By Roger Hitts
Ronnie James Dio became so revered as perhaps the greatest heavy metal singer of all time, that many fans didn’t realize he had a previous musical career – as a bassist!
Also a talented trumpeter, Ronnie –under his given name Ronald Padavona – began his bassist career in 1957 with The Vegas Kings, and curiously, he was solely on bass with the band already having a lead singer.
Ronnie also cut sides as a doo-wop crooner with The Red Caps and The Prophets.
Dig Ronnie in ’61 “An Angel is Missing” https://youtu.be/ew8MUT00aK0
By ’67 Ronnie was a singing bassist with The Electric Elves which became The Elves and eventually Elf.
Dig Ronnie on bass with “The Elves” in the early 70s rendering a Who medley: https://youtu.be/VYlPeOFpmC4
Ronnie plied his craft as a “melodic, keep-the-center anchor” on such rousing rock excursions as “Gambler, Gambler” from the 1972 debut of his band Elf, which later assimilated into Ritchie Blackmore’s fold as Rainbow in 1975.
Elf “Gambler, Gambler” https://youtu.be/5azqNz7f6Ho
Ronnie eventually he gave up his Elf bass duties to Craig Gruber in 1973 to concentrate on being the band’s enigmatic front man.
While Ronnie found his place in rock history as a vocalist, he never gave up his first love of the four-string – or his gear!
In 2018, eight years after his death, the Hard Rock Café in New York City held an auction of Ronnie’s wealth of basses, including a 1953 Gibson EB1 bass which he used to compose while working up demos, along with a 1961 Gibson EB-0 he used for live performances with Elf and a wealth of Gallien-Krueger cabinets and amplifiers.
And one great bassist begets another: Ronnie’s primary go-to player in various versions of Dio was the late, great Jimmy Bain, who also worked with Ronnie in Blackmore’s Rainbow.
Dig Jimmy and Ronnie “Rainbow in the Dark” live in ‘86 https://youtu.be/HwjUheA15Cs