The man many were familiar with as Ronnie James Dio was born as Ronald James Padavona. Raised by Italian-American parents in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, his legacy spans more than just a handful of badass metal bands. Though recognized for vocally luring Ritchie Blackmore out of Deep Purple to form Rainbow...
...and replacing Ozzy Osbourne in Black Sabbath...
...it is also claimed that it was he who brought the "sign of the horns" hand gesture into the rock scene, as his grandmother used it when cursing those she disliked.
Still, that's all common knowledge for a true metalhead, but what many never realized was that before Sabbath or Rainbow, there was much more—stemming all the way back to the late-'50s.
Ronnie J began on bass with The Vegas Kings in 1957. The following year, he jumped in front of the mic with his own act, Ronnie and the Red Caps, releasing two 7" singles (1958 and 1960).
In 1961, RJ dropped the surname Padavona for Dio, possibly as an allusion to NY's acid-throwing gangster Johnny Dio, or in honor that "dio" means "god" in Italian. Either way, with new name in mind (though he kept his birth name for song credits), he formed Ronnie Dio and the Prophets, and was picked up by Atlantic Records in 1962.
Dio's crew released 10 more singles from 1962 to 1967 for labels such as Swan, Stateside, Parkway, and Kapp—with a full LP, Dio at Domino's, in 1963 (on Jove Records). He and his Prophets toured the state of New York heavily, and they even appeared on TV.
Almost immediately after the '67 release of the Prophets' last single, "Walking in Different Circles," Dio decided to go another musical route as the times called for a more psychedelic vibe, and—with the addition of a keyboard player—The Electric Elves were born, releasing one 7" on MGM.
Not long after, the "Electric" part of their name was nixed, and with the backing of Decca Records, Dio's new outfit—simply known as The Elves—produced two more 7"s with a remake of the Prophets' '67 single in 1969 and "Amber Velvet" in 1970.
By the time Epic Records came sniffing around, they not only lost "The," but felt the plurality of the moniker didn't fit with their "hoochie koochie" blues, and changed it to just Elf upon delivery of their debut in 1972.
Dio's Elf released two more albums (Carolina County Bail in 1974 and Trying to Burn the Sun in 1975) and opened for Deep Purple quite a bit, which is where Blackmore first got to witness Ronnie's greatness, and—when hearing his vocals—was quoted as saying, "I felt shivers down my spine."
The rest is, of course, heavy metal history.