How Joe Lynn Turner Nearly Missed Out on Rainbow Gig
His band Fandango had recently split up and he was running out of money when he answered the phone in 1980. In a new interview with Rolling Stone he discussed how quickly his career turned around, and how he found himself put to work writing songs less than an hour after he'd met Ritchie Blackmore.
"One day, I get a call. It's a guy named Barry. I later found out it was Barry Ambrosio," Turner said. "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 [assistant]. He's standing right here and wants to talk to you.'"
Blackmore came on the line. "'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.'"
The call led to Turner taking a trip to Long Island to meet Blackmore and bassist Roger Glover in a studio for an audition. "I was anxious, but I needed a gig, so I was really more concentrated on, 'I want this job,'" the vocalist said. "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."
Watch the Music Video for Rainbow's 'I Surrender'
Determined to give it everything he had, Turner did his best when the band "started throwing tracks" at him. "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 [its writer] 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."
Turner said the audition ran around 30 or 45 minutes before he saw the other musicians nodding to each other. "Ritchie comes in with two beers. He hands me one and says, 'You have the job if you want it.' I go, 'Want it? I need it.' … Now I'm starting to get nervous. I say, 'Look, I'll go back to the city, grab some clothes, and come back.' He goes, 'Oh, no you won't...You're going to stay right here. We're going to check you into a hotel with Roger. You're going to start writing these songs. If you need anything like jeans, T-shirts, we'll buy them for you.' And that was it. I never went back!"