Birmingham was an industrial town in the Sixties, “much like our Detroit.” He had been welding but grew infatuated with making music, playing guitar, and accordion. When a band he was playing in wanted to tour Europe, he decided he’d take the rest of the day off from welding, but his mother sent him back to finish off the day. “They put me on a huge machine, a massive thing, and I didn’t know how to work it,” he said. “As I was pushing the metal into the machine, it came down with such a force and bang, it just chopped my fingers. There was blood going all over the place.”
A co-worker had put his fingertips in a matchbox and sent him to the hospital, but doctors told him he could never play again. “I was extremely depressed and very down,” he said. “The manager of the factory came to visit me at home…and then he told me the story about Django Reinhardt, who had lost his fingers.”
Feeling inspired, he created makeshift fingertips, invented light-gauge strings, dropped his tuning, and explored several other ways he could play guitar. The combination led to an “aggressive, raw, and fat” sound that became Black Sabbath’s signature style.
“Of course, losing my fingertips was devastating, but in hindsight it created something,” he said. “It made me invent a new sound and a different style of playing, and a different sort of music. It turned out to be a good thing off a bad thing.”
Thank you, Tony, for 45 years of joy!
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