I never fancied myself a singer when I was young.” Having always wanted to be a performer, Ronnie’s main interest was sport. “...Though my first idea of performing was to play sports - A Sort of unrealistic goal for a guy who topped out at 5 foot 4 inches and 130 pounds.”

“I began playing the trumpet when I was 5 years old. It was baseball I really wanted to play, so I asked my dad if he’d buy me a bat. He said “No. You need a musical education” When he got me a trumpet, I said, “You can’t hit a ball with this thing!” I didn’t know why I had it. The next day I started music lessons - four hours of practice every day until I was seventeen.”

Ronnie had played both trumpet and bass. His father bought him a trumpet when he was a child and Ronnie played it until he started to play bass later on. This is how he progressed to his very first
band. Ronnie himself credits his voice to that trumpet, he says that without the breathing exercises with trumpet he wouldn’t have his voice.


THE VEGAS KINGS
1957 - 1957

Ronnie James Dio - Vocals / Bass / Trumpet
Nick Pantas - Guitars
Tommy Rogers - Drums / Percussion

In 1957 some local school kids got together to form a band. The band was a school band in Cortland, New York entitled The Vegas Kings. Ronnie played bass and trumpet and also contributed vocals.

1957 - 1957

Ronnie James Dio - Vocals / Bass / Trumpet
Jack Musci - Saxophone
Nick Pantas - Guitars
Tommy Rogers - Drums / Percussion

Later on that year they added Jack Musci to play Sax. First they went under name The Vegas Kings but they soon changed their name to...

RONNIE AND THE RUMBLERS
1957 - 1958

Ronnie James Dio - Vocals / Bass / Trumpet
Jack Musci - Saxophone
Nick Pantas - Guitars
Tommy Rogers - Drums / Percussion

Ronnie And The Rumblers... They chose the name Ronnie and the Rumblers because their “theme” song was Dwane Eddy’s Rumble. They played at dances every weekend and on Sunday they would rent the local American Legion Hall and sell tickets and play for 2 or 3 hours. In 1958 they had a chance to play a bigger venue in Johnson City New York. The only catch was that they had to change their name...


RONNIE AND THE RED CAPS
1958 - 1958

Ronnie James Dio - Vocals / Bass / Trumpet
Jack Musci - Saxophone
Nick Pantas - Guitar
Tommy Rogers - Drums / Percussion

...Because the organizer of the show did not like the name: Rumblers. To “rumble” means to fight so the organizer didn’t want any scuffle’s to arise. So they performed under the name Ronnie and the Redcaps and the name stayed the same until late 1961. Continuing to play dances, halls, and fraternity parties at Cornell University the band kept busy. It is said that the Musicians Union at the time was getting upset because they were requested and play so many events that the “old timers” couldn’t get any shows.

1958 - 1958

Billy De Wolf - Vocals
Ronnie James Dio - Backing Vocals / Bass / Trumpet
Jack Musci - Saxophone
Nick Pantas - Guitar
Tommy Rogers - Drums / Percussion

At about this time there was an addition to the band, a vocalist named Billy De Wolf. He is said not to have had an important role in the band because he came and went and wasn’t with the band long. In 1958 or 1959 either a member of the band or Jimmy Pantas, Nick Pantas’s brother and manager of the band, became friends with somebody who owned a private recording studio in Trumansberg or Trumansville in New York. This is where they recorded their first and only single on the Reb label. Billy was a part of the band when they recorded the single in New York in 1958 or 1959. He is the vocalist on “Lover” on the A-side of the single, and is also credited with writing the song. The song “Conquest” on the B-side of the single is an instrumental written by Nick and Ronnie. Ronnie does play trumpet on this song. Both Ronnie and Jack play pretty good brass on this song. It is unclear how many of these records were pressed but it is certainly under 500 and some sources say 100, even 50 is more accurate. The real recording date and release date is unknown at this time.

1958 - 1958

Ronnie James Dio - Vocals / Bass / Trumpet
Jack Musci - Saxophone
Nick Pantas - Guitar
Tommy Rogers - Drums / Percussion

Shortly after this record Billy De Wolf left the band. Unfortunately Billy is in prison in Southern California, and has been there for more than half his life. This left the band in its original form and more importantly left Ronnie in charge of the band from now on. At this point Ronnie takes over the lead vocals.

