Tony Iommi Biography
Frank Anthony "Tony" Iommi (born February 19, 1948) is a guitarist from Birmingham, England, who is best known as a member of the heavy metal band Black Sabbath. Though Ozzy Osbourne may have been the most visible member of Black Sabbath, it was Iommi who wrote nearly all the band's music and led the band in terms of musical direction. In a Spring, 1986 interview with British heavy metal magazine Kerrang! he said, "in the early days I did make all the decisions...but we split the songwriting credits four ways...this is my band...every band needs to have someone in control to direct, cajole and, if necessary, admonish."
Iommi picked up the guitar as a teenager, after being inspired by the likes of Hank Marvin and The Shadows. In an industrial accident at the age of 15 on his last day of work in a sheet metal factory, he lost the tips of the middle and ring fingers of his right hand - which, being left-handed, he uses to fret the strings of a guitar. At first he thought his days of playing guitar were over. However, his boss, who knew of his "night job" as a pub band guitar player, paid him a visit during his recovery. During the visit, his boss encouraged him to reconsider. He played a Django Reinhardt record which inspired Tony to pick up the guitar again (Reinhardt lost mobility in the third and fourth fingers of his fretting hand in a fire). After trying to learn to play right-handed, he instead strung his guitars with extra-light strings (which he created himself by intertwining banjo strings) and wore plastic covers that were made from bottle caps over those two fingers (which he covered with leather, so he could grip the strings properly). His accident also had an impact on the Black Sabbath sound: after some time Tony detuned his guitar from E to C# (1 and 1/2 steps down) in order to ease the tension on his fingers, making Sabbath one of the first bands to detune. This idea is now a mainstay of heavy metal music. Black Sabbath bassist Geezer Butler also tuned his instrument down to match Iommi's.
Iommi has played in several blues/rock bands, the earliest of which being The Rockin' Chevrolets between 1964 and 1965. The band had regular bookings and when they were offered work in Germany, Iommi decided to leave his factory job to take up the opportunity. It was during his last shift in the sheet metal factory that Iommi lost the tips of his middle and ring fingers in the aforementioned incident.
Between 1966 and 1967 Iommi played in a band named The Rest. This was the first time Iommi played with old school friend and future Black Sabbath drummer Bill Ward.
From January of 1968 till July 1968, Iommi was guitarist in Mythology with Ward joining a month later in February. In May 1968, police raided the group's practice flat and found cannabis resin which resulted in a £15 fine and a two-year conditional discharge for Iommi, Ward and the other band members - Smith and Marshall. With no money and low morale, Mythology split up after a gig in Siloth on 13th July, 1968.
In August 1968, at the same time as the break up of Mythology, a band called Rare Breed also broke up. Rare Breed vocalist John "Ozzy" Osbourne and rhythm guitarist Terry "Geezer" Butler joined with Iommi and Ward from Mythology and also slide guitarist Jimmy Phillips and saxophonist Alan "Aker" Clarke. The six-piece band, now with Butler as bassist, were named the Polka Tulk Blues Band. After just two gigs - the last of which being at the Banklands Youth Club in Workington - Phillips and Clarke were dismissed from the band, whose name was shortened to simply Polka Tulk after this.
Iommi, Butler, Ward and Osbourne renamed their band in September 1968 to Earth. They carried on under this moniker until August 1969. Iommi briefly left in this period to play in Jethro Tull. However after only one performance (an appearance on "The Rolling Stones' Rock'n'Roll Circus" in which the band mimed to "A Song For Jeffrey", whilst Ian Anderson sang live), Iommi was back with Earth once more.
In August 1969 - after confusion with another group named Earth that had some minor success in England - the group renamed themselves to Black Sabbath.
Tony Iommi says about his working-relation with Jethro Tull vocalist Ian Anderson, which may have contributed to the success of Black Sabbath:
I learned quite a lot from him, I must say. I learned that you have got to work at it. You have to rehearse. When I came back and I got the band (Black Sabbath) back together, I made sure that everybody was up early in the morning and rehearsing. I used to go and pick them up. I was the only one at the time that could drive. I used to have to drive the bloody van and get them up at quarter of nine every morning; which was, believe me, early for us then. I said to them, "This is how we have got to do it because this is how Jethro Tull did it." They had a schedule and they knew that they were going to work from this time till that time. I tried that with our band and we got into doing it. It worked. Instead of just strolling in at any hour, it made it more like we were saying, "Let’s do it!"