In a new interview with Rock Titan TV, singer Ron Keel once again spoke about the time he nearly joined BLACK SABBATH in 1984 while the legendary heavy metal act was looking for a replacement for Ian Gillan.
“For the longest time, I didn’t mention it until some books and web sites — the Internet — came along and people were mentioning it online in the late ’90s,” he said (see video below). “And a couple of books came out where I was included in the history of BLACK SABBATH. And I thought, ‘Well, they’re talking about it,’ and I started getting questions about it in every interview. So I started addressing it, told the story in my own words many times over. But the coolest thing about it is that I finally got to sing those songs with some members and former members of BLACK SABBATH on a new project called EMERALD SABBATH. It’s a tribute record featuring all the alumni — all the ex-members of SABBATH. Dave Walker is on the record, Vinny Appice. Rudy Sarzo played bass on ‘Die Young’ on this record I did. I actually did three songs on the record — ‘Hole In The Sky’, an Ozzy [Osbourne] track; and ‘Trashed’, an Ian Gillan song from ‘Born Again’; and I got to cover Ronnie James Dio with ‘Die Young’. So to be able to cover all three of those iconic BLACK SABBATH singers with some of the players — Vinny Appice did the original ‘Heaven And Hell’ album. So it was an amazing experience for me.”
Ron went on to say that there is a tentative plan for his solo band to perform some of the BLACK SABBATH classics on tour next year, once the coronavirus pandemic has subsided.
“We already do some BLACK SABBATH in the show — there’s a little BLACK SABBATH segment in the RON KEEL BAND show on occasion when the time is right,” he said. “Not every gig, but especially at the rock club gigs where I know the fans are gonna get off on that, we’ll throw some BLACK SABBATH into the show. And maybe next year a full-on KEEL SABBATH — is what I’m calling it — where we’ll do the entire song list that Tony Iommi [SABBATH guitarist] gave me in 1984. Tony gave me a song list and said, ‘Learn these. This is the show for the new tour.’ And I still have a cassette tape that I made of those songs in order. I know the opening song was ‘Neon Knights’. So I’d like to do that, just for the challenge of it, the fun of it. And the fact that I think the fans would get off on it. I know I would dig it. You do the whole BLACK SABBATH tribute show and then finish off with some KEEL, STEELER, RON KEEL BAND songs for the big finale. That could very well happen in 2021, if anything happens in 2021.
This past May, Keel told Canada’s The Metal Voice that being considered for the lead singer position in SABBATH was “an amazing experience. I was in the studio recording the KEEL demos, at Pasha Studios, where [producer] Spencer Proffer had recorded the QUIET RIOT ‘Metal Health’ album. And Spencer was the hot hand in Hollywood at the time — he was the guy — and he had signed on to produce the new SABBATH album after Ian Gillan left. Spencer had chosen me for the vocal position in SABBATH, and we cut a demo of some songs, and Tony and Geezer [Butler, SABBATH bassist] heard it. I signed a contract. I met with their management. I spent days with Tony and Geezer.
“Spencer Proffer, for whatever reason — ego, probably — was trying to turn BLACK SABBATH into an ’80s ‘hair’ band, trying to push outside songs on them and make them into an MTV-type [band],” Ron revealed. “That’s not SABBATH, man — SABBATH is who they are. They are the iconic founding fathers of heavy metal. You don’t take SABBATH and turn them into an ’80s ‘hair’ band like RATT or MÖTLEY CRÜE. Spencer was trying to do that at the time — not necessarily with me and my voice and my presence in the band, ’cause I think I would have been a good fit. And you can hear that on the tracks for the new EMERALD SABBATH album, which we just released, featuring former members of SABBATH coming together to create a BLACK SABBATH tribute record. And I was very fortunate that I was able to sing three songs on the record: an Ozzy [Osbourne] song, ‘Hole In The Sky’; an Ian Gillan song, ‘Trashed’, off ‘Born Again’; and I got to sing ‘Die Young’, the Ronnie James Dio classic from ‘Heaven And Hell’. So I got to cover each one of those vocalists with guys like Rudy Sarzo on bass and Vinny Appice on bass.
“So, for me, the BLACK SABBATH story is never gonna be over; I get to talk about it in every interview, and I get to sing these iconic songs with some of the guys that are part of that SABBATH history,” he added.
“My time with the band was very short. I am very thankful that KEEL survived that, ’cause that was right when we first put KEEL together, and I had to tell the guys in the band, ‘Guys, I’m joining SABBATH, and I can’t turn this opportunity down. This is the chance of a lifetime.’ And the guys in my band understood it. We thought that April 7th, 1984 was gonna be our first and last show. But the deal fell apart. Spencer Proffer was fired. BLACK SABBATH said, ‘Screw you. We’re not having any of this. We’re gonna do what SABBATH does.’ And I got caught in the crossfire, ’cause Spencer was the guy who got me the gig. He was the producer of the project, and when he got fired, I got caught in the crossfire.”
In his 2011 memoir, “Iron Man: My Journey Through Heaven And Hell With Black Sabbath”, Iommi stated about Keel: “Ron actually did have a career [after he auditioned for SABBATH], because he’s a good singer as well. He just wasn’t what we were looking for at the time.”