1958 - 1960

Ronnie James Dio - Vocals / Bass / Trumpet
Nick Pantas - Guitar
Tommy Rogers - Drums / Percussion

In their freshman year in Collage in Buffalo, Ronnie and Jack were still playing on the weekends. In the fall of 1960 Jack Musci’s Father gave him an ultimatum, either quit the band or his father would stop paying for college. In the fall of 1960 Jack Musci left the band. Jack is currently a teacher/administrator in a Cortland area school system.

1960 - 1961

Dick Bottoff - Guitar
Ronnie James Dio - Vocals / Bass
Nick Pantas - Guitar
Tommy Rogers - Drums / Percussion

I joined the band after Jack M. and between Ronnie, Nicki and myself we developed a unique “sound” for our guitars. We were great copy artists with both our instruments and our voices. I sang most of the harmony parts with Ronnie. Nicki and I became close friends during those years. We both were working in a typewriter factory in Groton, NY and playing on the weekends. We became very popular and had to make a decision to go full time and leave our jobs, which we didn’t mind doing. It was fraternaty heaven back in the early sixties. We would play 6 jobs on a Cornell homecoming weekend. Some great times for sure.

I was with Ronnie for eight years and after I left played part time with many local bands. I actually left the band becasue I had an opportunity to learn about computers and at that time Ronnie was beginning to lose interest. I’m not exactly sure why but Nicki and I had to almost drag him from his house to play the jobs. I thought it might be time for me to change careers. I don’t regret leaving but I think I might have in some ways woke Ronnie up to the fact that his career was stalled and he’d better get motivated.

After Jack left the band it is believed that Dick Bottoff joined the band as a second guitarist. In early 1961 they went into Riposo Studio’s to record the second single as the Redcaps. This is the first record that Ronnie went by the name of Ronnie Dio. This would be the only single released by the current Ronnie Dio and the Redcaps line-up. It was released on the Seneca label, the A-side was “An Angel Is Missing” and the B-side was “What’d I Say.” Some sources say that the single was released in 1959. This single isn’t as rare as the Reb single but still limited quantities were pressed. The exact release date and recording date is unknown but it was probably released in late 1961. After this record they changed their name to Ronnie Dio and the Prophets.

RONNIE DIO AND THE PROPHETS
1961 - Mid 1967

Dick Bottoff/David Feinstein- Guitar
Ronnie James Dio - Vocals / Bass
Nick Pantas - Guitar
Tommy Rogers/
Gary Driscoll- Drums / Percussion

Ronnie And The Red Caps changed their name to Ronnie Dio And The Prophets in 1961. Under this name, the line-up lasted for quite a long time and produced several singles and one album.

A note from Rick (Austin) Gravelding: “After Tommy Rogers left the band, he was replaced by Jack Shelton, who was in turn replaced by Gary Driscoll when Jack went into the Navy. Gary had been my drummer (Rick Jackson and the Lancers), but he was so young and baby faced, I was having trouble playing club gigs because he was to young to be in those joints, and he looked it. I talked to Ron about using Gary, and I in turn would use Charlie Cook, who played great drums (as of course did Gary). Charlie was older, and sang as well. It all worked out for the best.”

(Tommy Rogers left the band around June 1965 and was replaced by Gary Driscoll [see note above from Gavelding]. It changed the sound of the band because Tommy was a good, versatile, lounge-style drummer while Gary was a real slammer with a heavy foot - like very few drummers you saw at the time. In addition, David Feinstein replaced Dick Bottoff in the fall of 1966. I lived around the corner from David’s parents house and I remember teaching him the chords to some of the covers The Prophets were playing in those days. David played rhythm guitar and Nicky Pantas played lead.)

Some sources state that some of the single releases would’ve been made by Ronnie Dio solo, but others, for example Ronnie James Dio himself, state that all of those singles were made as Ronnie Dio And The Prophets.

