Former Judas Priest singer Tim "Ripper" Owens says Ronnie James Dio was one of the first rock stars to show him respect, and that he's happy to repay that kindness by working to promote Dio's memorial Stand Up and Shout Cancer Fund.

He'll do so today by participating in the second annual Bowl 4 Ronnie celebrity bowling event, which includes Tom Morello, Eddie Money, Rudy Sarzo and John 5 knocking down pins at the Pinz Bowling Center in Studio City, Calif. "I was a pretty good bowler back in the day," Owens says when asked about his chances of taking home a trophy. "When I was younger, I bowled in leagues. But I don’t think I’ll bowl very good at this, I have a feeling."

Regardless, when we spoke to Owens (who will soon join Geoff Tate and former Iron Maiden singer Blaze Bayley on the Trinity Tour), he was looking forward to Bowl 4 Ronnie. "I think it’s a different type of thing, and the main reason is to raise money and raise awareness," he notes. "So whatever it takes, whatever kind of events, I’m in."

How did you first meet Dio?
Ronnie and I were friends, we met years ago, when he was on tour, right after I joined Priest and we released [1997's] Jugulator.  We became friends, and then years later, I asked [Ronnie's wife and manager] Wendy if she’d like to be my manager, I think this was around 2005 or so. And she really didn’t want to bring on anybody else, and Ronnie was the one who said she should manage me. So yeah, he was an amazing guy.

What do you best remember about that first meeting?
When I met him the first time, it was [at a concert with] Dio and Iron Maiden and Motorhead. They said, “Hey, you need to go backstage, Ronnie wants to meet you.” After the show I went back and talked to Ronnie, and I said, "You know, you’re one of my idols." But he said, "Well, you know what, you’re just like me now -- you’re one of us." And the way he treated me ... when I joined Priest, not every musician I looked up to treated me like that, you know? Some of them, more of the people out in L.A., didn’t want to give me the time of day. They thought, "Hey, this kid came from nowhere." But Ronnie, right away, gave me respect and friendship. He would tell the press that he thought one of the best new singers out there is Ripper Owens. You know, it was really amazing.

My brother was with me, he talked to Ronnie about baseball. My brother was an Indians fan, Ronnie was a Yankees fan. So I asked him for an autograph, and I said, I’ll give you my address, and you can send it to me down the road, whenever you have time. Two or three months later, I get the autograph. And it says, "Ripper, remember us singers rule the band!"  And then he writes a separate letter, and the last part is, "Hey, tell your brother Troy I said 'Yankees rule.'" You know, he remembered my brother’s name -- this is months later. I thought, that’s pretty cool, I made friends with Ronnie. But what I learned about him after that is, I realized that Ronnie just made friends with everybody. He just treated people with respect.

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