Wendy Dio Talks 3rd Annual Ride for Ronnie, Importance of Early Cancer Detection + Dio Disciples Plans
The Ride for Ronnie motorcycle ride and concert has become a favorite event on the rock and metal calendar in recent years. Launched on the weekend of the fifth anniversary of Ronnie James Dio's death, the event annually delivers a great time starting with a gathering at the Harley Davidson lot in Glendale, Calif. and continues with a ride over to Los Encinos Park in Encino, Calif. where a number of acts perform throughout the afternoon, helping to keep the music of Ronnie James Dio alive while also raising funds for the Ronnie James Dio Stand Up and Shout Cancer Fund.
This year's event takes place this Sunday (May 7) and we had a chance to speak with Wendy Dio about the event, now in its third year, and some of the good that has come from the Ride for Ronnie. She also offered an update on the Dio Disciples' new music and touring plans and spoke about the continued efforts in helping to fund cancer research. Check out the chat below.
We’ll start with something fun. One of my favorite memories from the first Ride for Ronnie was seeing the bikers pull into Los Encinos park and there you were styling with your pink jacket and custom matching helmet. Can you tell me about coming up with your look for your first biking experience?
Well, I’m a girly girl. And so I just thought that I’d never been on a bike before and this is my first time and I’m not really a biker type, but you know what, let’s get into it. So I ordered pink Harley leather jacket and a pink Harley helmet, and then my sister got one. And then Lita Ford got red and she has a red leather Harley jacket and a red helmet.
Awesome. You’ve done this event for a couple of years now. This will be the third year. What have you most enjoyed the most about the motorcycle part of this experience?
Well, first of all, Ronnie had a lot of bikers that came to his concerts, so we wanted to do something for them. So it would be a fun thing and we’d have entertainment for them as well as everyone else. And that’s how we came up with the idea and of course Harley Davidson came on board from Glendale and became one of our sponsors and they’ve been absolutely fantastic for us. And everyone kind of threw into it. Our whole board thought this was great and decided let’s just do this. We did it the first year and it was great so we’ve continued. It seemed like fun and it’s keeping Ronnie’s memory and music alive and it’s raising money for cancer research and education.
Sunday mornings in L.A., the traffic is not nearly as bad. That’s a nice drive from Glendale to Encino and like you said, you had never been on a motorcycle before …
No, and I was terrified that first year. Last year I really enjoyed it and I’m looking forward to it this year. I always ride with Big Scott, who was Ronnie’s production manager and his very close friend. He’s 6’5” and he would never let anything happen to me. So it’s fun and Lita Ford rides with us every year, my sister rides with us every year and a whole bunch of us ride. We’ve got some great celebrities this year riding and it’s just worked out that we would start to do it every year and it would be an annual event.
I’ve always thought it was cool that you’ve had participation from some of the actors from Sons of Anarchy taking part.
Yeah, absolutely. They’re great fans of Ronnie’s and Sean McNabb, who was on the show and he’s actually on our board of directors and he was a good friend of Ronnie, and he brings those people in for the ride and we’re very lucky to have them.
Getting into the concert stuff and you mentioned Sean. We’ve got Lynch Mob getting a chance to play this year. Can you talk about having the amazing George Lynch and his band on board?
Well George was always a friend of Ronnie’s and they played together when George was in Dokken. They toured many times together. And Oni Logan has been a good friend of Ronnie’s and he was his little protégé and we’ve worked with Oni quite a few times.
Also, we’ve got Rough Cutt coming this year, who just recently reformed. They were a band from the ‘80s that Ronnie produced and that was the first band I actually ever managed. So they’ve reformed and asked me to manage them and I said, ‘Well, I guess I couldn’t refuse.’
And of course we’ve got Dio Disciples, they are members of Ronnie’s band that he toured with for 17 years. And we’ve got Eddie Money who is a great friend of Ronnie’s. We’ve got Loveless, which is a Harley Davidson band. They’re great friends and great guys. We’ve got Sonia Harley, who we’ve had for the last two years and she’s great. We really love her. And then we have a band called No Small Children, which is three young ladies and they will surprise you. They are really fun.
And of course, Eddie Trunk has always been there to support us. He is our host again this year. And we will have a surprise. Steven Adler is getting a surprise band of celebrities together and they’ll be doing some Guns N’ Roses songs, but we probably won’t know that until closer to time to say who the lineup is. [Editor's Note: It has since been revealed that Whitesnake's Mike Devin, Lita Ford, Hurricane's Robert Sarzo, Quiet Riot's Alex Grossi, Budderside's Patrick Stone and Foreigner's Jeff Pilson will join Adler's all-star jam playing Guns N' Roses songs]
Very good. I was going to ask about Steven Adler …
Yep, he came in at the last minute, and we were like, “Yes, we can make room for you. Most definitely.”
What does it mean to have Steven be part of this as well and how excited are you to see what he puts together?
