With Ozzy mania currently at full throttle, and because he is the quintessential British rocker, it may surprise you to know that a San Diegan played no small part in Ozzy's rise from heavy metal to reality show stardom. We're speaking, of course, of acclaimed guitar shredder Jake E. Lee.
Born Feb. 15, 1957 in West Virginia, his family settled in San Diego in the late 1960s. A South Bay resident, young Jake Lou Williams (as he was known then) attended Mar Vista High School in Imperial Beach. He was regularly seen around campus with his guitar and was heavily influenced by his older sister's record collection, particularly the likes of Led Zeppelin and-crucially-Black Sabbath.
After graduation, Lee attended Southwestern College as a music major. There he formed a hard rock band named Teaser (after a Tommy Bolin album), and was soon expelled from school for altering his grades on a report card. The band continued, however, and played on the late-'70s circuit that included La Jolla High School and Straitahead Sound, packing them in at every show.
Interestingly, during this period, Lee mentored a young Warren Di Martini while at the same time joining up with Stephen Pearcy for a new band called Mickey Rat. Though that line up was a hit, Lee soon left the group, but not before referring Di Martini as his replacement.
Around this time, he began rehearsals with the frighteningly-named group, The Greg Leon Invasion, also gigging with Rough Cutt before being discovered by ex Sabbath/Deep Purple vocalist Ronnie James Dio. Lee's pairing with Dio didn't work out either, as they only managed to pen a few tunes. But by this time Ozzy had found out about Lee and was pursuing him for his new band. Lee auditioned with 500 other guitarists and soon found himself in England rehearsing for the “Speak of the Devil Tour,” the second most important event of Ozzy's solo career.
Ozzy and Lee began to collaborate, beginning with the multi-platinum Bark At the Moon. Lee didn't forget his old friends, and insisted on RATT as the opening band for the impending world tour. Lee only recorded one more disc with Ozzy, Ultimate Sin, but it too went multi-platinum.
Due to Ozzy's “mood swings,” Lee soon left the group. He quickly put a new group together, Badlands, which included ex-Sabbath vocalist Ray Gillen and Kiss drummer Eric Singer. They released a self-titled disc in 1989 and two follow-ups surfaced in 1991-Voodoo Highway and Dag the Giblets-but Gillen soon left and the band quickly faltered. A posthumous live album, Dusk, was released in 2000.
Since the extinction of Badlands, things have been relatively quiet for Lee, with only a short-lived stint with a band called WWWIII and a Japanese solo album, Fine Pink Mist (1996). He has done a bit of session work in Japan and appeared on a slew of tribute albums. Yet whether Jake E. Lee records another note, he has certainly earned his place in rock history, as well as inspired generations of San Diego guitarists.