JOE LYNN TURNER
His career began as a guitar player, but fame resulted from the maturation of his "melodic hard rock" voice. The year was 1980 and Joe Lynn Turner had already recorded four albums on the RCA label with his band "Fandango." "We had big pockets of fans," said Turner (known to friends as JLT), "from Wyoming to Miami and all kinds of places in-between. But we didn't really know who we were. Our sound ranged from the Beatles to the Eagles, Steely Dan to Paul Rodgers. We had five lead singers, multiple record producers and promoters - each of whom had their own vision of our identity. It was bizarre."
"So one day I'm sitting in my apartment in New York, the phone rings and its this American guy from Long Island who says he's representing a British rock group. He starts asking me all kinds of questions, and I'm like 'what's the deal, are you from the IRS or something?' He finally tells me that he represents Ritchie Blackmore the guitar legend who founded Deep Purple and then founded and led the band Rainbow. I thought it was a joke until he said 'hold on, Ritchie wants to talk to you.' So Ritchie gets on the phone, English accent and all, and says, 'Hey mate, you want to audition for Rainbow?
"At this point it's 1980 and Graham Bonnett is Rainbow's lead singer, following in the footsteps of Ronnie James Dio," recalls Turner. "but, I tell Ritchie 'sure I'd like to audition.' So, from my apartment in Manhattan, with my guitar on my back - 'cause I was primarily a guitar player - I get on the train and head out to Syossett, Long Island. I remember I had a bad head cold, but my voice teacher always taught me to sing above a cold. In those days, I figured a voice teacher was a good thing since I was really known as more of a guitar player -- kind of like if you're going to be a carpenter you'd better have hammer."
"So here Ritchie Blackmore seems to be giving me that 'carpenter' opportunity to be lead vocalist for Rainbow - a band with some serious fans. I must have sung above the cold because I saw the studio guys erasing Graham's tracks, when Ritchie comes in with a Heineken and just says 'You want the gig?'
"The result... I had the time of my life. For almost four years we toured everywhere. We had the best legion of fans, with the Rainbows on the backs of their jackets and all. Commercially we were almost part of a dying breed…the album rockers.
Our albums always sold better than the singles. In '82 the single Stone Cold charted at 34 in the UK and 40 in the US, while the album it was on, Straight Between The Eyes, rose to Number 5 on the UK album charts and Number 30 on the US album charts.
Our follow-up album, Bent Out of Shape, led with the single Street of Dreams. That single reached the 52nd position on the UK charts and the 60th on the US charts, while the Bent Out of Shape album rose to 11 on the UK album charts and 34 on the US album charts."
"We recorded and played live until March of '84 when Ritchie was invited to rejoin what was basically the original line-up of Deep Purple. He basically folded Rainbow. I don't blame Ritchie for going back to Purple; there was a lot of money on the table," said JLT, referring to what is widely believed to be a $2 million guarantee paid to each of the original members to reform the legendary English group. "I went on and did some solo stuff and a lot of studio work for people as diverse as Michael Bolton and Billy Joel. Hey, I'd realized a dream with Rainbow."
Rock and roll fame wasn't over for Joe Lynn Turner with the break-up of Rainbow, however. Ritchie Blackmore re-entered JLT's life in 1989 when his reformed Deep Purple, sans Ian Gillan, was in search of another lead vocalist. "Terry Brach had been doing some of the vocals since Gillan left the band again," said Turner. "Then Ritchie called and invited me to come audition for the part. Even though I'd played with Ritchie and Roger Glover in Rainbow, the other guys were very sensitive that they didn't want this iteration of Deep Purple to become Deep Rainbow. I was Rainbow and definitely recognized as such. So, I'm sure there was some skepticism, but Ritchie gave it a shot."
"He said come on up to Vermont, where they were rehearsing. I remember driving 4 1/2 hours from New York to an empty ski lodge that smelled like stale beer, where the gear was set-up. It was almost surreal, just like Montreaux (the town, the lodge, the whole setting)... a few red lights and an old bar... basically a hole with a mobile unit. When your poor and unknown it's a hole, but it's eccentric when your famous and successful. Anyway, it's all about capturing the moment."
"To make a long story short, as I was walking in Ritchie started playing Hey Joe from Hendrix. I just took the mike and sang it, then we all kept jamming and I guess I was making up songs and lyrics as we went. It must have worked though... I got the gig."
"Of course, that started a four year run with an album and lots of tour dates, especially in Europe and Asia. I guess you could say for a guy from New Jersey I did OK. Deep Purple was figuratively and literally the pot at the end of my Rainbow... I've been fortunate to live two great rock and roll dreams, two great beginnings. Looking forward to what's next!"
Voices Of Classic Rock, Rockforever 2001