Don Airey

Last updated

Don Airey
Don Airey 2005.jpg
Don Airey performing with Deep Purple in 2005
Background information
Birth nameDonald Smith Airey
Born (1948-06-21) 21 June 1948 (age 72)
Sunderland, England
Genres Rock, hard rock, heavy metal, blues rock, progressive rock, jazz fusion
Occupation(s)Musician, songwriter
Years active1969–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

Donald Smith Airey (born 21 June 1948) is an English keyboardist who has been the keyboardist in the rock band Deep Purple since 2002, after the retirement of 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, Ten, Sinner, Michael Schenker, Rainbow, Empire, Thin Lizzy, Brian May, Divlje jagode and Living Loud. He has also worked with Andrew Lloyd Webber.


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 (where he studied under Ryszard Bakst). [2]

Music career

1970s work

In 1971 he moved to London and joined Cozy Powell's band Hammer. In 1975 he joined Jon Hiseman's highly influential jazz rock band Colosseum II, along with Gary Moore, Neil Murray, Mike Starrs and later John Mole. They made three albums and also formed the core band for Andrew Lloyd Webber's album Variations , based on variations on a theme by Paganini. 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 .

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 and was also the only witness to Randy Rhoads's death. 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. Soon after he quit the band to record the solo album K2 – Tales of Triumph and Tragedy. In it he plays with Gary Moore and Keith Airey – guitars, Cozy Powell – drums, Laurence Cottle – bass, Chris (Hamlet) Thompson, Colin Blunstone, Mel Galley, and Genki Hitomi – vocals. [3]

1990s onwards

Airey performing with Deep Purple, 2008 Don Airey in Israel.JPG
Airey performing with Deep Purple, 2008

In 1990, Airey recorded keyboard parts for several songs on Judas Priest's album Painkiller . However, because Judas Priest wanted the album to have a heavier sound than their previous work, only one song on Painkiller, "A Touch of Evil", prominently features Airey. [ citation needed ] In a 2020 interview, Airey revealed that he also played most of the album's bass parts on a Minimoog, as Judas Priest bassist Ian Hill was unable to participate in recording sessions due to illness. [4]

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.

Airey played keyboards on the song "Darkness Be My Friend" by Iron Maiden vocalist Bruce Dickinson, released on the 2002 reissue of Dickinson's debut solo album Tattooed Millionaire . 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 Hollywood Monsters where he played keyboards (Hammond B3 organ) on the track "Move On" on the album "Big Trouble" which was released in 2014 on 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. [5]

On 18 January 2017, Airey was inducted into the Hall of Heavy Metal History. [6]

Deep Purple

Airey joined Deep Purple in 2001 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 five studio albums with the band, Bananas, Rapture of the Deep, Now What?! , Infinite and Whoosh! .

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." [7]

Instruments and gear

Airey has employed many instruments and effect processors to aid him in the creation of his music and is well known for the use of his Hammond A100. In an interview with Keyboard Magazine Don Airey explained that he preferred the Hammond A-100 over other organs (including the Hammond B-3) for their "purer tone" in live settings. He also uses Leslie 122 speakers and a Hughes and Kettner Puretone amplifier. For piano sounds, Airey uses a Kurzweil PC3K8 and also uses a MOOG Voyager. He also uses several rack and pedal based units such as a Roland Fantom. [8]

Airey is also an endorsing artist for several effects companies including Neunaber Audio and TC Electronic and currently uses a Neunaber Seraphim Shimmer as well as a TC Hall of Fame Reverb and a TC Flashback Delay. [9] [10]

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. [11] Airey is an ardent Sunderland A.F.C. fan. [12]

He has a brother, Keith Airey, who played guitar for Nik Kershaw during the mid 1980's and the reformed version of The Zombies from 2001 to 2010 and is currently lead guitarist for the London stage show Mamma Mia!

His other brother, Paul Airey, played piano for SlowBone and Rollups and currently works with Robbie Gladwell.

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



2005E-Thnik (with Mario Fasciano, Steve Morse & Ian Paice)
2008A Light in the Sky
2011All Out
2014Keyed Up
2018One of a Kind
2021Live in Hamburg

