Why did Tim “Ripper” Owens Leave Judas Priest?

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The other day I was reminiscing about the “Ripper” days of Judas Priest. In the late 90s, Tim “Ripper” Owens joined the band, replacing singer Rob Halford after leaving. But Ripper only stayed with them 7 years. So why did Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens leave Judas Priest?

Here’s what I know from being a long-time fan:

Tim “Ripper” Owens left Judas Priest after Rob Halford asked to come back. Despite the undeniably great job Ripper did fronting Judas Priest, the other members of the band, as well as most of the fans, wanted Rob Halford back as well. 

The ¨break up¨ of Judas Priest with Tim’ Ripper’ Owens is one of those moments in heavy metal history that just begs to be examined a little closer.

Did Owens leave on his own volition?

Why did Rob Halford leave the group to begin with, and why did he decide to come back after such a long absence? And what happened to Tim “Ripper” Owens after he left the band?

As if straight out of a movie (oh wait, it was, lol), Owens was discovered fronting a Judas Priest cover band in Ohio.

After being flown to the UK for an in-person audition, he was immediately offered the lead singer position in the band that he had idolized since he was a teenager. For Owens, it was a dream come true.

More on the Hollywood version below.

But let’s explore Ripper’s time with the band, Halford’s decisions on either side of Ripper, and what Ripper is doing these days.

Let’s dive in.

Was Tim “Ripper” Owens fired from Judas Priest?

Tim “Ripper” Owens was essentially fired from Judas Priest via email from the band’s management, announcing the return of vocalist Rob Halford.

When Rob Halford and the band officially announced his return, it came as no surprise to those who had been following the gossip mill.

Rumors had been swirling for quite some time, and it was well known that he was ready to come back.

In an interview with MTV published shortly after the announcement of his return, Halford said, “It’s just a testament to the great love and power of the music of Judas Priest. This has been wanted and pleaded for so many years…¨

It seems impossible that Owens couldn’t see the writing on the wall. 

One day, according to Owens, he was formally notified of Halford’s return by the band’s management via email. In an interview with the Washington Post, Owens stated, “They could have called me, but whatever.”

So was Tim’ Ripper’ Owens fired from Judas Priest, or was it a mutual split? 

I think it was a bit of both. Owens didn’t have much of a choice in the matter, but he understood and respected the situation.

Owens was actually ready to step back from Judas Priest, anyway. 

The band hadn’t been doing that great financially, and he was happy to have the opportunity to branch out and work on his career. He is quoted as saying in an interview with The Metal Voice, ¨I wanted out of Judas Priest, ’cause I wanted to do other stuff, but I never would have quit.¨

But that’s easy to say when it wasn’t your choice. 

And no matter how much the band’s finances may have dwindled, there’s almost no way he’s making anywhere near that much now.

Why did Halford leave Judas Priest in the first place?

Rob Halford left Judas Priest as he wanted to experiment beyond the sound and limits of Judas Priest’s style. But the band had also endured (and won) a grueling court case where they were accused of causing the deaths of 2 teenage boys, which no doubt caused the band a lot of stress.

Essentially, he was itching to do some solo projects. Initially, there was no problem with this, and Rob was granted the freedom to pursue his side projects.

Unfortunately, tensions grew within the band and between Halford and the band’s management. 

People were frustrated that he wanted to take so much time away from the group (apparently, he wanted years to work on his solo gigs). Eventually, those tensions reached the breaking point, and Rob officially left the group in 1992.

In a recent interview with Rolling Stone magazine, he reflected on his reasoning behind leaving the band.

Halford said:

“I would probably say that my exit was due to probably the similar circumstances as a lot of my friends, lead singers that I know that went on the same self-journey of discovery. I think it was important for me to do that…¨

Why did Rob Halford come back to Judas Priest?

Rob Halford asked to come back to Judas Priest after his solo projects failed to take off to the same degree as Priest. Additionally, Judas Priest was not doing as well without him either.

But there was also a lot of demand from fans for his return that would have been hard to ignore.

In that same interview, Halford also stated, ¨it’s like that song, ‘you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.¨ In another interview, Rob Halford stated:

¨I had a good time, but I was yearning to go back to the band that I love more than anything else in the world… it was a bit of a journey of self-discovery and trying to, kind of, put things in the right place, put things in the right perspective. Sometimes you have to leave the house for a little bit to realize how important it is to get back to your family. So that’s how it turned out for me.”

