The son of Italian immigrants, Tony Iommi picked up the guitar as a teenager, after being inspired by the likes of Hank Marvin and The Shadows. He plays guitar left-handed. In 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 (who knew of Iommi's "night job" as a pub band guitar player) 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 fashioned the latter 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. Subsequent tips have been custom-made.
Iommi had played in several blues/rock bands, the earliest of which was 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. 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 1968 till July 1968, Iommi was guitarist in Mythology
, with Ward joining a month later in mid-February. In May 1968, police raided the group's practise flat and found cannabis resin, which resulted in a £15 fine and a two-year conditional discharge for Iommi, Ward, Smith and Marshall. Mythology split up after a gig in Silloth
on 13 July, 1968.
In August 1968, at the same time as the breakup 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 Company. After just two gigs (the last of which was at the Banklands Youth Club in Workington), Phillips and Clarke were dismissed from the band, which soon after shortened its name to Polka Tulk.
Earth and Jethro Tull
Iommi, Butler, Ward and Osbourne renamed their band Earth
in September 1968. They carried on under this moniker until December 1968 when Iommi briefly departed to play in Jethro Tull
. However after only one performance (an appearance on "The Rolling Stones Rock & Roll Circus
" in which the band mimed "A Song For Jeffrey", whilst Ian Anderson sang live), Iommi was back with Earth once more.
Tony Iommi on his brief working relationship with Jethro Tull vocalist Ian Anderson
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 (Earth) 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!"
In August 1969, following the confusion with another group named Earth (who had minor success in England), the group renamed themselves Black Sabbath
. His aforementioned factory accident affected the Black Sabbath sound later on, as Iommi detuned
his guitar from E to C# (3 half-steps down), in order to ease the tension on his fingers. As a result, Sabbath were among the first bands to detune and resulted in the technique being a mainstay of heavy metal music
. The first two Black Sabbath albums are actually in E tuning, however, as Iommi didn't start tuning down to C# until 1971's Master of Reality
. Black Sabbath bassist Geezer Butler
also tuned his instrument down to match Iommi's. Iommi combined blues
-like guitar solos and dark, minor-key riffing with a revolutionary high-gain, heavily distorted tone with his use of a modified treble-boosting effect-pedal and a Gibson SG
, as well as plugging his guitar into his amp's bass input.
, vocalist for Judas Priest
, when filling in for Ozzy Osbourne during an August 2004 concert in Philadelphia, introduced Tony Iommi to the audience as "The man who invented the heavy metal riff".
By the mid 1970s, incessant drug usage, managerial problems and constant touring had taken its toll on the band, and Ozzy Osbourne was fired in 1979 by Iommi. Osbourne was replaced with Ronnie James Dio
, the vocalist for Rainbow
(a band formed by former Deep Purple
). With Dio, Black Sabbath produced Heaven and Hell
, prior to replacing Bill Ward with Vinny Appice
. With Iommi and Geezer Butler the only original members, this line-up produced Mob Rules
. During the '80s and '90s Iommi rebuilt the band with many lineup changes with vocalists including Ian Gillan
(formerly of Deep Purple
), Glenn Hughes
, Tony Martin
and Ray Gillen
. After Ian Gillan departed the band in 1984, Iommi recorded his first solo album, entitled Seventh Star
. The album featured Glenn Hughes
(formerly of Deep Purple) on vocals, but due to label pressures, it was billed as a release by "Black Sabbath featuring Tony Iommi."
