Wendy Dio and More Talk Ronnie James Dio Stand Up and Shout Guitar Auction
The Ronnie James Dio Stand Up and Shout Cancer Fund continues to find impressive ways to raise funds for cancer education and research, and is among the charities that will benefit from the 'Icons & Idols -- Rock 'n' Roll Auction' scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 1, at Julien's Auctions in Beverly Hills, Calif.
The extensive auction features guitars from Metallica, Foo Fighters, Pearl Jam and many more. In anticipation of the auction, Ronnie James Dio's widow and manager, Wendy Dio, and Stand Up and Shout Cancer Fund chairperson Gloria Butler (Geezer Butler's wife), spoke to us about the impressive contributions from the rock community to the guitar auction, as well as Stand Up and Shout's continued efforts.
Also, guitarist Bob Kulick, who performed with Dio and who also contributed one of the guitars in the auction, shared his thoughts on Ronnie James Dio and the guitar he most wanted to see in the auction.
Below are two separate interviews. The first is with Wendy Dio and Gloria Butler, followed by a Q&A with Bruce Kulick.
Wendy and Gloria, thanks for the time. Can you tell us what was the impetus for putting this great guitar collection together?
Gloria Butler: I think we were kind of brainstorming ways to raise money for the fund and we knew that Ronnie had so many not acquaintances, but really true dear friends in the business, that we knew everybody would step up, which they did.
GB: No Doubt!
WD: We've got Gwen Stefani, we've got Metallica, we've got Iron Maiden.
GB: Probably a quarter of these called us and said, 'Do you want our guitar?' It just kind of snowballed.
WD: It's been fabulous. The Cult [donated one], all these people. The Foo Fighters...
GB: They just turned up, and the cool thing is we were actually going to do this like three months after we started and we had like 20 guitars or something and they kept coming. It was like 'Stop.' It was like if we don't do it now, we're never going to do it.
It's amazing. You mentioned a lot of the people that have contributed their guitars for this and just looking at some of them -- the craft and skill that went into them is amazing. For each of you, if you want to talk about a favorite guitar that's in the collection and why it stands out?
WD: Well the Swarovski's crystal one is fabulous. It was done with love and it took 40 hours for them to make it, which I thought was amazing. That's the one with the hand [Dio's devil horns] [laughs]. The carved one that they did of Ronnie's face, that's fabulous too. Every one of them was sent with love, and we appreciate it so much, cause it allows us to raise money. We've raised a lot of money so far and the metal community has been amazing. We raised over $600,000 and what's really good about that is that we gave $117,000 of it to MD Anderson for stomach cancer. They had no grants at all for stomach cancer cause it was not the favorite cancer to have, and so with that $117,000, they were able to get 800,000 grants, which then turned into an $100 million grant, so we're very, very happy about that.
One of the ones out there that was really interesting -- and I believe there are three of them on display -- is the elephant painted guitars. What's the story behind that?
GB: That was very special. We went to Thailand and went to an elephant sanctuary and they had elephants that painted. They weren't made to paint, there was no … um, we're very animal friendly here, very animal correct, and everything was just natural. You'd hand the elephant the paintbrush and they would all of a sudden start painting, and someone would put up a picture of a flower and the elephant painted the flower. It was just unbelievable. Almost as unbelievable as the baby one almost knocking me and Wendy over. [laugh]
WD: Cause they were like 200 pounds charging us and chasing me with a hose. They took the hose that I was washing them [with] and ran off with it. But we actually got three guitars from there, which are great and 50 percent of the proceeds goes to our cancer fund and 50 percent goes to preservation of the elephants.
GB: So that's obviously only those three guitars, but everything else goes straight to [Stand Up and Shout].
I'm just wowed by the amount that you've collected. Have you already started seeing a response?
WD: A lot of the guitars are ready. People are bidding online already, and they've already exceeded what they said the maximum bid would be.
GB: It's exciting, it's really, really exciting.
And obviously, Stand Up and Shout has been great about raising funds for cancer research over the last few years.
WD: And education. That's the important thing.
GB: It's important to know too with this particular charity, not one penny goes on overhead. Not one penny goes anyplace except to the allocated like a TJ Martell or MD Anderson research centers.
WD: We have 14 board members that are fantastic. They work their butts off. We have lawyers that give their time for free. We have accountants that do all our books for free. We have staging people. We have trucking people. We have all kinds of people and they're all incredibly dedicated, incredibly dedicated. We don't even charge backup postage. [Laugh]
GB: So that's what makes this so special is that it really is one of the few charities that I know of these days that really do put the money where it's supposed to go.