We’re very excited to see him and see the stars he’s pulling together and we’re very excited to know what songs he’s going to do. I’m sure he’ll probably do ‘Jungle’ and ‘Sweet Child o’ Mine,’ but we’ll see what he’s doing. I’m not quite sure yet. But he was a great supporter and friend of Ronnie’s and he’s been an absolute doll.
I remember Eddie Money playing the first Ride for Ronnie as well, and because he’s from a different genre, people might not have made the connection to Ronnie but they’ve been longtime friends. Can you talk about their friendship?
Oh, they go back many many years. I think they met at some concert they were both on, some festival bill and became good friends. And actually his wife Laurie calls me, and we knew the children and Eddie has been a great supporter of the cause. He’s always on board. Last year he couldn’t do it because he was actually playing a show out of town, but he actually changed his schedule around to be on our show this year which was really great of him. He will play with his kids, which is fantastic. They’re all musicians and all very talented.
You mentioned Dio Disciples earlier. I wanted to ask because I know they started working on some original music last year. I was just curious what you’ve heard and if there’s anything you can share.
I have heard a couple of songs which they’re working on which are really, really good and they should have a demo for me. They promised they’d have it to me by the end of this month. So we’ll see what we can do with that.
And of course we’re working on the hologram, which we’re working on now in the middle of all this. We’ve got a new one with six songs of Ronnie and we’re hoping to tour that later in the year on into next year. That’s something I think Ronnie would approve of. He was always fascinated by Disneyland and the holograms there and we actually in 1986 tried to make a hologram. If you remember on the ‘Sacred Heart’ tour, we had a crystal ball with a projection that had Ronnie’s head in it talking in the crystal ball. He was an innovator in music, so why not be an innovator in technology. It’s all very new and there’s naysayers and there’s goodsayers, but we’ll see what happens.
During the concert event, we also have live auctions and silent auctions. What might we be looking for as some of the top items available?
Oh yes, we have some great things! Eddie Money has graciously given us his full length leather trench coat he wore on his Millennium Tour. We have that and we have a Great White acoustic signed guitar. We have a lot of wine tasting tickets. We have tickets to Slayer. We have tickets to Yes. We have a big bundle of Black Sabbath stuff. We’ve got restaurant things and all kinds of stuff. And the raffle is only a dollar. It’s a dollar a shot and there’s some great, great items on there.
Last year was saliva testing for early detection of cancer. I think that’s part of where the funds are going again this year. The Ronnie James Dio Stand Up and Shout Cancer Fund has been very good at putting monies into various research projects. Can you talk about your work with Dr. David Wong?
Yes, he’s developing a saliva test which will be really great because a lot of men … You know women are often good to go and get tested, but men, you’ve got to drag ‘em there and they don’t like the way they have to test if you know what I mean. This would make it much easier for them. They would just take a swab from their mouth and as we say, early detection saves lives. We’ll be presenting Dr. Wong with another check for $25,000 at the event and we’re very excited about his research. It’s coming a long long way. We’re talking gastric cancer, colon cancer, some prostate cancer and pancreatic cancer. There’s not a lot of money being spent on research for them and we’re trying to push that to get more people into it because more and more people are getting these cancers.
The Ronnie James Dio Stand Up and Shout Cancer Fund has done great work, putting funding in a number of places. Can you talk about where some of the funding has gone?
Yeah, I think we’ve given around $400,000 to MD Anderson, where Ronnie was treated. We’ve given money to Vanderbilt in Nashville, TJ Martell we continue to give money to. We’ve given them must be around a half a million dollars. And we continue to help out with the wine tasting that they do. We buy a table every year. And we continue to help anywhere we can with research and education. We just want to get rid of this horrible disease that seems to be taking so many people.
And for fans of Ronnie and the work of the Stand Up and Shout Cancer Fund, it’s not only the events where you can contribute. How can people donate and learn more?
Yes, if you want to donate or learn more about our events, it’s diocancerfund.org. We have the bowling event going on every year now. We do the Bowl for Ronnie, which is in October and the Ride for Ronnie. We do those two events per year and in between we do smaller events. Plus, we sell t-shirts and there’s different merchandise on the site with all the money going to research for the cancer fund. Whatever we can do to raise money for cancer research, we will do. We do smaller things throughout the year, but our two main events are the bowling and the ride. And we’ll have meet and greets there so everyone can come and get autographs from their favorite celebrities and we’ll be on hand to welcome you and thank everyone for their support for this great cause and for keeping Ronnie’s memory and music alive.
Our thanks to Wendy Dio for the interview. If you're in or traveling to the Los Angeles area this weekend, be sure to check into tickets for this great event taking place on Sunday (May 7). You can do so at this location. And for those unable to attend, but who would like to learn more about the Ronnie James Dio Stand Up and Shout Cancer Fund and how to donate, check here.
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