The band in this form released a lot of singles. The first to some was “The Ooh - Poo - Pah - Doo” which was released on 24 January 1962 and had “Love Pains” on the B-side. The group released their first album in this form. The album was a live album recorded at Domino’s Restaurant, called: “Dio At Domino’s.” Nowadays the very place where this album was recorded (now Domino’s Pizza Restaurant); they hold the moniker of “We Rock” on a sign outside, making a tribute to Ronnie’s career. (
Dio at Domino's was indeed recorded at Domino's Restaurant, the latest name of that place now is "The Stone Lounge", and believe me I know our music still echoes in the rafters, it still has great rock bands and has been remodeled totally with a new bar, stage and sound system.) The songs that featured on it included “I Left My Heart In San Francisco,” a song from the Ronnie And The Red Caps days, called “An Angel Is Missing.” It also included “Great Balls Of Fire” along with other famous rock and roll songs. The final track was “Love Pains,” the B-side to the Prophet’s first single.

The other singles included “Swingin’ Street,” released in August 1963, backed with “Gonna Make It Alone.” A one-sided single of “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow,” “Mr. Misery was released in November 1963 with “Our Year.” They also did a version of the rock and roll classic “Love Potion Number Nine,” released in January 1964. This had the same song on both sides, so radio stations wouldn’t play the wrong side.

In 1964 after we recorded “Swingin Street,” John Perialas met a promoter in New York name Simon Breme. He decided we should promote the new single by sending Ronnie on tour with Bobby Comstock’s band (which he also managed), and via Simon Breme, Nicki, Tommy, myself and a bass player named Joe Leo would go to Sweden for ten weeks and push the single over there. We toured there as a New York City band and backed an international star name “Lil Babs.” Sweden really was nuts over her and us too. We were the opening act for her tour and I sang Swingin Street as Ronnie.

“Say You’re Mine Again” was released in July 1965 with “Where You Gonna Run To Girl” on the B-side. “Smiling By Day (Crying By Night)” was released in November 1965, with “Dear Darling (I Won’t Be Coming Home)” on the B-side. “Walking Alone” was released sometime in 1965, backed with “The Way Of Love” and their final single was “Walking In Different Circles,” which was released in April 1967 with “10 Days With Brenda” on the B-side. In fact, a different version of “Walking In Different Circles” was recorded by The Elves, a band which Ronnie would form shortly in the future. The Ronnie Dio And The Prophets band ended in autumn 1967, when Ronnie and Nick continued on in a band called The Electric Elves.

Nicky was about 5’ 3” tall and skinnier than Ronnie. After David joined the band, they had a mike stand built with three prongs (
the stand actually belonged to Dick Bottoff)--a mike to each prong so all three mikes were on one stand. Nicky used to wear Beatle boots and, with the weather being what it is in Cortland, his shoes got wet a lot. The toes of his Beatle boots curled up and made him look like an elf. I started hanging out with him a lot by my senior year of college (1966) and I actually called him “Elf” instead of Nicky, or his regular nickname of years--Gump. I used to refer to them as The Electric Elves as a joke but they actually decided to use the name on the “Hey Look Me Over” release. In the fall of 1967, we had bookings under both names. In places where Ronnie Dio and the Prophets had played repeatedly we still used that name. For all new bookings into new areas, we were The Electric Elves.

THE ELF HISTORY

They never really had any chart success, and came to the attention of most people through their relationship with Deep Purple. But Elf, even at that time, pre-date that time. The bands that were formed and folded in quick succession before the band, in which many people regard to today as Elf, is still an important part of their legacy. Their naming was a joke of the shortness of Ronnie, who would prove to be a gem in the success of the band, and his cousin David. This led to their discovery in 1971 / 1972 while they were actively looking for a recording contract, and earning their living across America playing clubs, college bars and the like.

The “deep cool guys” stumbled upon them, through blind luck, playing live in a club in about January of 1972. Of course, they were impressed by their outstanding potential, and so Elf landed a contract soon after that. The blending of Elf’s more traditional country blues-rock with a feel for hard rock proves they should have deserved a wider audience. Many fans of Ronnie’s miss the freedom and range of expression that marked his time in Elf...

