JOE LYNN TURNER Wanted To 'Make His Own Footprints' When He Joined RAINBOW After RONNIE JAMES DIO's Exit

May 26, 2023

In a new interview with Real Music With Gary Stuckey, Joe Lynn Turner was asked what his first reaction was when people said he had "big shoes to fill" by joining RAINBOW following the departure of legendary singer Ronnie James Dio. (Graham Bonnet briefly sang for RAINBOW in 1979 after Dio and lasted only one album, "Down To Earth", before being replaced by Turner.) Joe, who fronted RAINBOW from 1980 to 1984, helping them score the biggest American hits of their long career, including "Stone Cold" and "Street Of Dreams", responded (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "I'll give you the exact quote. I think it was Kerrang! magazine way back when, and they said, 'Oh, you've got big shoes to fill.' And I turned around, arrogantly, and said, 'I'm gonna make my own footprints.' … 'I'm gonna be me. I'm gonna sing like me. I'm gonna write like me. I'm gonna do what I do.' Actually, I was doing also what I was hired to do. [Ritchie] Blackmore wanted a more commercial aspect to his music. He wanted to chart. He wanted to get on Billboard. He wanted to get in the Top 10. His favorite band — one of 'em, anyway — is ABBA. The metal god. ABBA!

"When we were writing our songs, we kept the hard rock integrity of the music, but at the same time we came up with our 'Stone Cold's and 'Street Of Dreams' and 'Can't Let You Go' — things that hit the popular market and got us not only chart recognition, but we sold more records and we played bigger concerts and the band elevated. And that was the idea behind it all. So when I used to take crap about being, 'Oh, he's a pop singer' — I'm doing my job. This is what we wanted to do. I said, 'Look, this is my job. I'll take the job.' You tell me one guy, if they get offered that gig, they wouldn't take it. Now, whether they could do it or not, I don't know. If they had the abilities… But you tell me somebody who ain't gonna take that gig. I'll take the gig. And we were genuine. Integrity."

Last month, Turner spoke about how he landed the RAINBOW gig in an interview with Rolling Stone. He said: "It was after FANDANGO broke up. I'm living downtown in the West Village in a one-room studio apartment, looking for gigs, going to auditions with a guitar on my back. I was running out of money. One day, I get a call. It's a guy named Barry. I later found out it was Barry Ambrosio. He happened to be Ritchie's personal assistant. He didn't let on who he was at first. He was just asking a lot of questions. I was like, 'Hey, who is this?' I thought it was a friend of a friend putting me on. He was, like, 'Do you like DEEP PURPLE? Do you like Ritchie Blackmore? I was, like, 'Look, I'm going to hang up right now because this is ridiculous. Who the hell are you?' He goes, 'I'm Barry. I'm Ritchie's personal. He's standing right here and wants to talk to you.' He gets on the phone and is like, [British accent] 'Hey, mate. Fancy coming to an audition?' I was, like, 'Who is this really?' He goes, 'It's me.' I didn't believe him. He said, 'Look, I'm going to put you on the phone with Colin Hart, the tour manager, and he's going to give you the details and directions.' Colin got me a train ticket and picked me up in Syosset, Long Island, to go to the studio, which was Syosset Sound. That's where I met Ritchie and [DEEP PURPLE/RAINBOW bassist] Roger [Glover] at the desk. After about five or ten minutes, they were, like, 'Now get in there and sing at the mic.' The rest is history."

Asked how anxious he was at the moment he walked up to the mic, Turner said: "I was anxious, but I needed a gig, so I was really more concentrated on, 'I want this job.' I didn't even realize at the time how big it was. I think that helped the nerves, a bit. I just love Blackmore and was thrilled. At the same time, I was so desperate for a gig that I just … All my will and everything just rose up and went, 'You're going to kill this on the mic right now. You're going to do whatever you got to do.' They started throwing tracks at me. Then they said, 'We've got a song called 'I Surrender'. We'd like you to sing it.' I said, 'Sure. Let me hear it two or three times.' And so they did. I went, 'Can I change some things?' They said, 'Yeah. Do what you want.' I sang it my way. Later I got accolades from ['I Surrender' songwriter] Russ Ballard saying that I delivered a wonderful performance and different structures on some of the melody lines. He wouldn't give me any writing credit, but that doesn't matter. The song was a Number Three [hit]. We did really well with that. But that's what sold them, and the fact that I could write. I have a writing pad with me all the time. I'm always writing lyrics, poetry, call it what you want. A lot of the tracks that they threw at me had nothing on them, so I had to make up melodies and lyrics right there."

Joe sang on the RAINBOW album "Difficult To Cure", which featured the band's most successful U.K. single, "I Surrender".

During Turner's time with RAINBOW, the band had its first USA chart success and recorded songs that helped define the melodic rock genre.

Photo credit: Agata Nigrovskaya

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