In 1992, Iommi appeared at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert
, playing four songs with the remaining members of Queen
and other guest artists. Also, in the following year Iommi teamed up with fellow Black Country
band Diamond Head
and co-wrote the song
Starcrossed (Lovers in the Night)
for their 1993 Death and Progress
album. At Ozzy's 'farewell' concert at Costa Mesa in 1992, Ronnie James Dio
refused to perform and abruptly left the band. As a result, Rob Halford
(vocalist for Judas Priest
) was recruited to perform as the vocalist for two gigs (Halford also sang at one of the dates on the 2004 Ozzfest tour, when Ozzy couldn't perform due to bronchitis). The show concluded with Ozzy bringing out the other members of the original Black Sabbath line-up (following the end of Osbourne's solo set) for a 4-song reunion.
went on to record 2 further albums with another of their previous vocalists Tony Martin before the original line-up reunited as a touring band in 1997 (although Bill Ward was not present for the first two reunion tours, the second being due to a heart attack. Ward was replaced by Vinny Appice
In a January 2010 interview while promoting his biography I Am Ozzy, Osbourne stated that although he would not rule it out, he was doubtful there would be a reunion with all four original members of the band. Osbourne stated: "I'm not gonna say I've written it (a reunion) out forever, but right now I don't think there's any chance. But who knows what the future holds for me? If it's my destiny, fine." Butler said that there would be no reunion in 2011, as Osbourne was already committed to touring with his solo band.
On 11 November 2011, Iommi, Butler, Osbourne, and Ward announced that they were reuniting to record a new album with a full tour in support beginning in 2012.
Guitarist Iommi was diagnosed with lymphoma on 9 January 2012, which forced the band to cancel all but two shows (Download Festival, and Lollapalooza Festival) of a previously booked European tour. It was later announced that an intimate show will be played in their hometown Birmingham. It was the first concert since the reunion and the only indoors concerts that year. In February 2012, drummer Ward announced that he would not participate further in the band's reunion until he was offered a "signable contract".
On 21 May 2012, at the O2 Academy in Birmingham, Black Sabbath played their first concert since 2005, with Tommy Clufetos playing the drums. In June, they performed at Download Festival, followed by the last concert of the short tour at Lollapalooza Festival in Chicago. Later that month, the band started recording the album.
On 13 January 2013, the band announced that the album would be released in June under the title 13. Brad Wilk of Rage Against the Machine was chosen as the drummer, and Rick Rubin was chosen as the producer. Mixing of the album commenced in February. On 12 April 2013, the band released the album's track listing. The standard version of the album features eight new tracks, and the deluxe version features three bonus tracks.
The band's first single from 13, "God Is Dead?", was released on 19 April 2013. On 20 April 2013, Black Sabbath commenced their first Australia/New Zealand tour in 40 years, to be followed by a major North American Tour in Summer 2013. The second single of the album, "End of the Beginning", debuted on 15 May in a CSI: Crime Scene Investigation episode, where all three members appeared.
In June 2013, 13 topped both the UK Albums Chart and the US Billboard 200.
In July 2013, Black Sabbath embarked on a North American Tour (for the first time since July 2001), followed by a Latin American tour in October 2013. In November 2013, the band started their European tour due to last until December 2013. In March and April 2014, they will be making 12 stops in North America (mostly in Canada) as the second leg of their North American Tour before to embark in June 2014 on the second leg of their European tour.
In 2000, Iommi finally released his first legitimate solo album, titled Iommi
. The album featured several guest vocalists that included Ian Astbury
, Henry Rollins
, Serj Tankian
, Dave Grohl
, Billy Corgan
, Phil Anselmo
, Peter Steele
and Ozzy Osbourne
. In late 2004, Iommi's second solo album was released, entitled The 1996 DEP Sessions
. This album was originally recorded in 1996, but was never officially released. However, a copy with a drum track by Dave Holland
was available as a bootleg called Eighth Star
. Glenn Hughes
performed vocals on the album, and he furthered his collaboration with Hughes with the release of his third solo album, Fused
. Released on 12 July 2005, John Mellencamp
drummer Kenny Aronoff
completed the trio on the album.