I think Tim “Ripper” Owens actually said it best:

¨Rob wasn’t selling, no one was selling, bands disappeared…. You know what I mean?… what happened is exactly what should have happened. I mean, Rob needed to come back to Judas Priest for himself… Judas Priest needed to have Rob come back.¨

I think it is safe to say that Rob Halford and the other members of the band saw creative and, most importantly, economic advantages in reuniting.

Is Tim “Ripper” Owens still friends with Judas Priest?

Tim “Ripper” Owens continues to have a friendly and respectful relationship with his former Judas Priest bandmates, having split from the band amicably. Additionally, he currently sings with former Priest guitarist K.K. Downing’s version of Judas Priest called K.K.’s Priest.

¨Tim is a very good friend of mine¨ Rob Halford is quoted as saying.

And for his part, Tim Owens returns the sentiment. He is on record saying, “I love Rob. He’s so amazing — he’s an amazing guy. We’re friends, and he’s the singer of Judas Priest. He’s the Metal God…Judas Priest was my college. I do what I do now because of Judas Priest… I sang with them; I had a great time…”

As I mentioned, Owens is currently fronting K.K. Downing’s (founding member and former guitarist of JP) current project KK’s Priest, so obviously, there is no problem between those two.

And as you would expect, they sound A LOT like Judas Priest.

If there is anything that could even remotely be construed as tension between the current members of Judas Priest and Tim “Ripper” Owens, it would have to do with the fact that the current lineup seems to have completely disowned the music that Judas Priest recorded while Owens fronted the group.

It is no secret that Rob Halford has yet to perform live a single song from the albums Jugulator or Demolition that Ripper originally recorded.

And that’s not likely to change any more than we never saw David Lee Roth sing any Van Hagar songs when he returned to Van Halen.

For more on that story, check out a recent article where I do a deep dive into Van Halen and DLR. Just click that link to read it on my site.

Is the movie Rock Star based on Tim “Ripper” Owens?

The movie Rock Star is loosely based on Tim “Ripper” Owens’ story with Judas Priest. However, while the idea was originally to have the band heavily involved, it moved further away from true events as the project progressed, and the movie contains a lot of fictional events.

Ripper Owens’ story is truly straight out of fantasy land for most small-town musicians who dream about reaching big time.

He was a cover band singer from the rural midwest who got teleported to stardom and became the frontman of the very band he idolized.

Guitarist Glenn Tipton summed it up best when he said:

“That idea that you can come out of nowhere and suddenly be the singer for your favorite band. It gives hope to everyone, doesn’t it?”

It wasn’t long before Hollywood recognized the potential for a good movie and capitalized on his story.

Eventually, Owens received a call from George Clooney’s production company pitching a plan to take his tale to the big screen. The plan was for Judas Priest to do the soundtrack and for everyone involved to have an active role in the development of the movie.

But things didn’t end up working out that way.

As the screenwriters ‘developed’ the story, it moved further and further away from telling the true story of Tim Owens. Eventually, Judas Priest and Owens completely distanced themselves from the project.

In an MTV interview, Bob Chiappardi, who is president of Concrete Marketing and was in charge of much of the publicity for the movie, said, “Ninety percent of the movie is based on pure rock star mythology.”

That other 10%? That’s the part of the movie Rock Star that is based on Tim “Ripper” Owens’ life.

Tim 'Ripper' Owens Interview- Talks K. K. Downing Show- New Solo Album- The Three Tremors


It was obvious why Tim’ Ripper’ Owens left Judas Priest.

Halford wanted back in, and the other members of JP, along with most of the fans, wanted the same. When Owens’ time with Judas Priest came to an end, it seemed like a natural conclusion to that chapter in the life of Judas Priest.

Owens’ time with the band had opened doors for him that he could have only fantasized about before.

With his undeniable talent and high profile, his time with Judas Priest afforded him. He was able to back out gracefully and take advantage of new opportunities that immediately came his way.

Photo which requires attribution:

METAL SINGERS – Car Audio Rock Festival 2015 by Factor Metal is licensed under CC2.0 and was cropped, edited, and had a text overlay added

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