As band member

1974 Cozy Powell's Hammer "Na Na Na" (single)
1976 Colosseum II Strange New Flesh
1977 Electric Savage
1977War Dance
1979 Rainbow Down to Earth
1980 Monsters of Rock
2015Denver 1979
2015Long Island 1979
2015Down to Earth Tour 1979 (box set)
2016Monsters of Rock - Live at Donnington 1980
1981 Difficult to Cure
2016Boston 1981
1986 Finyl Vinyl
1980 Ozzy Osbourne Blizzard of Ozz
1983 Bark at the Moon
1997 Quatermass II Quatermass II: Long Road
1998 The Snakes/The Company of Snakes Live in Europe
2001 Here They Go Again
2002 Burst the Bubble
2001 Empire Hypnotica
2003Trading Souls
2003 Living Loud Living Loud
2005Live in Sydney 2004 (2CD/DVD)
2003 Deep Purple Bananas
2005 Rapture of the Deep
2007 They All Came Down to Montreux (CD) / Live at Montreux 2006 (DVD)
2007Over Zurich (DVD)
2008Live at the NEC UK 2002 (DVD)
2011 Live at Montreux 2011 (CD / DVD)
2013 Now What?!
2013 The Now What?! Live Tapes
2014Celebrating Jon Lord: The Rock Legend (CD / DVD)
2014 Live in Verona (CD / DVD)
2015From the Setting Sun... (In Wacken) (CD / DVD)
2015...To the Rising Sun (In Tokyo) (CD / DVD)
2017 InFinite
2017The Infinite Live Recordings, Vol. 1
2019Live in Rome 2013
2020 Whoosh!

As session member

1977 Andrew Lloyd Webber Variations
1978StrifeBack to Thunder
1978 Black Sabbath Never Say Die
1978 Gary Moore Back on the Streets
1979Cozy Powell Over the Top
1980 Michael Schenker Group The Michael Schenker Group
1981Cozy Powell Tilt
1982Gary Moore Corridors of Power
1983Gary Moore Dirty Fingers
1983Gary Moore Rockin' Every Night – Live in Japan
1983Cozy Powell Octopuss
1985Gary Moore Run for Cover
1987 Whitesnake Whitesnake
1989Whitesnake Slip of the Tongue
1989Gary Moore After the War
1990Gary Moore Still Got the Blues
1990 Judas Priest Painkiller
1992Cozy PowellThe Drums Are Back
1992 UFO High Stakes & Dangerous Men
1997 Glenn Tipton Baptizm of Fire
2000 Uli Jon Roth Transcendental Sky Guitar
2000 Ten Babylon
2001Judas Priest Demolition
2004 Tony Iommi with Glenn Hughes The 1996 DEP Sessions
2006Gary Moore Old New Ballads Blues
2006 Tipton, Entwistle & Powell Edge of the World
2008Judas Priest Nostradamus
2008Michael Schenker Group In the Midst of Beauty
2011Michael Schenker Temple of Rock
2011 Saxon Call to Arms

Guest appearances

Related Research Articles

Jethro Tull (band) British rock band

Jethro Tull are a British rock band formed in Blackpool, England, in 1967. Initially playing blues rock and jazz fusion, the band later developed their sound to incorporate elements of hard rock and folk to forge a progressive rock signature. The band is led by vocalist/flautist/guitarist Ian Anderson, and has featured a revolving door of lineups through the years which include significant members such as longtime guitarist Martin Barre, keyboardists John Evan, Dee Palmer, Peter-John Vettese and Andrew Giddings, drummers Clive Bunker, Barrie "Barriemore" Barlow and Doane Perry, and bassists Glenn Cornick, Jeffrey Hammond, John Glascock, Dave Pegg and Jonathan Noyce.

<i>Aqualung</i> (Jethro Tull album) 1971 studio album by Jethro Tull

Aqualung is the fourth studio album by the British rock band Jethro Tull, released on 19 March 1971, by Chrysalis Records. It is widely regarded as a concept album featuring a central theme of "the distinction between religion and God", though the band have said there was no intention to make a concept album, and that only a few songs have a unifying theme. According to one reviewer, the album has "dour musings on faith and religion" which for him have marked it as "one of the most cerebral albums ever to reach millions of rock listeners". Aqualung's success signalled a turning point in the career of the band, which went on to become a major radio and touring act.

<i>A</i> (Jethro Tull album) 1980 studio album by Jethro Tull

A is the 13th studio album by British rock band Jethro Tull. It was released on 29 August 1980 in the UK and 1 September of the same year in the United States.

Ian Anderson Scottish musician, leader of Jethro Tull

Ian Scott Anderson is a Scottish musician, singer and songwriter best known for his work as lead vocalist, flautist and acoustic guitarist of British rock band Jethro Tull. He is a multi-instrumentalist who, in addition to flute, plays keyboards, acoustic and bass guitar, bouzouki, balalaika, saxophone, harmonica, and a variety of whistles. His solo work began with the 1983 album Walk into Light; since then he has released another five works, including the sequel to the Jethro Tull album Thick as a Brick (1972) in 2012, entitled Thick as a Brick 2.

Jon Lord

John Douglas Lord was an English orchestral and rock composer, pianist, and Hammond organ player known for his pioneering work in fusing rock with classical or baroque forms, especially with Deep Purple. He also spent time in the bands Whitesnake, Paice Ashton Lord, The Artwoods, The Flower Pot Men and Santa Barbara Machine Head. In 1968, Lord co-founded Deep Purple, a hard rock band of which he was regarded as the leader until 1970. Together with the other members, he collaborated on most of his band's most popular songs. He and drummer Ian Paice were the only continuous presence in the band during the period from 1968 to 1976, and also from when it was reestablished in 1984 until Lord's retirement from Deep Purple in 2002. On 11 November 2010, he was inducted as an Honorary Fellow of Stevenson College in Edinburgh, Scotland. On 15 July 2011, he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Music degree at De Montfort Hall by the University of Leicester. Lord was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on 8 April 2016 as a member of Deep Purple.

