Rainbow Keyboardist Recalls Ritchie Blackmore’s Careless Attitude Towards Ronnie James Dio’s Departure

Rainbow’s Don Airey recently gave an interview to Rolling Stone in which he remembered the time when Ronnie James Dio left the band, and Ritchie Blackmore acted like he didn’t care about this at all.

When Ritchie Blackmore quit Deep Purple on June 21, 1975, he decided to form his own band: Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow. The band’s first lineup included the vocalist Ronnie James Dio and his backing band Elf as studio musicians, but they never had a chance to perform live. In 1975, Rainbow released their debut album ‘Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow.’ Although it was first thought of as a one-off collaboration, Rainbow continued making musical efforts.

Shortly after the first album, Blackmore recruited new backing musicians and recorded the 1976 album ‘Rising’ and 1977 album ‘On Stage.’ After ‘On Stage’ and its supporting tour in 1978, Ronnie James Dio left Rainbow due to creative differences with Blackmore,  who wanted to shift towards a more commercial sound. It was around this time that Don Airey joined Rainbow to record ‘Down To Earth’ and ‘Difficult To Cure.’

In an interview with Rolling Stone, Don Airey recalled when he walked into the rehearsal studio to start working with Rainbow. He stated that he saw Ronnie James Dio leaving, but he didn’t know he would be there. So, after a couple of hours of playing, he went to ask Blackmore whether Ronnie will come back. According to Airey, all Blackmore said was that Ronnie was gone.

During the interview, Rolling Stone’s Andy Greene asked Don Airey the following:

“‘Down To Earth’ is the first album with Graham Bonnet on lead vocals after Dio left. How was that transition?”

Airey then responded:

“It was funny. The first day I walked into the rehearsal studio, there was a bit of a revolving door, and I saw Ronnie going out the other side. I thought, ‘Oh?’ I didn’t know Ronnie was going to be there. We started, and after a couple of hours, I said to Ritchie, ‘Is Ronnie coming back?’ He said, ‘No, no. Ronnie’s gone.’ That’s all he said.”

At the time he joined Rainbow, Don Airey contributed to the album ‘Down To Earth.’ Following the release, the album became a hit with the major chart success of the singles’ All Night Long’ and ‘Since You Been Gone.’ The follow-up album ‘Difficult To Cure’s title track was a version of ‘Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony,’ and according to Airey, was the first song he worked on with the band.