Iommi has signed with Mike Fleiss
' movie production company Next Films to score
a series of horror films entitled
Heaven and Hell
In October 2006 it was reported that Iommi would tour with Bill Ward
, Geezer Butler
and Ronnie James Dio
again, but under the moniker Heaven and Hell
. Later it was announced that Ward had decided not to participate and Vinny Appice was hired as his replacement.
Rhino Records released "The Dio Years" (under the 'Black Sabbath' moniker) album on 3 April 2007. The album showcased older tracks with Dio and also included three brand new songs recorded with Dio and Vinny Appice.
The band started an American tour in April 2007 with Megadeth
as opening acts. The tour finished in November in England with the prospect of an album to follow in 2008. During this period the band's show at the New York Radio City Music Hall was released as both a DVD and CD with a vinyl release expected in the UK in 2008. During the summer of 2008, the band embarked on the Metal Masters Tour
along with Judas Priest
The band's first studio album, The Devil You Know
, was released on April 28, 2009.
Eurovision Song Contest
Iommi wrote the song "Lonely Planet" which was sung by Gor Sujyan for Armenia in the 2013 Eurovision Song Contest.
Iommi purchased his first house in Stafford, England, in 1972. He also purchased the property next door for his parents. Iommi has been married four times.
- In the early 1970s Iommi married Susan Snowden, who was related to British Royal photographer Lord Snowdon. Iommi was introduced to Snowden by Black Sabbath's then-manager Patrick Meehan. The song "Fluff", an Iommi instrumental composition later released on the Sabbath Bloody Sabbath album, was played as Snowden walked down the aisle. Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham served as Iommi's best man for the ceremony. This marriage lasted for some eight years, and Iommi said in a 1991 Guitar World interview that the troubled recording and mixing of Black Sabbath's 1976 album Technical Ecstasy caused the end of his marriage.
- Iommi married an American model named Melinda in 1980. They had a daughter, Toni-Marie Iommi, in 1983, who was the vocalist for the now-defunct band LunarMile. Iommi divorced Melinda in the mid-1980s. When Toni-Marie was 12 years old, Iommi won custody of her after she was placed in foster care. Toni-Marie has described her early childhood with a mentally unbalanced mother as difficult but says that her father finally "saved her". She has stated that with her father she was able to regain her trust in other people. Mikko "Linde" Lindström, guitarist with Finnish band HIM became engaged to Toni-Marie in August 2010.
- In 1986-7 Iommi met an Englishwoman named Valery, and after a six-year relationship they married. She had a son from a previous relationship named Jay. They divorced in the late 90s. Iommi confirmed in the same Guitar World interview referenced above (a co-interview with Metallica's James Hetfield) that he has a son. He told Hetfield regarding the band's so-called "Black Album," that "my son gave me a copy of your latest album..."
- In 2005, Iommi married Maria Sjöholm, formerly vocalist for Swedish heavy metal band Drain STH. They met around 1998, when Tony was working on music for Drain STH. After a year of talking on the phone, in 1999, Maria relocated to England and moved into Tony's home. On 19 August 2005, without telling anyone, Maria and Tony were wed at the Sunset Marquis hotel, with only one witness present. On page 312 of his book, Tony calls the low-key wedding the "Best thing I ever did!" they married in Spain.
During the mid-1980s Iommi was briefly engaged to rock musician Lita Ford. He co-produced her album The Bride Wore Black, which to date remains unreleased. Ford said in a 1989 Kerrang! interview that "there's a certain amount of bad blood between Tony and I" due to her breaking off the engagement.
On 19 November 2013, Iommi received an Honorary Doctorate of Arts degree from Coventry University. The honorary degree came "in recognition of his contribution to the world of popular music", and recognised "his role as one of the founding fathers of heavy metal music and his status as one of the industry's most influential figures", the university said.
In early 2012, Iommi was diagnosed with early stages of lymphoma, for which he has undergone successful treatment as of January 2013. Black Sabbath's 2013 tour dates have been arranged so that Iommi is free to return to the UK once every six weeks to have an antibody administered.