Former Gillan and Ozzy Osbourne guitarist Bernie Tormé passed away on Sunday, 17 March at the age of 66.
The news of the Irish-born guitarist’s death was broken via his official Facebook page via a simple message: “Bernie Tormey 18.3.1952 – 17.3.2019”
The news was confirmed in a statement from Tormé’s family, who said, “Bernie Tormé passed away peacefully on the 17th March 2019, one day short of his 67th birthday, surrounded by his family. He had been on life support for the past four weeks at a London hospital following post-flu complications.
“Bernie will be remembered for dedicating his life to his music for five decades. He will be sorely missed.”
Bernie’s bandmate Mik Gaffney added, “On a personal note, I can only say how much I will miss him. I’ve known him since the late 80’s. It’s been a privilege to be his drummer for the past couple of years and his friend for much longer. It’s a struggle to convey the emotion into words.”
The news comes little more a month since the guitarist was admitted to hospital suffering from virulent pneumonia in both lungs.
Tormé is widely renowned for stepping in and saving the day for Ozzy when Randy Rhoads tragically died. Osbourne and Torme hadn’t seen each other since the early ’80s (after the latter left the band) before reconnecting last summer at the Sweden Rock Festival.
A young Zakk Wylde witnessed Torme playing with Ozzy Osbourne at Madison Square Garden in New York City on the one of the very few dates Torme did with Ozzy. Zakk called Bernie “his hero” and insisted on a selfie when they met at Sweden Rock.
Ozzy Osbourne told Rolling Stone about meeting up with Torme at Sweden Rock: “I haven’t seen him for a f_king thousand years. Someone told me he was outside my dressing room. I went, ‘No.’ He said, ‘I’ll never forget the time I played with you, Ozzy. It was a lot of fun.’ I couldn’t remember what he looks like. It had been that long.”
Tormé was born as Bernard Tormey in Dublin in 1952, where he learned to play guitar. In 1974 he moved to London, joining bassist John McCoy in heavy rockers Scrapyard.
After forming the Bernie Tormé Band two years later, he re-joined McCoy as a member of former Deep Purple singer Ian Gillan’s new solo project, playing on four Gillan albums: Mr. Universe, Glory Road, Future Shock and Double Trouble.
In 1981 Tormé left Gillan, and joined Atomic Rooster as a session guitarist. The following year briefly joined Ozzy Osbourne’s band, stepping in for Randy Rhoads in the aftermath of the guitarist’s tragic death. Ozzy Osbourne told Total Guitar that if it wasn’t for Bernie Tormé he “might never have got back on a stage”.
He then formed Bernie Tormé And The Electric Gypsies, and in 1988 joined Desperado, the band formed by Dee Snider after Twisted Sister were disbanded, playing on their only album, Bloodied, but Unbowed.
He later reunited with ex-Gillan colleague, John McCoy and drummer Robin Guy in GMT, and returned to solo work in 2013, releasing three acclaimed albums; Flowers & Dirt (2014), Blackheart (2015) and the 3CD set Dublin Cowboy. All three were successfully crowd-funded releases.
Last November, Tormé released a double album called Shadowland. Recorded last year at Barnroom Studios, the disc was the first release from the guitarist’s new trio. The album also featured a guest appearance from Bernie’s former Gillan bandmate Colin Towns.