David Coverdale English rock singer-songwriter

David Coverdale is an English rock singer-songwriter best known for his work with Whitesnake, a hard rock band he founded in 1978. Before Whitesnake, Coverdale was the lead singer of Deep Purple from 1973 to 1976, after which he established his solo career. A collaboration with Jimmy Page resulted in a 1993 album that was certified Platinum. In 2016, Coverdale was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Deep Purple, giving one of the band's induction speeches. Coverdale is known in particular for his powerful blues-tinged voice.

Ian Paice British rock drummer, songwriter

Ian Anderson Paice is an English musician, best known as the drummer and only remaining original member of the English rock band Deep Purple.

Martin Barre British guitarist

Martin Lancelot Barre is an English guitarist best known for his longtime role as lead guitarist of British rock band Jethro Tull, with whom he recorded and toured from their second album Stand Up in 1969 to the band's initial dissolution in 2011. In the early 1990s he began a solo career, and has recorded several albums as well as touring with his own live band.

<i>Painkiller</i> (Judas Priest album) 1990 studio album by Judas Priest

Painkiller is the twelfth studio album by English heavy metal band Judas Priest, released in September 1990. It is the last Judas Priest album to feature lead singer Rob Halford until his return for the 2005 album Angel of Retribution and the first to feature drummer Scott Travis.

Philip Neil Murray is a Scottish bass player, noted for his collaboration with Whitesnake, Brian May's band, Black Sabbath and with Gary Moore.

Andrew Giddings British musician

Andrew Giddings is an English musician. He primarily plays keyboard instruments and is best known as a former member of British rock group Jethro Tull, for whom he was the longest serving keyboardist.

Peter-John Vettese, also known as Peter Vettese, is a Scottish keyboardist, songwriter, arranger and record producer. Vettese is perhaps best known for being the keyboardist for progressive rock band Jethro Tull for most of the 1980s.

Bernie Marsden British musician

Bernard John Marsden is an English rock and blues guitarist. He is primarily known for his work with Whitesnake, having written or co-written with David Coverdale many of the group's hit songs, such as "Fool for Your Loving", "Walking in the Shadow of the Blues", "She's A Woman", "Lovehunter", "Trouble", "Child of Babylon", "Rough and Ready", and the multi-million selling chart-topper "Here I Go Again".

Quatermass were a British progressive rock band from London, active between 1969 and 1971. A related band, Quatermass II, was active in the mid-1990s.

A Touch of Evil 1991 single by Judas Priest

"A Touch of Evil" is a song by the English heavy metal band Judas Priest, from their 1990 album Painkiller. The record was released as the second single from the album via Columbia Records label.

<i>Around the World Live</i> 2008 video by Deep Purple

Around The World Live is a four-DVD box-set by British hard rock band Deep Purple, released in May 2008.

Scott Hammond (musician)

Scott Hammond is an English freelance drummer. He plays with Ian Anderson and has also toured with Jethro Tull itself. He has been described as a "Jazz drummer with rock influences".

The Long Goodbye Tour was a concert tour by British hard rock band Deep Purple in support for their 20th studio album, Infinite.


  1. 1 2 "Wear - The Don Airey interview". BBC. Retrieved 28 July 2014.
  2. "Deep Purple's new album is "all recorded" — Don Airey". TASS.
  3. Colin Larkin, ed. (1995). The Guinness Who's Who of Heavy Metal (Second ed.). Guinness Publishing. p. 14. ISBN   0-85112-656-1.
  4. "Deep Purple Keyboardist Don Airey: I Played Bass on Judas Priest's 'Painkiller'". Loudwire. 6 November 2020. Retrieved 6 November 2020.
  5. "Hollywood Monsters Signs With Mausoleum". Rock N Growl Records. 5 May 2014. Retrieved 18 December 2014.
  6. Legaspi, Althea (22 December 2016). "Scorpions Among Nominees for Hall of Heavy Metal History". Rolling Stone.
  7. "CRR Interview - Don Airey: It's Deep Purple & There's a Hammond". Retrieved 28 July 2014.
  8. "Don Airey, Master of Heavy Metal Keyboards". Retrieved 16 November 2016.
  9. "Don Airey | TC Electronic". Retrieved 16 November 2016.
  10. "Don Airey". Retrieved 16 November 2016.
  11. "Don Airey". Deep Purple. Retrieved 28 July 2014.
  12. "BBC - Wear - The Don Airey interview".
  13. "Peace Dogman -". Archived from the original on 23 April 2018.

Further reading