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Machines Of Grace Shares Memories Of Ronnie James Dio

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Band Photo: Black Sabbath (?)

Guitarist Matt Leff of Machines of Grace has issued the following statement about Ronnie James Dio, who passed away due to stomach cancer:

"In 1988 I was attending GIT in Hollywood and read that Dio was looking for a new guitar player. I never expected to get a call but sent in my demo anyway. A couple months later my phone rang and it was Wendy Dio telling me Ronnie had listened to my material and really liked it, they wanted to know if I'd go down and audition... I was like, 'YEAH!!' Out of the thousands of demo's they received, only a couple guys were brought in to audition and I was really nervous about playing with one of my all time musical idols. I mean, there I was, playing with Ronnie James Dio and his entire band! Not to mention Wendy Dio and some people from their label. Typing this out, I'm remembering how nerve racking it was, but what a fantastic experience it was playing with such a musical powerhouse.

"From the moment I arrived at the studio, Ronnie made me feel like I had known him my entire life. Just super friendly and any time I tell this story, I always mention that he was one of the nicest people I've ever met. I probably spent 3 or 4 hours playing Dio songs along with some of my own material, then we spent quite a bit of time sitting around the rehearsal room table talking. They all were really great and I'll never forget that day as long as I live. Thank you for being such a huge inspiration Ronnie!"

Drummer Jeff Plate also commented: "Throughout my career with Savatage, TSO and Metal Church, I've had the privilege of meeting many of my idols and heroes. Ronnie James Dio was certainly the most memorable, because he always remembered me. After KISS ALIVE!, RAINBOW On Stage was the next live album I could not stop listening to. I wasn't that familiar with all of the songs at the time, but it SOUNDED great! And, once I learned Dio was from Cortland, NY (an hour north of my hometown in Horseheads) I had a rooting interest in the 'local boy'.

"I met Dio for the first time in 1996 and he was as sincere and friendly and humble as I could have ever imagined. We chatted for about 15 minutes, and he asked how Jon and Chris were (Oliva and Caffery), and chuckled about the infamous tour with Savatage in '87. He made a joke about the name of my hometown, referring to 'women of the night' and guillotines, quite funny actually. I met him several times over the next 10 years, and each time he would greet me with a smile and handshake, 'Jeff, how are you?'. No one reminded him of who I was, he didn't politely ask me where we had met before, he always remembered me, my name, where I was from (along with the joke about my hometown), etc., and we always had a friendly, funny conversation.

"I am humble enough to realize that I am one of thousands he has met along the way, and I am certainly down on his list of 'important' friends, but he always remembered me, and never hesitated to say my name. The voice is legendary, but that impressed me as much or more than anything. Dio's attitude and personality is something we could all learn from. Rock on Ronnie, you will be sorely missed and never forgotten."

Vocalist Zak Stevens added:

"I'm still in a state of disbelief that one of my vocal heroes of all time has passed away. I practically grew up listening to RJD and marveling over that voice that had a such a huge impact on shaping the genre of rock and metal music that we know today. A good friend of mine introduced me to Dio's band 'Elf' when I was in middle school. And I remember sitting in the movie theater when I was a freshman in high school watching the animated movie 'Heavy Metal' as Black Sabbath's 'The Mob Rules' roared as that army came plowing down the hill. I couldn't wait to buy every album he put out going forward and study it as an up and coming rock vocalist. Ronnie was larger than life to me.

"I got a chance to hang out with him when I lived in Los Angeles in the early 90's and I told him how I wanted to do just what he did. He was so cool and supportive and told me 'Don't give up on your dream. Work hard and things will pan out for you.' He was absolutely correct. He was one of the coolest persons I've ever met, period. He will be sorely missed. I have all of his CDs and I'm going to play them all now and take some time to remember one of the all-time greats. And in the process I'm going to continue learning from him."

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