When Vivian Campbell split from the original Dio band to join Whitesnake in 1987, it was not without acrimony or a bad taste in the mouths of all who were involved. Campbell took his issues public, being clearly at odds with Ronnie's wife and manager, Wendy. There has always been whisperings that a dispute over money played a roll in Campbell's ultimate firing from the group, while Campbell has maintained that Wendy was essentially trying to separate the late singer from the band that supported him.
In the absence of Ronnie, sadly, we may not ultimately ever get to the bottom of this apparent quagmire. However, in an interview with Eddie Trunk on his Sirius XM show, Wendy stated that Campbell wanted to take Dio in a more commercial direction, and that's what led to the split.
"It wasn't just that [Vivian] wanted more money—Ronnie played off with the guitar player. [Campbell] wasn't bringing anything to the table, as Ronnie said," Wendy told Trunk as transcribed by Blabbermouth. "Also, he was wanting to push the band more commercial, which Ronnie had fought all of the way along, with songs like 'Mystery.' Ronnie did not want to do things like that; he did not want to be poppy. And he was again being led by Vivian, along with the rest of the band, to be more commercial. And that was not what Ronnie wanted to do, and it wasn't what he was gonna do."
However, Campbell has always maintained his version of the events as they occurred. In April on the Let There Be Talk podcast with Dean Delray, the Irishman shared that, "The money was pretty grim. That was the whole reason why I got fired from Dio — because I was a squeaky wheel. That night in London in that rehearsal room [after the Dio band was formed] when Ronnie sat us down and said, 'Here's the plan. This is what we're gonna do,' he had promised us all that by the third record, it would be an equity situation, because, basically, we had to work for next to nothing for the earlier records.
"We earned less than the crew," Campbell continued. "So we didn't get any of those records [sales]— we got none of the t-shirts [sales], we got none of the ticket sales, we got none of the record sales. But we were working towards that promise which was by the third album it would be an equity situation. And when we started working on the third record, that's when I started going, 'Hey, Ronnie, you got a moment?' And he kept pushing it off and pushing it off. And then eventually they fired me. But I was a squeaky wheel. And it was less a matter of the money. I mean, yeah, it would have been nice to get paid for that, but it's more principle. I'm big on principle. When somebody looks me in the eye and shakes my hand and we have a gentlemen's agreement, I uphold my end of the deal and I expect the same of people. Maybe I'm an idealist or an idiot for expecting that of human beings, but that's what I put out and that's what I give and that's what I expect from people. And so it was a question of principle much, much more so than it was a question of dollars.
"Wendy always saw Ronnie Dio kind of like Ozzy Osbourne; it didn't matter who was behind him. But Ronnie should have known better. The magic of that original band, that's where I really had a beef with Ronnie. He knew how good that band was, and for him to be so fearful of Wendy that he wouldn't even have the balls to tell her that, 'This is what I want. This is what I promised the guys. This is what we're gonna do.' She just kind of went, 'No, no. You're the star. You don't need them. Get somebody else to play guitar.'"
In a 2021 interview, Wendy told Ultimate Classic Rock, "Ronnie was always fair to his people. It costs a lot of money to put that show on. All of the time, we paid for everything — buses, trucks, hotels, per diems, lighting, sound and everything else. I think he treated the band very fairly. The problem is Vivian, for some reason, decided he wanted to be Ronnie. Well, you know, the band was called Dio. But the fact was that Ronnie had already been in Rainbow and paid his dues and then in Black Sabbath and paid his dues. He wasn't just off the street and a nobody. I got really upset. I get really upset when I hear him saying all of the things about Ronnie. Ronnie isn't here to defend himself. I will. I have all of the paperwork to prove that. How much he did get paid. That just kind of upsets me that people will say, 'Oh, Ronnie was cheap.' Well, Ronnie was never ever cheap at all."