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Ugly Kid Joe's Whitfield Crane: "I wanted to be in Ozzy Osbourne's shadow so much"

Ugly Kid Joe/Ozzy Osbourne
(Image credit: Paul Natkin/Getty Images)

Whitfield Crane was just a heavy metal loving kid from California when his band Ugly Kid Joe were invited to play an all-star tribute night to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the death of Ozzy Osbourne guitarist Randy Rhoads. Ugly Kid Joe's EP Ugly As They Wanna Be had generated industry interest in the band, but they were still six months away from releasing their debut album America's Least Wanted, the monster single Everything About You ultimately bagging them a No. 3 placement in the UK singles charts. 

Ozzy himself already spied their potential however and thusly invited Ugly Kid Joe to join the upcoming No More Tours world tour, alongside Motorhead. For Crane - a self-professed fanatic for both bands - it was a dream come true. Hammer spoke to the singer to get his recollections from the tour...  

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Where were things at for Ugly Kid Joe in 1992?

"We were just kids really, I’d never even left California. Our first big gig was to around 22,000 people on March 26th 1991 when we played the Randy Rhoads tribute show. That show was the doorway to getting on the Ozzy Osbourne tour and it was us at Irvine Meadows opening up for Motorhead and Ozzy. That’s when I first met Lem – he was so great – and also Ozzy. I grew up idolising that guy so it was so cool, especially because we were used to these little clubs and hadn’t played to any big rooms like that.

We played that show and everything started rolling – it was beyond us, because this was a time where MTV were playing videos so you could get out to people and sell a shit-tonne of records. The label threw in for us so we could start making America’s Least Wanted and somewhere in the making of that we ended up on the Ozzy tour. In interviews at the time Klaus [Eichstadt, guitar] and I would just talk about Ozzy all the time, like ‘Ozzy rules!’ because we were kids and that was that. Ozzy gave us that tour and during that, we released America’s Least Wanted. That tour was the highlight of our lives, even to this day. We were a very green band and hadn’t got fully good as yet, but just like any band if you put them in front of a crowd, they’ll get there. So that’s what we did, full of piss and vinegar.” 

What are your memories of meeting Ozzy?

“I first met him at the Randy Rhoads tribute show when I got to give him a high five and a quick hug. On the tour-tour, I would go hang out with him and sit in his dressing room. I wanted to be in that dude’s shadow so much. He’s a hero – he’s everybody’s hero! I just wanted to be near him and I’d even go out and sing soundcheck with the band. Ozzy is a funny dude, though. It was a dry tour because he needed to stay sober, so we were drinking a shit-tonne of beer on the down-low, worried that we’d get kicked off the tour for such behaviour. But then Ozzy sent two cases of beer to our room! We thought it was a trick, but he was happy so long as we kept it back in the rooms. We were so excited when we got off-stage because we were inside our dream matrix – I grew up with posters on the wall of Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hedrix and Black Sabbath, those guys were my heroes and father figures and suddenly there we were in those posters!"

What did you get up to backstage?

“We’d come offstage so excited because a crowd kicked ass, and there’d be this knocking at the door – ‘kah-kah-KAH!’ Every time it was, ‘Uh-oh, it’s him again’, and there he’d be, Ozzy Osbourne in his stage clothes and black eyeliner, like, ‘Let me in!’ And we were like, ‘No!’ because he loved to come in and drop these little glass vials with really pungent, disgusting stink bombs and then run out cackling while we had to stay there all night! We hated it, but come on… we loved it. We really connected with them all on that tour though, Sharon and the kids – there’s actually a video of me and Jack in one of our dressing rooms.”

How did you react when you heard you were going on tour with Ozzy and Motörhead?

“I remember distinctly being told we were up for the Ozzy tour and wanting it more than anything else I’d ever wanted in my life. Ozzy Osbourne, Motörhead… Ugly Kid Joe? When we got it, we jumped up and down like those people you see in awards shows, in some shitty hotel in Houston or whatever. We were living in a motorhome at that point! All of a sudden, we were hearing through the grapevine that we could get a tour bus. We’d seen one from outside but never been in, so we walked in and it was like, ‘No fucking way’ – these 23-year-olds on tour with Ozzy Osbourne.”

What do you think of the No More Tears record?

“Do you ever get those smells that just take you back to a certain place and time? Coffee, or pancakes, or anything like that… I believe music is just like that. If I put on Diary of a Madman or Highway To Hell or Electric Lady Land, I’m so invested in those albums that I am 14 again whenever I hear them. No More Tears is a cool album; I mean come on, Lemmy wrote the lyrics to songs like Mama I’m Coming Home and Hellraiser! But it also reminds me of the greatest time in my life and being with Duffy - one of the biggest loves of my life. It was an incredibly freeing time.”

Are there any shows that stand out to you as being particularly important? 

“The first show. It became this weird thing where I became Zakk [Wylde]’s beer-tech. This young, handsome shredding badass and I basically wanted to be in the Ozzy band so much I was in the shadows whenever he played! We were drinking beers together and I agreed that during the first quarter of a show I’d put beers near to where he played so he’d always have a drink. We were on tour with Motorhead too – both Lemmy and Ozzy took me under their wing and just that, as a kid it was like ‘what am I involved in?’ I love those bands so much to this day that I was never scared to be near them.”

A Digital Deluxe Edition of No More Tears is out now via Sony. Vinyl is available at: HTTPS://OZZYOSBOURNE.LNK. TO/NMTVINYL.

Ozzy is scheduled to tour the UK in May/June 2023


Rich Hobson

Writer for Metal Hammer, Classic Rock and Louder, Rich has never met a feature he didn't fancy, which is just as well when it comes to covering everything rock, punk and metal for both print and online. Passionate about seeing the spread of metal on a global scale, Rich has spent the last decade seeking out emerging acts from around the world, covering everyone from Alien Weaponry and The Hu to Kaoteon, Nine Treasures and Jinjer, whilst also re-examining rock and metal history with bands like Faith No More, Sepultura and Ozzy Osbourne, alongside legendary events like Rock in Rio and the 1991 Clash Of The Titans tour.