This Is What Happened To Tony Iommi's Fingers

Black Sabbath is one of the most legendary heavy metal bands of all time. Coming out of the late '60s, Sabbath brought with them a unique sound and horror aesthetic that would inspire the bands that came after, and no small part of that was due to guitarist Tony Iommi.

Iommi was much more than just the band's lead guitarist. As one of the Black Sabbath's founding members, he's responsible for shaping heavy metal for the past 50+ years. He was the band's primary composer and a main reason why they sounded the way they did. With Iommi's help, Sabbath would go on to win several prestigious awards and cash in on 13 platinum records. He played alongside both Ozzy Osbourne and Ronnie James Dio as the only continuous member of the band. The guy even played a stint with Jethro Tull. Is there nothing he can't do?

Iommi is generally considered one of the best rock guitarists of all time, a member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame since 2006. Those are both crazy feats when you consider he's missing a couple crucial body parts needed for that whole guitar playing thing. Yep, Iommi is sans the top ⅓ of two fingers on his right hand, and this is how it happened.

The metal way that Iommi lost his fingertips

Back before Tony Iommi was of Black Sabbath fame, he was simply Tony Iommi, the regular guy who played some guitar and worked as an industrial welder. Not the most glamorous career, but a necessary one. In 2017, just before the Loudwire Music Awards, Iommi spoke to the Musician's Institute and described his previous working life: "I'd be on a line and they'd pass stuff down to me and I'd weld it, and then it'd go on to somewhere else" (found via Loudwire).

With all industrial jobs, there's a risk of injury or, you know, dismemberment, especially when a worker is moved to fill in on equipment with which they aren't familiar. Such was the case with Iommi. "One day, the person that would be sending me the thing to weld never turned up, so they put me on this giant, huge press — a guillotine-type press. I don't know what happened, I must have pushed my hand in. Bang! It came down." And, with that fateful chop, the future metal guitar star lost the tips of his right-hand ring and middle fingers.

To sum it up: Iommi lost the tips of his fingers while working with metal before becoming famous for playing metal, which is in itself utterly metal. What's even more metal? Turning tragedy into victory by creating your own fingers — the ones Iommi used to become one of history's greatest guitar players.

Playing with prosthetics

The only things the press left of Tony Iommi's two injured fingers after it came down were a couple of stubs and some visible bone. Iommi says the doctors removed the bone, leaving him with roughly two-thirds of each finger, and told him his guitar playing days were over. Since Iommi plays left-handed, his right hand isn't just for holding a pick and strumming. It's responsible for the intricate chord positions on the neck and the rapid scaling needed to shred an ax. Maybe the doctors were right. Maybe Iommi couldn't play anymore. But maybe the doctors were wrong.

Iommi contemplated taking the doctor's words to heart and almost gave up his dream, but, in the end, he didn't. Instead, he tried to learn to play right-handed, which didn't work out as well as planned. That's when Iommi got a different kind of creative, according to Patient Innovation. He strung his guitar with the lightest strings possible so that even the smallest amount of pressure would enable him to play the notes he was aiming for. Then, he melted down plastic bottles and shaped them into prosthetic fingertips, covered them with leather to provide grip, and secured his rock and roll legacy with his new appendages.

The guitarist's right hand is almost as famous as Iommi himself and has inspired some interesting tales. Like, when Loudwire cast his hand for the Hand of Doom trophy that they give out during their music awards.