Ronnie didn’t use the name Ronnie James Dio until the Elf days. When Ronnie graduated from Cortland High in 1960, he and his best friend at that time--Paulie Consroe--headed off to Buffalo to go to college. It was on one of their trips between Cortland and Buffalo in the fall of 1960 that Paulie came up with the Ronnie Dio and the Prophets thing, which was perfect and striking for the time. By the time I came to Cortland, he was known locally by everyone (including his wife) as Ronnie Dio. He didn’t change his name legally from Padavona, however, at least not in that time frame. He may have done so much later but I would tend to doubt it.

Ronnie didn’t graduate from the U. of Buffalo. He dropped out sometime during his freshman year--he was plenty bright, but just not interested. Paulie did graduate with a degee in Pharmacology. Today, Paulie is a professor at the University of Arizona in Tucson.

THE ELECTRIC ELVES/THE ELVES
Late 1967 - 1972

Ronnie James Dio - Vocals / Bass
Gary Driscoll - Drums / Percussion
Dave Feinstein - Guitar
Doug Thaler - Keyboards/Guitar
Mickey Lee Soule - Keyboards
Nick Pantas - Guitar

There was never really an “end” to Ronnie Dio and the Prophets or a “beginning” of the Electric Elves. I joined Ronnie, Nicky, Gary, and David in September, 1967. Until the crash (Feb 1968), we began pushing the Electric Elves name in place of Ronnie Dio and the Prophets.

Ronnie handled both the vocals and the bass, Nick and Ronnie’s cousin Dave Feinstein offered a dual guitar partnership. Gary Driscoll handled the Drums and Doug Thaler the keyboards. The band was called The Electric Elves.

The title of this band is under an “Elf” theme, as this was devised from the relative shortness of the band; Ronnie was 5 foot 4 inches tall, like the rest and Dave was 5 foot! A theme the band sticks to for the future bands they form. Out of this band a single is released in December of 1967, it included: “Hey, Look Me Over,” backed with: “It Pays To Advertise.” The name didn’t last for too long, as in mid 1969 they decided to change it simply to The Elves...

While I didn’t join the band officially until September of 1967, I did play and sing on “Hey, Look Me Over” and “It Pays to Advertise” which were recorded in NYC in July 1967. Ronnie, Rock (Feinstein), Nicky Pantas, and Gary played on those recordings as I believe you have posted.

The band’s line up remained the same, but they shortened their name, from The Electric Elves to The Elves in hopes to make for a new image. The name change took place before releasing their second single. The Elves produce a few demo singles that are released around late 1969 and early 1970. The singles include “In Different Circles” backed with “She’s Not The Same,” released in September 1969. The second single, released in February 1970 included “Amber Velvet” backed with “West Virginia.”


Nicky Pantas died in a bad automobile crash we were involved in on Feb. 12, 1968. Ronnie took over 150 stitches to the head when his face went through the windshield and David suffered a broken ankle and facial injuries as well. Before I could recover from my injuries, Ronnie, David, and Gary put the band back together in May, 1968, with Mickey Lee Soule, who had had his own band until he was drafted into the army in 1966. I went to see them play in my hometown (Rome, NY) in late May 1968 with that 4-piece line-up. I was still in a body cast.

Nicky was a great guitar player in the context of that day. He could play anything that anybody put into rock records of those days. He also produced most, if not all, of the recordings those early bands made. He was way ahead of his time with respect to mastering the use of the recording equipment available in those days. I remember a version of “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow” that The Prophets did in 1963. It was never released but it was amazing. Nicky had figured out a way to record only the echo from his guitar and not the original signal. He made it sound like a string section--you could not tell the difference. What a tragic loss he was.

After the accident, Mickey Lee replaced me as the keyboard player. Technically, I replaced Nicky on lead guitar and David remained in place as rhythm guitarist. But David got much better on guitar than I was, especially since I sustained nerve damage in my left arm in the accident, so he took over most of the lead work.

There was no “end” of the Electric Elves or “beginning” of The Elves. When the band started performing again after the accident, it was Ronnie, Gary, David, and Mickey Lee. Three months later, I had recovered enough to rejoin them. By the end of 1968, we just dropped the “electric” part from our name. It had already become dated and we just quit using it.

