Tony Iommi was born Anthony Frank Iommi in Handsworth, Birmingham, on the 19th of February, 1948.
Toni is of Italian descent, his Mother’s family were well known vineyard owners in Italy. When he was young Toni went to Birchfield Road School where he met soon to become Black Sabbath lead singer John “Ozzy” Osbourne who was a grade behind him.
While still young Toni fell and cut his upper lip resulting in a permanent scar and the hurtful schoolyard nickname “scarface”. Toni would later grow his signature moustache in order to hide it.
At the age of 10 Toni began learning self defence to protect him from the violent gangs that haunted his neighbourhood. He become such an accomplished marshall artist that he almost perused a career in night club bouncing instead of music.
Toni’s musical interests began with the drums, but later turned to the guitar after becoming inspired by “The Shadows” guitar player Hank Marvin. Toni played his guitar left handed from the moment he began learning.
At the age of 17 during his last day of work in a sheet metal factory Toni lost the tips of his middle finger and ring finger on his right hand in an industrial accident.
The accident left Toni so disheartened that he seriously considered abandoning the guitar and his musical ambitions entirely. This very well could have been the case if it wasn’t for a fateful visit from Toni factory floor manager with a record of gypsy jazz guitar virtuoso Django Reinhardt.
After putting the record on and listening to the amazing guitar playing Toni’s floor manager explained to him that Django only played with two fingers because he had lost the use of the rest of his fingers after being severely burnt in a caravan fire. Toni was so inspired by Django’s achievement that he become determined to play his guitar again.
Though Tony today admits in hindsight he thinks he would have been better if he relearned to play right handed, but seeing as he had already developed his skills after three years of playing he decided to continue playing left handed.
Toni created thimbles for his missing fingertips from melted down plastic bottles. Toni admits that his new playing style helped develop his signature sound that was the driving force for Black Sabbath, in order to bend the strings with his new finger thimbles he tuned his guitar lower then usually to make the strings slacker and easier to bend which resulted in a heavier guitar sound.
Prior to Black Sabbath, Toni played in several other rock bands that were predominantly blues influenced, one of which was “The Rockin’ Chevrolets” which lasted from 1964 to 1965. The band performed regularly in Germany allowing Toni to quit his job and perform music professionally.
After the disbanding of “The Rockin’ Chevrolets” Toni began playing in a new group called “The Rest” with soon to become Black Sabbath drummer Bill Ward. During a brief stint in 1968 both Toni and Bill played in a band called “Mythology”, after the band broke up Toni and Bill responded to an advertisement they saw in a music shop from singer Ozzy Osboure, the advertisement read; “Ozzy Zig Needs Gig – has own PA.”
After meeting Ozzy and realising the group needed a bass guitarist Ozzy suggested his former “Rare Breed” band mate Terence “Geezer” Butler. The four also recruited Alan “Aker” Clarke on saxophone and Jimmy Phillips on slide guitar. They group began performing under the name “The Polka Tulk Blues Band”. Not long after their first two permanences Jimmy Phillips and Alan Clarke left the group which then shortened its name to “Polka Tulk”.
In 1968 the group renamed the band “Earth”, after Toni left Earth briefly to play with Jethro Tull he returned with a new work ethic he learned from Ian Anderson. The band began rehearsing stringently starting at nine in the morning. In 1969 after being confused with another group with the same name Earth decided to change their name to “Black Sabbath”.
Tony Iommi is best known for his Gibson SG, though he has used a variety of different models over the course of his career like Epiphone, BC Rich and even a Fender Stratocaster in the early days of Black Sabbath.
Tony has maintained a steady relationship with Laney amplifiers throughout his career, though he has used different models of amplification like Orange, Marshall, Mesa Boogie and ENGL at different times.
Musical Techniques, Concepts and Approaches
Tony Iommi is praised as possibly the most important guitar player in the development of the hard rock and heavy metal genres.
Toni began tuning his guitar lower than usual to make playing easier after his accident. Over time this low tuning became an integral part of his playing style and a prominent component in the development of heavy guitar playing.
Tony is celebrated for his distinctive, blues based, power chord infused heavy riffs that proudly pushed rock guitar rhythm playing into darker, heavier places.
As well as his contributions to rhythm playing in the rock guitar world, Toni is also praised as an accomplished lead guitarists.
Influence In Rock Guitar Playing
Toni Iommi is widely considered to be one of the most influential rock guitar players of all time.
He is continuously celebrated as possibly the most important guitarist in the development of heavier guitar playing and the development of both the heavy metal sound and subculture.
Tony’s distinctive and iconic rhythm style has become part of the rock guitar worlds DNA and his lead guitar playing prowess has been cited as a profound influence on many notable electric guitarists.
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