Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi is Gibson’s Latest Signature Artist (Again!)

Tony Iommi SG Special
(Image credit: Gibson)

Black Sabbath need no introduction. Suffice to say the band’s founding guitarist Tony Iommi helped lead the charge during the late ‘60s and ‘70s as hard rock forged ahead into metal. 

Taking a darker turn along the way, Iommi’s iconic riffs and signature tones are the very definition of heavy and were instrumental in laying down the foundations of the heavy metal genre.

In 1969, during the recording sessions for Black Sabbath’s eponymous 1970 debut album, a pickup in Iommi’s Fender Stratocaster failed and he immediately switched to using his 1964 Gibson SG Special. From this point on, Iommi’s “spare” electric guitar became his main ax and was ultimately used to track several Black Sabbath albums.

Tony Iommi and Ozzy Osbourne of Black Sabbath performing on stage at Rainbow Theatre, London 16 March 1973

Tony Iommi with "Monkey" and Ozzy Osbourne performing in London in 1973 (Image credit: Ian Dickson/Redferns)

Dubbed “Monkey” (on account of the guitar’s cartoon monkey sticker) this instrument was modified by both Iommi and British luthier John Birch. While fitting an intonation-friendly Badass bridge was an easy mod for the guitarist, Birch took care of the more advanced jobs. These included shaving the frets down and lacquering the fingerboard, as well as fitting a custom-built neck pickup and encasing the bridge P-90 using epoxy resin in order to reduce feedback.

Following the limited run of 50 Custom Shop “Monkey” replicas last year, Gibson have just unveiled a more utilitarian version of this famous SG – the Tony Iommi SG Special. While Gibson’s new Artist range model does not include certain appointments found on the original/Custom Shop replica (such as a zero fret, John Birch pickups, and hand-aged finishing) the essential elements of a hard-rocking riff machine are all present.

Priced $2,399 (for both right- and left-handed models) the Gibson Tony Iommi SG Special is constructed using standard materials, including a mahogany body and mahogany neck with a bound rosewood fingerboard. However, a fully adjustable bridge, chrome-covered P-90s, and ‘witch hat’ knobs set it apart as akin to Tony Iommi’s heavily modified “Monkey” SG.

Visit Gibson for more information.

Check out Guitarist magazine's video from last year where Tony Iommi discusses his Custom Shop "Monkey" replica...

Rod Brakes

Rod Brakes is a music journalist with an expertise in guitars. Having spent many years at the coalface as a guitar dealer and tech, Rod's more recent work as a writer covering artists, industry pros and gear includes contributions for leading publications and websites such as GuitaristTotal Guitar, Guitar WorldGuitar Player and MusicRadar in addition to specialist music books, blogs and social media. He is also a lifelong musician.