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Ronnie James Dio: The Early Years

Before Ronnie James Dio came to prominence in Rainbow, he had already paid his dues – in spades. But as a bequiffed crooner in the 1950s he had yet to find his niche.

By the time Ronnie James was fronting Elf in the early 1970s he'd already had a lengthy career, as he searched for the right musical direction.

“We tried everything with Ronnie,” recalls Jim Pantas, who managed Dio from 1958 until ’72. “But nothing worked till he found a niche with heavy rock.”

In 1958 Pantas had become involved with the band known as Ronnie & The Red Caps. They’d started the previous year as The Vegas Kings, before briefly becoming Ronnie & The Rumblers, with Dio on vocals and bass. “In June 1958 I was sent to hospital with an overactive thyroid,” Pantas explains. “My brother Nick was 16 at the time, a year younger than me, and the guitarist in this band. He asked me to manage them. When I asked what a manager did he replied: ‘If I fucking knew, then I wouldn’t be asking you!’”

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