David Lee Roth on Van Halen’s 1978 tour with Black Sabbath: ‘He passed out deader than fried chicken’

Share this:

Van Halen was in the midst of an early gig opening for Black Sabbath when the tour hit Nashville, Tennessee on November 16, 1978. Then, David Lee Roth says, something very funny happened.

He had been up with frontman Ozzy Osbourne until 9 in the morning, partying even as Black Sabbath’s Never Say Die tour continued forward. “The road manager showed up and says: ‘It’s time to get on the airplane,'” Roth tells Jim Florentine. “So we both head off to the airport, not having slept the night before. Then we check into a hotel in the next city that’s identical from the night before.”

As was typical, Roth got his key from the manager and headed up to his room to sleep off the night before. “But Ozzy didn’t do that,” Roth continues. “He disappeared — and he missed the show that night. The guys came back stage and said: ‘What did you do to Ozzy? Where’s Ozzy?’ I have no idea where Ozzy is.”

The situation — as humorous as it seems now — began to get very serious, very quickly. “The FBI showed up, and the police showed up, and the news showed up,” Roth says, “and they were in that fucking hotel until the next morning at about 6:30. The lobby is full of people — and Ozzy Osbourne comes walking out of the elevator.”

Osbourne had been in the hotel at Nashville the whole time, even as Van Halen was forced to play without the headliner that night.

“This dumb knucklehead had not gotten a new key,” Roth says, still bemused over the story some 35 years later. “He had pulled the key out of his pocket from the night before! It’s an identical hotel. So he goes up to Room 615, which was his room number from the night before, and there happened to be maid in there cleaning out the room. So, he threw her out of the room, and passed out deader than fried chicken. Deader than Elvis! He’d slept from four in the afternoon until 6:30 the next morning. Nobody knew where he was, because he was in the wrong room.”

The tour, which would be Osbourne’s last with Black Sabbath until a partial reunion last year, ended up having to circle back around to Nashville on November 19, 1978 for a makeup show.

Share this:
Close