Tony Iommi’s St. Moritz ‘Monkey’ SG

A pretty amazing story about my favourite ever guitarist and his biggest fan… who happens to be a pretty amazing luthier.

Growing up in my little hometown, there wasn’t much else to do other than watch Star Trek and listen to heavy metal. My friends Rish & Ben had been listening to NWOBHM a lot longer than me and turned me onto a lot of cool stuff. But when I heard Black Sabbath, something really clicked. The sound and the riffs… I know they’ve been talked about a million times but there’s a reason for that. He wrote the rule book on riffs. But I never see anyone talk about his solos. He’s such an underrated lead guitar player… listen to his work on Technical Ectasty. Personally I can hear a lot of Mastodon in there… you can tell they were influenced by this album for Crack The Skye.

And then there’s the Sabbath albums that no-one really likes. The Tony Martin era. I love them… ‘Eternal Idol’ is frikken’ fantastic. It just blows me away to listen to ‘Master Of Reality’ and then put on ‘Eternal Idol’ and think… “wow, this is the same guitarist”. Tony Iommi’s playing and songwriting just kept getting better and better.

So, whilst trawling through some Black Sabbath forums, I found a guitar built by a guy named Lou. Lou had made his own version of Tony Iommi’s Monkey SG, which was impressive. What was even more impressive was he hand built from scratch his own version of Tony Iommi’s Jaydee ‘Old Boy’ SG. But the best was yet to come. I got in touch with Lou and he was nice enough to share his story. Enjoy!

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 !

Congrats Lou on a fantastic job. I hope Tony brings this Monkey on the Australian Black Sabbath tour so I can see it in action!

Check out more of Lou’s work here: St. Moritz Guitars

And here’s a whole pro-shot concert of Tony Iommi playing the original ‘Monkey’.


And here’s Tony Iommi playing the 2013 Monkey live in Auckland!