The Decca single “Walking in Different Circles” b/w “She’s Not the Same” was recorded at Columbia’s 30th Street Studio (called The Church) on Thanksgiving Day of 1968. Ronnie, David, Mickey Lee, Gary and I made that record. The strings were added at a later date by an arranger named Claus Ogerman.

We made “Amber Velvet” and “West Virginia” in July or August of 1969 with the same producer--Scott English--who had done the first Decca single at another studio in New York. I can’t remember the name of the studio right now but it was on Seventh Avenue at about 48th Street, and it was upstairs over a strip joint called The Metropole which is still there running under the same name.
(Mario Mazza emailed me to tell me that the studio Doug mentions here was Associated Studios. It was one of the studios that then manager John Perialas (1931-2008) often used for the bands he managed...including one that Mario was in.)

The engineer was a guy named Jerry Samuelson who had had a big hit record of his own here in the US in 1966 called “They’re Coming to Take Me Away Ha Ha” under the name of Napolean IV. He was a bit of a whacko and he erased the drum tracks to “West Virginia” by accident in the middle of the night after Gary had left. As David Feinstein had been the second best drummer in the area after Gary, before he switched over to guitar, David played the drums that you hear in that recording. It was very difficult for him to play along with the rest of the track as there were no click tracks or time codes used in those days. That is why the song sounds as sloppy and loose as it does. So those two songs were performed by the same line-up that recorded the first Decca release.

What may be a bit confusing is that Ronnie Dio and the Prophets originally recorded “Walkin’ In Different Circles” for Cameo-Parkway Records in 1966 with the line-up of Ronnie, Gary, David, and Nicky Pantas. You should hear the song on the flip side of that single--”Ten More Days With Brenda”--which Ronnie and Nicky wrote. I always loved it.

So the line-up of Ronnie, David, Gary, Mickey Lee, and I was intact from July 1968 until January 1, 1972, when I packed it in and the other four guys carried on without me. Soon they became Elf.


Elf
Early 1972

Ronnie James Dio - Vocals / Bass
Gary Driscoll - Drums / Percussion
Dave Feinstein - Guitar
Mickey Lee Soule - Keyboards

Doug Thaler leaves the band, before they started to work on material for an album. During the time where they were actively looking for a recording contract, and earning their living across America playing clubs, college bars and the like, Roger Glover and Ian Paice of Deep Purple happened to see them in a club, auditioning for Columbia Records in January 1972.

After being noticed by the Deep Purple bass player, Roger Glover, and drummer Ian Paice, they offered to produce an album for them. In April 1972 the band went with the two Deep Purple members to record an album at Studio One in Atlanta, Georgia in America. The studio sessions yielded the band’s hesitant debut album, which was simply entitled “Elf,” and released on the Purple Records label.

After the release of their album, and because of this relation to Deep Purple the band played as the support for Deep Purple on at least two US tours; from August to September and from November to December 1972. However, these dates aren’t necessarily fully correct, Elf may have toured with Deep Purple on other dates too.

Mid 1972 - December 1974

Ronnie James Dio - Vocals / Bass
Gary Driscoll - Drums / Percussion
Steve Edwards - Guitar
Craig Gruber - Bass
Mickey Lee Soule - Keyboards

Dave Feinstein leaves and Ronnie quits playing bass guitar to concentrate on the vocals. Left as a three piece, Elf now has to look for a guitarist and a bass player to complete their line up. Steve Edwards is recruited on guitar to take the place of Dave Feinstein.

Bass player Craig Gruber joins, leaving Ronnie to concentrate entirely on the vocals, something which will result in getting the band noticed by a few other well known faces. This line up makes Elf a more recognized and a more accomplished band with it’s Jazz / Country / Blues / Rock influences, also with the help of more tours with Deep Purple, their popularity increases.

In the summer of 1973, Elf signed a new record contract with MGM Records in America and with Purple Records in the United Kingdom. In early 1974 the band travelled to UK to record their second album at The Manor Studios. It was produced by Roger Glover and was called: “Carolina County Ball.” However, the USA release was named after a different song, namely: “L. A. / 59,” it also had a totally different sleeve. The reasons behind the name change are not known.

