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Ritchie Blackmore

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Ritchie Blackmore was born April 14, 1945, in the London suburbs near the Heathrow airport. When he was twelve, his father bought him his first guitar, a black Framus, and had him take classical lessons for one year, before following around and nagging on Big Jim Sullivan (the king of session guitarists in the ‘60s). At the age of thirteen, he started his first band, the 21’s Coffee Bar Group but he was playing tea-chest bass and not guitar! They were playing covers of ‘50’s bands, most notably Duane Eddy.

At fifteen, Ritchie dropped out of school and worked at the Heathrow airport for two years, as well as continuing his musical career. In 1961, when Ritchie was 16, he started playing with Mickey Dee and The Jaywalkers, who, while not being able to release any material, had no problems finding gigs. Gradually, Ritchie and his current guitar, the red Gibson ES335 (seen in the early Deep Purple years) became famous in the London musician community for his incredible guitar skills, despite his young age.

In 1962, Ritchie joined Screaming Lord Sutch and the Savages and became a full time musician. Later the same year, he would join Joe Meek in The Outlaws and would work as a session band for the likes of Tom Jones, Glenda Collins and Gene Vincent. In 1965, Ritchie left, and rejoined Screaming Lord Sutch for a short time before starting Three Mousketeers, with base in Hamburg. A year of touring in Germany and Italy followed, before Ritchie came back to England where Jimi Hendrix was hitting it big. This changed him forever. At the same time, Eric Clapton gave him his first Strat. The neck on it was so bowed that Eric couldn’t play on it. Soon, Sutch recruited him again for the short-lived project, Screaming Lord Sutch and the Roman Empire. When that project was over, Ritchie returned to Hamburg. It was there that he met Jon Lord and Ian Paice, who would later become the trio that made Deep Purple big.

In 1968, Deep Purple was formed, and their first album Shades of Deep Purple was well received by the public (especially the Joe South cover, “Hush”). While this gave the band financial security for a while, they did not manage to follow up the success with their next album, Book of Taliesyn. The next clue for what direction the band should go in came to Ritchie when Led Zeppelin released their first album. Singer Rod Evans and bassist Nick Simper were fired, and Ian Gillan and Roger Glover were hired, creating the classic Deep Purple lineup.

In 1969, the rock-classical crossover Concerto for Group and Orchestra happened - a concept it is still widely believed was created by Metallica over 30 years later. This gave the “new” Deep Purple some publicity, but not in Rock circles. Ritchie was never satisfied with the Concerto, and demanded that their next album would be a heavy one. The result was In Rock. Touring ensured the bands popularity, and their next album, Fireball, was an even bigger success. However, it was their 1972 release, Machine Head, and the single “Smoke on the Water”, that would be the final breakthrough that made Deep Purple a household name. At the time, however, ego problems between Ritchie and Ian Gillan were tearing the band apart. After their late-1972 release, Who Do We Think We Are?, Gillan and Glover left Deep Purple. They were replaced by former Trapeze bassist Glenn Hughes and an unknown singer named David Coverdale. However, musical differences and ego would tear the band apart, and Ritchie left in 1974.

In 1975, Ritchie appeared with a new band, Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow. The lineup was Blackmore and the band Elf, who had recently fired their guitarist. Ritchie had gotten to know Elf back in the Deep Purple days, when they had been the warm-up band for Deep Purple on numerous tours. The Blackmore/Dio songwriting duo would create songs about dragons, witches and crossbows in the firelight, opposed to Gillan’s more straight ahead car and women style. Their first album, named after the band, was released. Although the single “Man on the Silver Mountain” did fairly well, the album lacked production. Rainbow would have more luck with their 1977 album Rainbow Rising. However, numerous changes were made to the band as Ritchie fired all members and brought in bassist Jimmy Bain, drummer Cozy Powell and keyboardist Tony Carrey.

Dio was fired and vocalist Graham Bonnet was brought in. In 1979, the album Down to Earth was released, and the singles “Since You’ve Been Gone” and “All Night Long” are today the two most remembered Rainbow songs. In 1981, Graham was fired, and singer Joe Lynn Turner was brought in. Between 1981 and 1984, Rainbow released three albums, Difficult to Cure, Straight Between the Eyes and Bent Out of Shape, all of which did well on the charts.

The classic Deep Purple line-up was once again reformed, and the release Perfect Strangers, containing a single with the same name, did well on the charts. Two more albums, House of Blue Lights and Slaves and Masters (containing Joe Lynn Turner as vocalist) would be released before Ritchie once again called it a day and reformed Rainbow, with four more or less unknown musicians. In 1995, they released Stranger in Us All, a largely overlooked “heavy metal” album.

Ritchie’s fiance, Candice Night, did a lot of songwriting. Impressed with her talent, Ritchie decided to stop the Rainbow project and start a new band called Blackmore’s Night, which focused largely on acoustic music with a strong renaissance influence, with occasional elements from Rock. Their debut album, Shadow of the Moon (1998) was an instant success, particularly in Europe. In subsequent albums, particularly Fires at Midnight (2001), there was an increased presence of rock guitar into the music, while maintaining a folk rock direction.

On Ghost of A Rose (2003), Blackmore and Candice Night present a fascinating combination of rock music, folk and melodies from the 16th century that is interesting in every note. Blackmore sees his songs as an homage to renaissance music, and his band transpose the multi-faceted music of the Middle Ages, which blends romanticism and mysticism, passion and enthusiasm, into their very own sound with acoustic and electric guitars, strings, renaissance instruments like hurdy-gurdy and bagpipe and Candice Night's beguiling voice.

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