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Don Airey

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Don Airey

Don Airey
Don Airey performing with Deep Purple in 2005
Background information
Birth name Donald Smith Airey
Born (1948-06-21) 21 June 1948
Sunderland, England
Genres Rock, hard rock, heavy metal, blues rock, progressive rock, jazz fusion
Occupation(s) Musician, songwriter
Instruments Keyboards, vocals
Years active 1969–present
Associated acts Deep Purple, Rainbow, Ozzy Osbourne, Black Sabbath, Electric Light Orchestra, Gary Moore, Glenn Tipton, Judas Priest, Wishbone Ash, Whitesnake, Ten, Jethro Tull, Hollywood Monsters,Divlje jagode
External video Oral History, Don Airey reflects on his first keyboards. Interview date September 29, 2014, NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) Oral History Library]

Donald Smith "Don" Airey (born 21 June 1948 in Sunderland, England) has been the keyboardist in the rock band Deep Purple since 2002, succeeding Jon Lord. He has had a long and productive career, playing with such acts as Gary Moore, Ozzy Osbourne, Judas Priest, Black Sabbath, Jethro Tull, Whitesnake, Saxon, Wishbone Ash, Steve Vai, Colosseum II, Sinner, Michael Schenker, Rainbow, Empire, Thin Lizzy, Brian May, Divlje jagode and Living Loud. He has also worked with Andrew Lloyd Webber.


  • Early life 1
  • Music career 2
    • 1970s work 2.1
    • 1980s work 2.2
    • 1990s onwards 2.3
    • Deep Purple 2.4
  • Personal life 3
  • Discography 4
    • Solo 4.1
    • with Cozy Powell 4.2
    • with Colosseum II 4.3
    • with Rainbow 4.4
    • with Michael Schenker 4.5
    • with Ozzy Osbourne 4.6
    • with Gary Moore 4.7
    • with The Snakes & The Company of Snakes 4.8
    • with Deep Purple 4.9
    • with Living Loud 4.10
    • Guest appearances and sessions 4.11
  • References 5
  • See also 6
  • External links 7

Early life

Inspired by his father, Norman Airey, Don Airey took a love for music at a young age and was trained in classical piano from the age of seven.[1] He continued his love for music by earning a degree at the University of Nottingham and a diploma at the Royal Northern College of Music.

Music career

1970s work

In 1971 he moved to London and joined Cozy Powell's band Hammer. Don worked on several albums with solo artists and was a session musician on the 1978 Black Sabbath album Never Say Die! Soon after, he joined guitarist Ritchie Blackmore's band, Rainbow, and featured on Gary Moore's solo debut Back on the Streets. With Rainbow he contributed to two hit albums, Down to Earth and Difficult to Cure. He was also part of the very influential jazz rock band Colosseum II, with Jon Hiseman, Gary Moore, Mike Starrs, Neil Murray and later John Mole, which also formed the core band that recorded Andrew Lloyd Webber's variations on a theme of Paganini, simply called Variations.

1980s work

After leaving Rainbow in 1981, Airey joined with Ozzy Osbourne for a three-year stint where he helped with the albums Bark at the Moon and Speak of the Devil. He also played on the Diary of a Madman Tour from 1981 to 1982 and appears on Blizzard of Ozz. Airey joined Jethro Tull in 1987 for their tour in support of Crest of a Knave. The same year also saw the release of Whitesnake's multi-platinum Whitesnake, on which Airey played keyboards. (The album is known as 1987 in Europe.) Soon after he quit the band to record the solo album K2 – Tales of Triumph and Tragedy. In it he plays with Gary Moore, Keith Airey – guitars, Cozy Powell – drums, Laurence Cottle – bass, Chris (Hamlet) Thompson, Colin Blunstone, Mel Galley, Genki Hitomi – vocals.

1990s onwards

Airey performing with Deep Purple, 2008

In 1990, Airey recorded keyboard parts for several songs on Judas Priest's album Painkiller. However, as the band wanted the album to have a heavier sound than their previous work, he appeared on only one song on the finished album, "A Touch of Evil."

In 1997 he arranged and played on "Love Shine a Light" by Katrina and the Waves, conducting the accompanying orchestra at the Eurovision Song Contest. The song won the contest.

In 1999 he joined Manchester-based melodic hard rock band Ten where he played keyboards on the album Babylon which was released in 2000. He also toured with the band in support of the new album.

He also worked with Iron Maiden's Bruce Dickinson on one of Dickinson's solo albums, playing keyboards on "Darkness Be My Friend". Airey also played keyboards on At Vance's mastermind Olaf Lenk's first solo album Sunset Cruise. In 2006 Airey featured on Gary Moore's release Old New Ballads Blues contributing to all tracks.

In 2008 Airey released his second solo album, A Light in the Sky and recently it has been announced that another solo album from Airey is set to premiere in 2011.

In early 2014 Airey joined hard rock band Mausoleum Records. The album features Steph Honde on vocals and guitars, Vinny Appice on drums, Tim Bogert on bass and Paul Di'Anno on lead vocals on the bonus track.[2]

Deep Purple

Airey went into semi-retirement until 2001, when he joined Deep Purple to fill in for an injured Jon Lord, who subsequently retired from the band. Airey joined the band as a full-time keyboardist in March 2002. He has recorded three studio albums with the band, Bananas, Rapture of the Deep and Now What?!.

Interviewed by Jeb Wright, for Classic Rock Revisited, about the album Now What?!, he said "Well, it’s Deep Purple and there is a Hammond there. There is only one way to go, really. Over the years, I have really worked on my sound, it didn’t just happen overnight. The first two, or three, years I was with the band, I was using Jon’s C3 and it was pretty knackered. I had it refurbished. It’s been put in mothballs now... I much prefer Hammond A-100’s, that’s my choice."[3]

Personal life

Airey lives with his wife, Doris, and their three children in South West Cambridgeshire. In 1992, Airey's son suffered from a serious illness, causing him to slow down his musical activity until 1995.[4] Airey is an ardent Sunderland A.F.C. fan.

He has a brother, Keith Airey, who played guitar for the reformed version of The Zombies from 2001 to 2010. He is currently lead guitarist for the London stage show Mamma Mia!

He also has another brother, Paul Airey, who played piano for SlowBone and Rollups. He works with Robbie Gladwell at the moment.

He is currently writing a book about his experiences in the music business.[1]



  1. ^ a b "Wear - The Don Airey interview". BBC. Retrieved 2014-07-28. 
  2. ^ "Hollywood Monsters Signs With Mausoleum".  
  3. ^ "CRR Interview - Don Airey: It’s Deep Purple & There’s a Hammond". Retrieved 2014-07-28. 
  4. ^ "Don Airey". Deep Purple. Retrieved 2014-07-28. 
  5. ^ [2]

See also

  • Hollywood Monsters Official Facebook

External links

  • Official website
  • Official Facebook
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