After release of Carolina County Ball, Elf toured supporting Deep Purple on their UK tour in April to May of 1974. At the same time Ronnie James Dio and Mickey Lee Soule participated also Roger Glover’s solo project called: “Butterfly Ball And The Grasshopper’s Feast.” Roger makes Ronnie a noticed face as he sung three songs on the album and co wrote a further two.

In the summer of 1974 Elf travelled to USA to support Deep Purple on their US tour. At least some of the shows featured also an American band called Aerosmith - this happened at least in August 1974 at Dillon Stadium in Connecticut, USA.

Ritchie Blackmore of Deep Purple wanted to record a solo song, rejected by the rest of his band. He and Elf went to studio with to record this single called “Black Sheep Of The Family.” Besides Elf, there were other musicians, for example keyboardist Matthew Fisher from Procol Harum as well. A band called Quartermass originally wrote the song.

After some time, Ritchie contacted Ronnie and asked if he would be interested in doing another track together with him. Ronnie wrote a song in the same night and went to record it with him. The song was called “Sixteenth Century Greensleeves.” It was meant to be released as a B-side for “Black Sheep Of The Family,” but for some reason the single was never released. The version of “Black Sheep Of The Family” that would appear on the first Rainbow album would differ from the original version at least to some extent. Existence of an acetate of the original recording has been rumored, but no-one has come up with one.

Right after the recording of “Sixteenth Century Greensleeves,” Ritchie asked Ronnie whether he and rest of the Elf would be interested in putting a band together with him. Elf were already recording “Trying To Burn The Sun” at this time, so they decided to form Rainbow right after the album was recorded.

December 1974 - February 1975

Ronnie James Dio - Vocals
Gary Driscoll - Drums / Percussion
Steve Edwards - Guitar
Craig Gruber - Bass
Mark Nauseef - Percussion
Mickey Lee Soule - Keyboards

After Elf recorded “Black Sheep In The Family” and “Sixteenth Century Greensleeves” with Ritchie, they returned back to UK in early 1975 with one new man. Mark Nauseef, a drummer, joined the band to play percussion in December of 1974. Elf went to record their third, and what will become their final album “Trying To Burn The Sun.” The recording takes place at Kingsway studios, again with Roger Glover as producer. Ritchie Blackmore also oversees the recording process of the third Elf album but he didn’t play on it, despite some rumors at that time.
(Ritchie Blackmore actually had no involvement with the second or third album. He never showed up and certainly never played on it, despite the rumors.) During the recording of the album, a much more hard-rock / jazz influenced album, Ronnie is asked to help out Ritchie, now out of Deep Purple, with his solo album. Rather than Ronnie using this opportunity to better himself over the people in Elf, who were his best friends, the people he dreamt with and loved, he told Ritchie, “if you want me, then take the rest of the members of my band,” and so...

After recording the “Trying To Burn The Sun” album, Elf folded up immediately, even before the album was actually released. Mark Nauseef left on his own and guitarist Steve Edwards was fired.
(Although I was "fired" I only read about my "release" in the random notes of Rolling Stone magazine. Ronnie didn't tell me to my face or even call. I was very disappointed at the news and how it was handled.) The remaining members of Elf formed Ritchie Blackmore”s Rainbow with former Deep Purple guitarist Ritchie Blackmore before the current Elf album had even been released.

This third album was not released in the UK because the band wanted to avoid a clash with the first Rainbow album, which was released shortly after the release of “Trying To Burn The Sun” in the USA. There are some rumors around about a live album, simply titled as “Elf Live,” that should've been released in 1976, but this album is a rarity as no one seems to have a copy of it.

“Trying To Burn The Sun” was the first album where Ronnie James Dio used his second name. He started to use it when Ritchie Blackmore once asked him “What”s your second name? Why don”t you use it as a part of your name?” Ronnie’s stage and professional name is Ronnie James Dio. His name was originally Ronald Padavona.

