American singer, songwriter, and musician Ronald James Dio (Padavona) was born in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, 10 July 1942 to Italian-American parents who had moved to Portsmouth from Cortland, New York, where they had grown up, as part of Dio’s father’s service in the U.S. Army during World War II.The family resided in Portsmouth for only a short time before returning to Cortland. Dio listened to a great deal of opera while growing up, and was influenced vocally by American tenor Mario Lanza.His first and only formal musical training began at age 5 learning to play the trumpet.During high school, Dio played in the school band and was one of the youngest members selected to play in the school’s official Dance Band. It was also during high school that Dio formed his first rock-n-roll group, the Vegas Kings (the name would soon change to Ronnie and the Rumblers, and then Ronnie and the Red Caps). Though Dio began his rock-n-roll career on trumpet, he quickly added bass guitar to his skillset once he assumed singing duties for the group. Dio graduated from Cortland High School in 1960. Following his graduation, he attended the University at Buffalo, majoring in Pharmacology. He only attended from 1960 to 1961 and played trumpet in the university’s concert band, but did not graduate. Despite being known for his powerful singing voice, Dio claimed never to have taken any vocal training. Rather, he attributed his singing ability to the use of correct breathing techniques learned while playing trumpet.
Dio’s musical career began in 1957 when several Cortland, New York musicians formed the band, The Vegas Kings. The group’s lineup consisted of Dio on bass guitar, Billy DeWolfe on lead vocals, Nick Pantas on guitar, Tom Rogers on drums, and Jack Musci on saxophone. In 1958, the band again changed their name from Ronnie & The Rumblers to Ronnie and the Redcaps. Musci left the band in 1960, and a new guitarist, Dick Botoff, joined the lineup. The Redcaps released two singles: “Conquest”/”Lover” and “An Angel Is Missing”/”What’d I Say”. Padavona first used the name Dio on a recording in 1960, when he added it to thr band’s second release on Seneca. Soon after that the band modified their name to Ronnie Dio and the Prophets. The Prophets toured the New York region and played college fraternity parties. They released several singles including “Mr Misery” In late 1967 Ronnie Dio and the Prophets transformed into a new band called The Electric Elves and added a keyboard player. After recovering from a deadly car accident in February 1968 (which killed guitarist Nick Pantas and put Dio and other band members briefly in hospital), the group shortened its name to The Elves and used that name until mid-1972, when it released its first proper album under the name Elf and were a regular opening act for Deep Purple. Elf recorded three albums until disbanding in 1975
Dio’s vocals caught the ear of Deep Purple guitarist Ritchie Blackmore who invited Dio along with Gary Driscoll to record two songs in Tampa, Florida. Blackmore stated I left Deep Purple because I’d met up with Ronnie Dio, and he was so easy to work with. Blackmore decided to recruit more of Elf’s musicians and form his own band, initially known as Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow. They released the self-titled debut album Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow in early 1975. After that, Dio recorded two more studio albums (Rising and Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll) and two live albums (Live in Munich 1977 and Live in Germany 1976) with Blackmore. During his tenure with Rainbow, Dio and Blackmore. However Dio and Blackmore split, with Blackmore taking Rainbow in a more commercial direction, with Graham Bonnet on vocals and the album Down to Earth. Dio left Rainbow in 1979 and soon joined Black Sabbath, replacing the fired Ozzy Osbourne after meeting Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi by chance at The Rainbow on Sunset Strip in Los Angeles in 1979. Dio arrived at Iommi’s Los Angeles house for a relaxed, getting-to-know-you jam session. On that first day the duo wrote the song, “Children of the Sea”, which would appear on the Heaven and Hell album, the first the band recorded with Dio as vocalist, released in 1980. The follow-up album, Mob Rules, also featured new drummer Vinny Appice. Sadly personality conflict arose within the band during the next album Live Evil which eventually led to Dio and Appice quitting the band. In 1992, Dio briefly returned to Black Sabbath to record the Dehumanizer album anf The single “Time Machine” which was featured in the movie Wayne’s World.
Sadly Dio and Appice again left the band, citing an inability to work with Iommi and Butler. Ronnie James Dio and Vinny Appice then formed Dio, the band, in 1982. Vivian Campbell played guitar and Jimmy Bain was on bass; the latter of whom Dio had known since the old Rainbow days. Their debut album, Holy Diver, included the singles “Rainbow in the Dark” and “Holy Diver”. The band added keyboardist Claude Schnell and recorded two more full-length studio albums, The Last in Line and Sacred Heart. By 1990 Dio was the only original member. Except for a few breaks, Dio, the band, were always touring or recording. They released ten albums, with Master of the Moon being the last one, recorded in 2004. In 2006, Dio joined Black Sabbath members Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, and former Black Sabbath drummer Vinny Appice to tour under the moniker Heaven & Hell, the title of the first Dio era Black Sabbath album. They chose the name Heaven & Hell as Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler were still in Black Sabbath with Ozzy Osbourne and felt it was best to use a different moniker for the Dio version of the band. In 2007, the band recorded three new songs under the Black Sabbath name for the compilation album Black Sabbath: The Dio Years. In 2008, the band completed a 98-date world tour. The band released one album under the Heaven & Hell name, The Devil You Know.
In 1974, Dio sang on the Roger Glover conducted and produced concept album The Butterfly Ball and the Grasshopper’s Feast. Along with other guest-singers, the album featured Deep Purple members Glenn Hughes and David Coverdale. Dio provided vocals for the songs “Homeward”, “Sitting in a Dream”, and the UK single “Love is All”. In 1980, Dio sang the tracks “To Live for the King” and “Mask of the Great Deceiver” on Kerry Livgren’s solo album, Seeds of Change. In 1985, Dio contributed to the metal world’s answer to Band Aid and USA for Africa with the Hear ‘n Aid project. With a heavy metal all-star ensemble which was the brainchild of his fellow Dio band mates Vivian Campbell and Jimmy Bain. In 1997, Dio also had a cameo on Pat Boone’s In a Metal Mood: No More Mr. Nice Guy, an album of famous heavy metal songs played in big band style. In 1999, he was parodied in the TV show South Park, in the episode Hooked on Monkey Fonics and also participated in the Deep Purple project, Concerto for Group and Orchestra, recording cover versions of Deep Purple songs, and songs from the earlier The Butterfly Ball and the Grasshopper’s Feast album. Tenacious D included a tribute song entitled “Dio” that appeared on their self-titled album. The song explains how he has to “pass the torch” for a new generation. Reportedly, Dio approved of it, and had Tenacious D appear in his video “Push” from Killing the Dragon in 2002. Dio also appeared in the film Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny. In 2005, Dio was revealed to be the voice behind Dr. X in Operation: Mindcrime II, the sequel to Queensrÿche’s seminal concept album Operation: Mindcrime. In 2007, he was inducted into the Rock Walk of Fame at Guitar Center on Hollywood’s Sunset Boulevard. Dio assisted in the 2011 film Atlas Shrugged: Part I. Sadly Ronnie James Dio died May 16, 2010.