Frank Anthony “Tony” Iommi is an English guitarist and songwriter best known as the founding member of pioneering heavy metal band Black Sabbath. Iommi is widely recognised as one of the most important and influential guitarists in rock music and for pioneering the mammoth riffs of heavy metal.
What most people don’t know is that after an industrial accident at the age of 17 on his last day of work in a sheet metal factory, he lost the tips of the middle and ring finger of his right hand. Iommi considered abandoning music, but his boss encouraged him to reconsider by playing a record by jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt, who earned wide acclaim despite limited use of his fretting hand following an injury.
After attempting to learn to play right-handed, Iommi strung his guitars with extra-light strings (using banjo strings, which were a lighter gauge than even the lightest guitar-strings of the time) and wore plastic covers over the two damaged fingers. He down-tuned his strings to ease playing and bending. The changes led to a very unique style and sound that would be the essence of Black Sabbath and the birth of Heavy Metal.
He made the plastic covers himself, by melting plastic liquid-soap bottles into a ball and then using a soldering iron to make holes into this ball, putting his fingers in while the plastic was still soft enough to be shaped. He then trimmed and sanded away the excess plastic to leave himself with two thimbles, which he then covered with leather, to provide better grip on the strings.
Here’s the story straight from Tony…
The birth of Heavy Metal started by accident.