Ronnie James Dio - Vocals
Dave Feinstein - Guitar

After a while, Ronnie and Dave Feinstein (Ronnie’s cousin) decide that they will put Elf back together for a reunion album and maybe a tour. Talks continue for about a year before things start to happen.

Ronnie James Dio - Vocals
Dave Feinstein - Guitar
Mickey Lee Soule - Keyboards

After hearing news about a possible Elf reunion, former keyboardist, Mickey Lee Soule, joins in on the reunion.

Joey DiMao - Bass
Ronnie James Dio - Vocals
Dave Feinstein - Guitar
Mickey Lee Soule - Keyboards

Joey DiMao joins to play bass for Elf for the reunion. Joey plays in Manowar. Presumably he was asked to play for Elf while on tour in Scandinavia with Dio.

Vox

“I’ve been very fortunate. Both physical and mental because so much of it is technique,” he says of his voice. “If you have a good technique, you can do just about anything. I mean if you don’t know how to use a hammer and nails, you’re sure as hell not gonna build a house. But if you’ve got technique with the tools you have, you’re gonna build! And if you keep your tools good and clean, you can use them forever.”

“I had a great deal of professional training with regard to trumpet, music theory, composition and instrumentality (and later bass guitar). Initially, I never pictured myself as a singer, but I was thrust into the role out of necessity... Most of my initial recordings are quite rare, but you can track the progression of my vocalism from the “point of origin” to present day if you dig far enough. I wanted to develop a “distinctive” style of singing which was instantly recognizable, but which was also appealing to the ear and melodic enough to stand up to whatever instrument(s) I was faced with. I’ve never had “professional” vocal training, but I’m not completely self-taught either. How long did it take me to develop my voice? It’s still developing... I try new things every so often, but the “constant Dio sound” came along quite soon to tell the truth. I should say, though, that I feel that I really came into my own during my years with The Electric Elves, and Elf. My vocalizations were somewhat odd in that I don’t speak anything like I sing... My speaking voice is somewhat deep and “hesitant,” but the process of altering the latent voice into an “angry banshee’s wail,” was really pretty easy... Again, my “sound” seemed to solidify once I started to really make music for a living.”

“I started singing at seven, but I was pressed into it. I was brought up a Catholic, and from an Italian family in a town populated mostly by Italian-Americans, it was normal to be pressed into a creative endeavor. I sang the lead part in a church related function. It’s not something I really wanted to do, and not until I was twelve years old did I really started working at it. I never wanted to sing in a choir. I always disliked being one amongst a greater number. I’ve always been a very strong willed person - even at age five, I wanted to do it my way. Luckily, I did it someone else’s way for a while.”

“My outstanding instrument is my voice - thanks to all those years of trumpet practice I learned the breath control that really makes your voice an instrument.” “My trumpet training was invaluable, from reading music to understanding theory and melody. From the trumpet I learned to sing keeping melody, instead of chords in mind.”

Musical Attitude

“If you’re a total person, you do everything. You can play and make suggestions, you’re a musician. I’ve always prided myself as being a musician first then a singer afterward. So I was able to do all those things and to bring to Tony [Iommi] something he had never experienced before, and that was a musician who could sing, and lead him down the path that was going to be better for him. So he was inspired by what I was giving him, and this brought out all his latent talent... Musically we [Ronnie and Black Sabbath] got on so well, that’s why the band was able to evolve, and that’s probably why today you hear it as a Dio thing, because my suggestion were always there. And believe me, I’m not taking credit for the songs, it’s not that way at all, but just my infusions and Tony’s, he made me what I am as well. It was a team effort.”

“As I’ve seen though, forward momentum is often a difficult thing to
survive...”

Ronnie feels “that the bleakness of society these days and some of the problems involved... I haven’t given up on humanity. There is still some optimism out there and it’s pointed at the individual, it’s up that person to change their life for the better, therefore changing all our lives for the better. This is your life...”

Ronnie has maintained a steadfast loyalty to his belief that “Anything can be accomplished if you work hard enough to achieve it.” He always set to keep on top with a positive attitude. “Just what my dad always told me. If you have a talent, go for it and work hard.”

