Perched on the back of a thunderous Harley-Davidson during the annual Ride for Ronnie event, sporting a bright pink leather jacket and matching helmet, Wendy Dio, widow of heavy metal legend Ronnie James Dio, is easy to pick out.
She’s also a beloved figure and, since her husband died from stomach cancer in 2010, the heavy metal and hard rock community has rallied around to help her with any of her endeavors. Arguably most importantly, that support has arrived in the form of stepping up to help with the Ride for Ronnie events, which raise money for the Ronnie James Dio Stand Up and Shout Cancer Fund. The fourth ride takes place this weekend.
“It starts at Glendale Harley, then we feed the riders breakfast, and then they kick stands off around 10:30 a.m.,” Wendy Dio says. “They ride to Los Encinos State Historic Park in Encino. The music and the entertainment starts there. You can ride, be a passenger like me, or you can just show up for the entertainment.”
Ronnie James Dio didn’t ride motorcycles himself, but his epic, anthemic approach to metal made him a hit with bikers worldwide, many of whom will step up to help Wendy in the blink of an eye and, in turn, raise some money for a good cause. Last year's ride pulled in $40,000, but Wendy is hoping for $50,000 this time. She’s certainly assembled an impressive lineup of entertainment to greet the riders when they reach the finish line.
“We’ve got Steven Adler’s All-Star Band, and he doesn’t usually tell us who he’s got until the last minute,” Wendy says. “I know he’ll have some great players. We’ve got Dio Disciples, Ronnie’s band that he played with for the last 17 years — Simon Wright, Craig Goldy and Scott Warren, and then we’ve added Bjorn Englen on bass, Tim 'Ripper' Owens [Judas Priest] on vocals and Oni Logan [Lynch Mob] on vocals. That’ll be really fun. They just got a record deal, so we’re really happy about that. We’ve got Beasto Blanco, which is Alice Cooper’s daughter, and Chuck Garric, Alice’s bass player. We’ve also got Slash’s son’s band, Classless Act.”
Former Guns N’ Roses drummer Adler has been involved with the event for the last few years, and this will be his second full band performance.
“It’s a great afternoon,” Adler says. “There’s rides, food trucks, rock stars, great music, and I’ll be there. It’s a lot of fun for a great cause. I’ll do anything for Wendy Dio. Whatever we can do to help, I want to be a part of it and I’m grateful that I get to do that.”
Adler says that, when he was battling his addiction, Ronnie James Dio was a source of constant support.
“He was there for me quite a few times,” he says. “I just hate that, because of this stupid fucking disease, he’s not around to see how great I am doing now, and how happy I am. We have to do whatever we can. This has to stop. I'm glad to help. I’ll do some GNR songs and we’ll have a good time. It’s gonna be the best weekend of the year, besides the Super Bowl. Everybody will be surprised.”
There’s also a Lynyrd Skynyrd tribute band, and a Skynyrd signed guitar from the real band that will go to live auction. Robbie Crane and Ricky Warwick from Black Star Riders, Ira Black (Dokken, Lizzy Borden, etc), and Joe Retta (Sweet) will be guesting, as will Ronnie’s cousin David "Rock" Feinstein (The Rods). And the lady in charge of it all is promising a fun, family day. Unlike recent Dio Disciples shows, though, there will be no Ronnie hologram onstage.
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“We’re working on a new one,” Wendy says. “More exciting. That’ll probably come to America in 2019.”
The day isn’t about holograms or tribute bands singing “Freebird,” or even old friends catching up. This event is about raising awareness and making money for cancer research and prevention.
“The money goes directly into the Ronnie James Dio Stand Up and Shout Cancer Research Fund,” Wendy says. “We have no administration costs whatsoever and a fantastic board. There’s not a lot of funding that goes into research for men’s cancer. Men are very bad about getting checked. We raise as much as we can so that we can one day get rid of this horrible disease that kills so many of our people. Everybody seems to know somebody who had cancer recently.”
The Ride for Ronnie begins at about 10:30 a.m. at Harley-Davidson Glendale, with the ride ending at Los Encinos State Historic Park in Encino. The entertainment will take place in Encino.