Randy Castillo, who played drums for Ozzy Osbourne from 1985 to 1993, died Tuesday night from a form of cancer called squamous cell carcinoma. He was 51.
Castillo was diagnosed with the disease in May 2000, said his friend of many years, former Ozzy bassist Phil Soussan. He underwent aggressive radiation treatment and chemotherapy at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, and by the summer of 2001 he seemed to be fully recovered.
He started working with ex-Alice in Chains bassist Mike Inez on a new band and was in the process of hiring a singer six weeks ago when his neck suddenly became sore and swollen. Ten days ago, he was re-admitted into Cedars-Sinai. He was sent home Monday and died in his sleep at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday.
“He had a flair to playing the drums,” Soussan said. “He had a heavy right foot that was incredibly fast and his whole unique approach to drumming was just really powerful. He wasn’t really good at copying other people, but he was really good at being himself, and it was very difficult for other people to copy him.”
The son of a mariachi musician and a homemaker, Castillo was born on December 18, 1950, in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He started drumming in his elementary school marching band and soon discovered he had a gift. His family tells the story of how jazz legend Buddy Rich once humored him by letting the kid play his kit. “Buddy Rich whistled and said, ’Wow, your kid has an incredible right foot,’ ” Soussan said.
Castillo’s first professional band was Albuquerque’s the Wumblies, formed in the late ’60s. In the early ’70s, he moved to Los Angeles and played in a variety of bands, including Mudd and USFA, before hooking up with Lita Ford in 1984 for her album Dancin’ on the Edge. A year later, Mötley Crüe drummer Tommy Lee introduced Castillo to Osbourne, who invited him to England to audition.
He played with Ozzy through 1993’s Live and Loud Tour. After Lee left Mötley Crüe in 1999 to form Methods of Mayhem, Castillo joined for the 2000 album New Tattoo, but a few dates into the tour, he suffered a serious stomach ailment and was replaced by Hole’s Samantha Maloney.
Musicians enjoyed working with Castillo not only for his drumming skills, but also because he was warm and amiable.
“He always had a smile and positive things to say about everything and everybody,” Crüe bassist Nikki Sixx said in a statement.
“I am heartbroken about the passing of one of my dearest friends,” Osbourne said in a statement. “I will see you on the other side, Randy. I love you.”
“He was the kind of guy that made a great friend wherever he went,” Soussan recalled. “If he showed up to someone’s house, everyone wanted to see him. It wasn’t like he took over a conversation, he just had a really good vibe.”
Castillo is survived by his mother and four sisters. Funeral arrangements are pending, but he will probably be buried with his father in Albuquerque, Soussan said.
“I wish this wouldn’t have happened,” he added. “All he wanted to do was drum.”