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Tony Iommi's Fingers, And Heavy Metal

Updated on March 9, 2012

If you were a teenager like me in the 1980s, you know it was a great time. One of the things that made it great was the music, for me it was Heavy Metal. Never has a music genre created such a buzz. It's artists did everything over the top. The guitars were louder, faster, and bigger. The stage shows were extravagant to say the least. If you was at a concert it was truly a show, and if you listened to Heavy Metal it was a lifestyle.

There are many sub genres of metal, from thrash, speed, glam, and good old fashioned Heavy Metal. Whatever style metal you like, I’m sure that your passionate about it. There are many bands in the 70s that helped pave the road for metal in some form or another, but there is only one band which can truly lay claim to be the fathers of Heavy Metal. This band is Black Sabbath.

Black Sabbath is a group that came out in the Late 1960s, but almost never came to be. The band consisting of: Ozzy Osbourne, Geezer Butler, Bill Ward, and Tony Iommi, was a force to be reckoned with, but would have never happened if it wasn't the persistence of Tony Iommi.

Tony Iommi was born in 1948. He picked up the guitar as a teenager. and was in several blues based rock bands. It was with one of these bands when they were offered work in Germany. During this time he was working at a sheet metal factory. On his last day, at the job before leaving for Germany to work full time as a professional musician, he lost the tips of his middle, and ring fingers of his fretting hand. When they got stuck in a machine.

So he was about to go on tour. He was seventeen at the time, and think about how devastating this must have been. If you’re a guitar player this is a grave injury. He went to many doctors, who told him just to forget about playing guitar, and that you’ll never play again. Think about this, anyone who plays guitar will tell you this would pretty much end most guitar players playing days even today, but this was the 1960s.

He was pretty depressed as on can imagine, and he thought his guitar playing days were over. But his Foreman, at the job where he lost the tips of his fingers, asked him to listen to gypsy jazz guitarist, Django Reinhardt. Being depressed about not being able to play guitar, this was the last thing he wanted to listen to. But his friend persisted, and he decided to listen to it. He was blown away by his playing. His friend informed him that he was only playing with two fingers because of a devastating fire that left his hand deformed, with only the use of two fingers.

Well this inspired Iommi into playing again. He tried playing right handed at first because he was a lefty, but it didn't work for him. He then taped his two damaged fingers together and used his index, and pinkie finger. He then wanted to incorporate the use of his other fingers. He then melted down the tops of a plastic dish washing detergent bottle, which he then molded with a soldering torch to fit the tips of his fingers. He then filed these down until they were the size of finger tips, in other words making thimbles to fit his fingertips. He then used leather tips that he adhered to them, because the strings were not being gripped properly. Once he got all this right through trial and error, he then set out to learn to play with these new tips.

Think about this, he couldn't feel the strings, so he had to get used to playing like this. Think of playing with gloves on. How many people would have hung it up, even today if this happened? Not only did he overcome this, he barely missed a beat. He even joined the Jethro Tull band for a short period of time before rejoining his band mates that would become Black Sabbath. And not only that, they became one of the most successful bands of all time, if that wasn’t enough they actually invented a new genre of music. Because of his condition Tony Iommi used lighter strings and down tuned his guitar, which resulted in a darker, sound and therefore was one of the predecessors of Heavy metal.

Everyone knows what happened next, Black Sabbath became one of the most successful bands of all time. For decades they have been one of the top selling groups. But they may have never come to be if it wasn't for one mans dream, one mans persistence to never give up. To refuse to never give up on his dream even when all hope seems lost, and not only this, he was great at it, not good great. He clearly overcame his adversities, and he let nothing stop him from achieving his dream, and this wasn't today with all the technology we have, it was the late sixties which makes it an even more remarkable feat.


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    • markmic36 profile image

      Mick Smith 6 years ago from Warwick, RI

      Thanks Man I appreciate it.

    • Shinkicker profile image

      Shinkicker 6 years ago from Scotland

      Great re-telling of Tony's story markmic36

      You're right, it is so easy to forget about his disability. Amazing solos throughout the years.

      Cheers for the Hub, voted up mate

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

      Wesman Todd Shaw 6 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      I'd not have known in a bazillion years that Tony had been part of Jethro Tull for any length of time.

      Sabbath was and is, and will forever be my single favourite metal band. Tony's got cancer now, and I certainly hope he recovers.

    • TheHeavyReview profile image

      TheHeavyReview 6 years ago

      Very cool and inspirational hub! He is one of my favorite guitarists, especially for his riffs.

    • markmic36 profile image

      Mick Smith 6 years ago from Warwick, RI

      Hey guys thanks for your comments. Tony Iommi not only overcame his handicap but conquered it, and was successful at it.

    • jellygator profile image

      jellygator 6 years ago from USA

      Music fan from way back and I didn't know about a lot of the points you raised. Very interesting hub. Thank you. (Voted up, interesting, and awesome for its originality.)

    • albertovich profile image

      albertovich 6 years ago

      Hey great HUB on Toni but I am sorry about his condition I hope he gets better, nowadays we need guitar players and innovators like him.