“I’d like to think that my musical attitude made them [Black Sabbath] come up to a higher plane. They all played so much better, better in fact, than I thought they were capable of. The band became proud of itself, and I felt that I really did do my job, to create a happy band filled with enthusiasm, with a new life.”

For Ronnie, the most rewarding aspect of this success is that it’s come in his own terms. “...Success just proves that persistence is rewarded.” Also adding “I’m proud of the music we play, and I want as many people as possible to hear it.”

Writing

“I come up with a germ of an idea, and I alter it in accordance with what I want to succeed in portraying. It’s easy to get caught up in the “social madness,” but I’d rather stick to the fantastic and seemingly unbelievable. In essence, I need to find a middle ground whereby the lyrics and the music meet each other at a point of commonality. They carry a mutual message after all...”

“I play just about everything. I write most of my material on guitar and piano... Anything you can make music with.”

“Our songs deal with fantasy for a reason. Not only do I enjoy dealing in that medium (medieval fantasy - the world that is known as Ronnie’s second home), but our music - whether it be on album or on stage - serves the role of transporting the listener from the harsh realities of the day to a world where the line between reality and fantasy is not defined. That’s what my music is based on.”

Fans

“I’m always impressed with the crowd. I think it’s amazing that a collection of people can come together and feel as one in a situation like that. I’m always awed by that. Where do they get their energy? - I guess from us”

“The audiences were always intense and interactive, which is what I’ve always loved. I give - they take, they give - I take. It’s a circle and it’s what I’m looking for.”

“...I like the intimacy of small clubs. It’s where I really found my feet, and I see it as an opportunity to “broaden out” and invite a new generation of potential fans to see what Dio is all about... Stadium shows are frightfully expensive, and they lose a great degree of personality in terms of “seeing” and “feeling” of what’s going on, on the stage. This may be the “digital age,” but some of us would rather shake hands and sing to someone in the front row than have our distorted image thrown up on a technotronic screen...” Ronnie would rather “treat you all to a more intimate sort of show.”

“I’ve always thought self-importance was one of the worst things you could ever deal with. These kids... If you stay in touch, if you take the time to spend time with them, which I do after every single show I’ve ever played to this day, they’ll stick with you your whole career. That’s where the longevity comes in. When I do a gig, I always meet them [the fans] afterwards. It’s a connection. I learn from it.”

He describes his following as “People who believe in us and who believe in themselves. They have something to prove to themselves”

When questioned about the loyal support of his fans he comments “I absolutely love it, and I’m flattered by it... I’d like to take a moment to thank each and every one of you who could never quite be touched by impersonal recognition in an album sleeve. I’ve tried to meet your gaze at each and every concert, or at seat to touch your hearts and minds through every song I’ve sung. I hope I’ve succeeded in giving you a special moment in time in which you said “Perhaps I actually do matter to this guy...” You do. You have. You always will. My deepest regret is that I can’t thank each and every one of you personally for all you’ve given me. The Magic never dies, as long as we cling fast to what matters most. After all, Dio wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for all of you...”

“There’s a built in relationship between an artist and his fans, a sacred trust if you will.”

“The fans react to my music because they know there’s something good, something positive going on... I tend to present lyrics that show the underdog can win - which ties in the medieval values that I’ve always tried to present in my songs - kind of a modern day Robin Hood. That’s a very rock and roll attitude. Heavy metal doesn’t have to be about fast cars and women; it can be uplifting on a number of levels.”

Live Performances

On the tour circuit, Ronnie James Dio has made his mark in heavy rock with a series of stage shows that have all but blinded and deafened the faithful who have flocked to see and hear them. “It’s important to give good value, to make people say to their friends: “You missed an incredible show.” We’ve never gone in a small way.” It is in the studio, however, that the small but intense vocalist seems most in his element.

“I may be a bit egocentric when I say this... but we have the best concert show around. When we go on stage we only do one thing - We rock!”

Instrumentation

Instruments played by Ronnie include: Vocals, Guitar, Bass, Drums / Percussion, Keyboards, Percussion, Flute, Saxophone, Trumpet, Baritone Trombone, French Horn, Oboe and the Bagpipes.