British honour to Tony Iommi

The fansite for Tony Iommi fans celebrating his brilliant 50 years of dedication and service to music

Tony Iommi’s legendary Red Gibson SG aka “Monkey” has a second life!


Every fan of Black Sabbath certainly remember Tony Iommi’s famous Red Gibson SG with a sticker showing a pretty monkey playing a fiddle - his first SG. As we know, Tony at the very early times owned a Stratocaster, which broke during the recordings of Sabbath’s first self titled album. The neck pick up simply failed. Tony brought the guitar to repair, and embraced the old spare SG, a guitar which he would be loyal for many years. And the legend began. 

The incredible sound of that Red SG was a beginning of Black Sabbath’s special distinctive sound. Already heavy as hell in Paranoid, it is truly monstrous in Master of Reality. The sound of this guitar – Iommi’s quintessential sound in general, and especially in the first phase of Sabbath story.

Now the legendary guitar is located in retirement under glass on the wall of Hard Rock Cafe in New York. Well-deserved rest after a heroic career! While one very special Iommi fan – luthier Lou Moritz did appear in this incredible story, and his efforts led to the Gibson Monkey’s second life! A true revival of a legendary axe!

Let's give the word to Lou Moritz himself , who is a huge friend of our fansite, and listen to his awesome story!

“Hi Guys ! I have been a Tony Iommi / Black Sabbath fan since I can remember and I always wanted a guitar like Tonys. Several years ago I purchased a used 1965 SG Special with the intentions of making this replica. It had a broken headstock repair , which by the way was done properly and to this day it’s as solid as a rock. Anyway, I stripped the guitar, re finished it in Cherry and began the search for the proper John Birch pickups. Found one on Ebay and the for the other I traded 2 brand new Lindy Fralin P-90’s to a mate in Ireland .

I had a Iommi Forum member give me Tony’s guitar tech, Mike Clement’s email address and I explained to him what I want to do and if he can give me as much info on the guitar as possible. He told me that I can check out the original at the Hard Rock Café in NYC. I called the Hard Rock, talked to the manager there and asked them if I can take several pictures of it. With that I was off to NYC, camera in hand. They let me in about a 1/2 an hour before they opened and let me take as many pictures as I wanted.

With 45 reference pictures in hand I reproduced the pickup rings and cut the pickguard up like in the photo’s. I than took a picture of the Monkey decal and reproduced it in Microsoft Paint program.

All the while I was send progress pictures to Mike and asked him if he can show Tony. Got replies back that Tony was impressed and wanted to see it when it was finished. You can imagine how excited I was when I read that. When Heaven and Hell was in my area for a show Mike called me, told me I was on the Guest List and directed me to the back area of the arena. I met up with Mike, got my Ticket and Back Stage pass and the rest as they say…………is History !

Then I decided to scratch build a copy of Tony’s road Old Boy. Again with Mike’s help along with the original builder John Diggins of Jaydee Guitars’ I made my own replica. Sent progress pic’s to Mike, Mike in turn showed them to Tony. Once again I’m back stage, and after the show in Tony’s dressing room, he’s checking out the guitar.

Tony loves to bust chops and he says to me again, just like he did when he saw the Monkey, “It’s awesome, looks great, nice job etc, etc, but it’s not left handed.” I laughed it off and told him that I built it for myself so that’s why it’s right handed.

He’s hinting on having me build him an SG ! So now lets go to November 2011, Tony was on his book signing tour so I stood in line to get my copy autographed. When I got up to Tony we shook hands, asked me how I was and then he drops the bomb on me. “So have you built me a guitar yet? “ I asked him if was serious, he said yes and I said you got it. The following day I began gathering the supplies, emailed Mike, he told me the spec’s Tony likes and begun the build.

Once finished I shipped it off to Mike and waited for a reply.

Mike replied back that Tony loves it and other than making a few adjustments to Tony’s liking it’s perfect. The SG is used during Sound Check at the Birmingham Black Sabbath Show. Got many emails from Tony’s producer, Mike. etc, on how great it sounds and congrats on a job well done.

Then along comes the recording sessions for the new album “13”. Mike sends me an email saying the SG was used to record one track. Another email a few weeks later saying the SG I built will be used on the upcoming tour ! Man I’m so high right now ! Never I my wildest dreams did I think that not only would I get a chance to meet my Guitar Hero but….I build him a guitar, at his request and then that same guitar gets used to record an album and used on the tour !”

Lou made a fantastic job. Congratulations to Lou from all Iommi heads there!
We really can’t wait to see the new replica guitar in Tony’s hands on upcoming gigs in Australia, New Zealand and Japan! Thank you Lou! The Red SG “Monkey” is back!

Visit guitar luthier Lou Moritz’s website: St. Moritz Guitars

Published with permission, 7 April 2013 
All photos by Lou Moritz

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