Ritchie Blackmore, the writer of the famous rock-riff-starter-kit song, "Smoke on the Water", began playing guitar at eleven years of age. Initially, he took classical guitar lessons and at the age 15, dropped out of high school to work for a radio station as a radio mechanic. There, he met his second guitar instructor. It was Big Jim Sullivan who took Ritchie under his wing and showed him the art of guitar.
In the early 1960's, Ritchie was already being used in bands such as "Heinz" and "The Outlaws". However, it was Joe Meek that kept him in the studio as a session guitarist. Ritchie was able to gain a vast amount of experience, as well as, meet a few connections along the way. Working for Meek he got to know Derek Lawrence, who in 1968 produced Deep Purple's first album.
The group started out with the name, "Roundabout", but would soon change it to Deep Purple. Not only was the name changed, but the vocalist, bassist, and drummer were changed too. The band was named after his grandmother's favorite song and together they produced three albums. After that third album some band members were once again replaced, making the band as we know the "classic" lineup to be today, with Ian Paice, Ian Gillan, Roger Glover, Jon Lord, and Ritchie Blackmore. The band then took a turn, musically, in their genre, putting out the album "In Rock". Deep Purple was on their way to becoming one of the greatest hard rock bands of that era. They put 4 albums out and it wasn't untill 1973, after they released "Who Do We Think We Are", that Ian Gillan and Roger Glover left the band. After their departure, Deep Purple brought in Trapeze bassist Glenn Hughes and unknown singer David Coverdale and recorded the album "Burn". Blackmore publicly denounced their next record, "Stormbringer", saying that he did not like the direction of the more funk and soul elements being added by band members Hughes and Coverdale. Shortly after, Blackmore left the band to form Rainbow.
Ritchie Blackmore's Destruction at the California Jam 1974
Rainbow got their start with album "Ritchie Blackmores Rainbow" in 1975. With Ronnie James Dio as the front man, the album did well with Blackmore's classical guitar sound. Rainbow, with Dio, put only three albums out before Ritchie Blackmore decided to take the band in a different direction. This, in turn, caused Dio to leave the group. Rainbow produced four more albums until it was announced in 1984 that Deep Purple original members were reforming.
Rainbow - "Man on the Silver Mountain" w/ Dio
Deep Purple's come back album hit the stores in October of 1984. The band followed up the release with a worldwide tour and became the highest grossing group tour of 1985 . In 1987, the band recorded "The House of Blue Light" and for the bands twentieth year together they released a live album, entitled "Nobody's Perfect". It was only a year later, Blackmore fired Ian Gillan and replaced him with vocalist Joe Lynn Turner. Together, they only produced one un-succesful album and at the insistence of band members, Blackmore relented and asked Ian Gillan to return, in 1993. "The Battle Rages On" was the album that marked Ian's comeback, though the band was successful with the album, however, during the tour Ritchie quit the band for the last time. Blackmore assumed that Deep Purple could not continue without him, but all was not lost. Guitarist Joe Satriani filled in for the rest of the tour and was later asked to join the band, which he turned down because of his current record contract obligations. However, Deep Purple added guitarist Steve Howe and has continued on since then.
Ritchie Blackmore w/ Doogie White
Ritchie then picked up were he left off with Rainbow. A new singer was found (Doogie White) and they recorded the album "Strangers In All of us". The recording failed to do well, in the market, and the band was over only a year later. Blackmore then went on to form the band Blackmore's Night along with his future wife, Candice Night, and together they produced a gold record in Japan in 1997. Since then he has not played with Deep Purple, nor Rainbow.