WD: That's why put the charity and we give it to other people and we know where the money goes, we ask where the money goes. The money that went to TJ Martell went to Vanderbilt, and we actually went there and met with the researchers. So that's really good and you can know where the money is going and making sure that if you give $10, it's going to go where it's supposed to go, and it's not going in some fat cat's pocket.
Definitely wanted to ask as well about the label. 'Very Beast of Dio, Vol. 2' was released this past year … what's on the horizon at this point?
WD: Next year, I wanna do the full singles box and also on vinyl, and then there's a bunch of stuff that's been laying around that we might just put out. But talking about that, we have another thing for the cancer fund. We have our tribute record that will be coming out next year. Metallica has already finished theirs, Anthrax has finished theirs, Glenn Hughes has finished theirs, Rob Halford is getting ready to give it to us, and Alice Cooper, Iron Maiden -- Bruce Dickinson, Deep Purple, Scorpions …
GB: And this will be another, like the guitar auction, where a few will come in and all of a sudden there's more and more and it's like, 'OK. It's coming out and we've got to stop now.'
WD: Well we thought let's have all the classic rock bands for the CD, but we were hoping to have a double CD and have some of the younger bands that Ronnie was their idol. But we have things planned all the way through to, well, we want to raise $10 million. When we raise it, we want another $10 million. We need to find a cure for this horrible disease, we really really do.
In a separate interview, guitarist and longtime Ronnie James Dio friend, Bob Kulick, also spoke about his involvement with the Ronnie James Dio Stand Up and Shout Cancer Fund's guitar auction. The Q&A with Kulick follows:
How did you get involved with getting one of these guitars up?
Bob Kulick: Well, Ronnie was a dear friend of mine, and I'm still grieving his loss. He was a man short in height but gigantic in stature and this charity, you know, I had my own cancer scare this year, and fortunately I didn't have it and was okay, but other people that have this, they deserve all the help that they can get. So my brother and I decided that we would donate this guitar through SP, which is our endorser. I love their guitars and it's a really great guitar, and I hope it raises money to help people, as that's the aim of this charity.
You mentioned you had your own scare earlier this year, and Wendy Dio has stressed the importance of early detection...
BK: Yeah, you know sadly, I guess Ronnie waited too long. He recorded that last song, that song 'Electra' that he did. I remember now that he'd just leave his food in the refrigerator and he was barely eating and all that, and then after seeing what happened, even with the best of doctors, you know how insidious this disease is and now you can put a man on the moon and do all the things we can do with our cell phones and iPads and all this stuff, but there's gotta be a way right now how to stop this.
You mentioned Ronnie's last recording. Did you have any idea at the time the significance of what was going on?
BK: No one had any idea that anything was really wrong, but I can tell you this. I'm not a person that is easily intimidated, and somebody looks up my track record of the gigantic stars that I worked with, and I was very lucky that one of the last tours that Ronnie did, with Heaven and Hell, that Tony Iommi didn't want to rehearse and was still in the U.K. and Ronnie wanted to warm up and Wendy called me and said Ronnie wants you to play guitar for the rehearsal, just so he can warm up. I just didn't feel comfortable. I was like, 'Where's Craig Goldy? Where's Doug Aldrich?' She said, 'They're not around, and he's asking for you.' Well, it was an honor for me and I can tell you when I got up there and stood next to Ronnie Dio, I was intimidated. And when he started to sing, he didn't need any warm-up at all. And I can tell you when we did this Christmas record, with 50 people -- Dave Grohl, Lemmy … He was nice enough to give the money to charity. I've done a lot of compilation records, and I've never seen anyone give their money to charity, but he did, and I'll never forget that.
A lot of great guitars out there, and just looking around, I was wondering aside from the one you donated, do you have a favorite in the bunch?
BK: I'm gonna head back there in a minute and check out that Brian May guitar. That's one that you'll rarely if ever see. I've worked with Brian May once, and that's another person who is a totally unique wonderful person who just happened to have a gift beyond … almost like the Beatles' gift. He was that talented, and maybe that's sacrilegious to say, but Brian May is really, really, really an amazing musician and composer. So that prototype guitar he's got there, I'm looking forward to picking that up for a minute.
The 'Icons & Idols -- Rock 'n' Roll' auction will take place at 2PM PT Dec. 1 at Julien's Auctions in Beverly Hills. For further info, check here.
Ronnie James Dio crystal guitar
Ronnie James Dio carved guitar
Foo Fighters guitar
Pearl Jam guitar