A few months prior to his departure from Deep Purple in 1975, guitarist Ritchie Blackmore teamed up with members of a decidedly mediocre American band called Elf and recorded Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow for Polydor.
Although it was basically a one-off solo LP, Blackmore and Elf vocalist Ronnie James Dio became good friends and songwriting partners.
When Blackmore made the split official six months later, he formed a touring band with Dio and the ever-wonderful Cozy Powell on drums. The bassist was a chap named Jim Bain. They auditioned for a keyboard player and picked Tony Carey.
Several tours and an album later (Rainbow Rising), Bain left (ie: was fired) to be replaced by ex-Uriah Heep bassist Mark Clarke.
The group’s new album, a double live set recorded on tours of Japan and Europe in late 1976, was a loud amalgam of tracks from the preceding two albums and cemented Rainbow’s reputation as the masters of ‘castle rock’.
After the next studio album’s release and supporting tour in 1978, Dio left Rainbow due to “creative differences” with Blackmore, who disliked Dio’s fantasy-oriented lyric style.
Blackmore (a qualified aircraft radio mechanic) continued with Rainbow, and in 1979 the band released a new album entitled Down To Earth, featuring R&B singer Graham Bonnet.
The album contained Rainbow’s first chart successes, a cover of the Russ Ballard tune Since You Been Gone which became a smash hit.
Difficult to Cure (1981) introduced vocalist Joe Lynn Turner. The album was radio-targeted in a more AOR style, resulting in some degree of alienation with many of Rainbow’s earlier fans.
More albums followed – Straight Between the Eyes (1982) and Bent Out of Shape (1983), before the group disbanded in 1984.
Blackmore reformed Rainbow with new members in 1994. This Rainbow line-up, featuring singer Doogie White, lasted until 1997 and produced one album, Stranger In Us All (1995), before the group disbanded once again.
Blackmore ditched leather jackets and six strings for mandolins, doublets and Windy Miller hats when he formed barmy Hey-Nonny-Nonny combo Blackmore’s Night in 1997 with then-fiancée Candice.
He took his Baldrick fantasies even further in 2008 when the pair married in a faux-medieval castle in New York.
Cozy Powell was killed in a car accident on 5 April 1998. He was 50. Bassist Jimmy Bain died on 24 January 2016.
Ronnie James Dio