Heaven & Hell’s Well-Behaved Mob Descends Upon Sam Ash

Phillip Baker (aka Rock N Roll Painter) made this in three hours prior to meeting the band.

Phillip Baker (aka the Rock N Roll Painter) created this striking piece in the three hours prior to the start of the band's meet and greet at Sam Ash.
(Photo © 2009 by Bryan Reesman.)

It’s amazing to think that the members of Heaven & Hell — singer Ronnie James Dio, guitarist Tony Iommi, bassist Geezer Butler and drummer Vinny Appice — have each been in the music business for at least 35 years. And it’s also impressive to think that for a group who have actually only spent seven of the last 30 years together that they have created a stronger impact than far longer running bands and kept fans coming back for more. Sure, they were the second incarnation of Black Sabbath, but there are never guarantees that any famous group that changes its lead singer will prosper. This roster blossomed and thrived together, even if for short periods, and became a big part of heavy metal history.

On Wednesday,  the day after Heaven & Hell’s blistering set at the Theater at Madison Square Garden, hundreds of reverent fans waited outside of Sam Ash Music on West 48th Street in New York to meet the quartet and get albums and photos signed. One of them, Phillip Baker — known as the “Rock N Roll Painter” to many — conjured up an impressive black and white portrait of the group (pictured at left) while waiting in line. He later got it autographed by all of the band members.

I grew up during the Eighties, so I expected to see fans ranging in age from mid-thirties to mid-fifties waiting in the long line winding down the street. But what surprised me was the number of young fans — many teenagers, and one of them literally five years of age — anxious to meet these metal icons. Inside the store Dio lifted up the tiny tot and gave him a big hug. Hopefully that kid will remember that when he’s all grown up and an adult headbanger. It was also refreshing to hear one teenage fan respectfully call Geezer by his proper first name, Terence.

Catching Ronnie and Vinnie before the throng of fans entered.

Catching Ronnie and Vinnie before
the throng of fans entered.
(Photo © 2009 by Bryan Reesman.)

Events like this make me further appreciate the position I am in as a journalist. I often get thirty minutes to an hour to chat with my subjects. Most fans get to meet them for a minute. This time I was in the position of being a fan. I was able to quickly say hello to the four H&H members just prior to fans entering the store, and it was a chance to get something special signed and snap a photo for posterity. I actually have connected with the members of Heaven and Hell on numerous occasions over the last decade. I have interviewed Iommi twice in person (for Ink 19 and Metal Edge) and twice on the phone, and I conducted an interview with Dio over dinner ten years ago. I also chatted extensively with all of them last year for my liner notes to the reissued Mob Rules (included in the Rules of Hell box set) and for a Goldmine magazine cover story. I finally got Mob Rules signed yesterday.

Public meet and greets with classic metal bands are rare these days, and Dio, Iommi, Butler and Appice tried to sign as much as they could within the 100-minute span that they had. Butler’s nephew Pedro Howse, who plays guitar for his uncle in GZR, stood nearby during the proceedings. (Pedro tells me a new GZR album may be in the works.) Beyond the current tour, Iommi will be keeping busy in a new way. Many fans know that four Black Sabbath movies are being planned by reality TV producer Mike Fleiss, and that the guitarist will score them. Don’t fret, fear fans — I hear they’ll be serious horror films. They will not, however, be based on any Sabbath songs.

Overall, the event went well, the band was in good spirits and fans, many not even born when Heaven and Hell and Mob Rules were released, got to connect with metal royalty. Here’s hoping that Heaven & Hell return to the New York area soon.


Posing with Geezer and Tony.

Posing with Geezer and Tony.
(Photo © 2009 by Bryan Reesman.)

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Many young followers line up down the block.
(Photo © 2009 by Bryan Reesman.)

Pedro Howse, hanging with his uncle Geezer.

Pedro Howse, hanging out
with his uncle Geezer.
(Photo © 2009 by Bryan Reesman.)

Signing away.

Happily signing away.
(Photo © 2009 by Bryan Reesman.)

The faithful waiting outside Sam Ash.

The faithful waiting patiently on 48th Street.
(Photo © 2009 by Bryan Reesman.)




4 Responses

  1. Cory Frye

    It’s amazing (and wonderful) how the perspective of the Dio Sabs has changed over the years. This lineup is no fluke, no footnote — they still bring the goods.

    Reply
  2. Christine

    Amazing review. Wish I was there!! Heaven & Hell are awesome and deserve a million accolades (more than I can even write here)!! They are legends and I’m sure it was amazing for all those fans to meet them, even if it was only for a minute….But another thing – I met Phillip Baker in New Jersey once. He told me he was an artist, but I never got to see any of his work…Now that I have (above) I can’t believe how amazing it is!! And just to think, he did that on the spot, while he was waiting on line to get into the signing!! Very talented!!! Hope I get to meet this guy again! And Heaven & Hell too someday =) \m/>.<\m/

    Reply
  3. evelyn

    I went and it was amazing.. I noticed that they were taking pictures of the fans as we meet the guys of H&H do u have any idea of where they could be found?

    Reply
  4. kenneth kessel

    Great article.
    That was my 5 year old son that met Ronnie.
    He was so nice – DIO even took a photo with him, so he definitely won’t forget.
    They talked about Rainbows & being afraid of the dark.

    Reply

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