Black Sabbath's Geezer Butler Says He Was Doing the Devil Horns Long Before Ronnie James Dio

"I showed him the devil horns sign. And he started doing it from there and made it famous.

BY Brock ThiessenPublished Mar 9, 2021

While the late Ronnie James Dio is widely seen as the man who popularized metalheads' devil horns, there's a lot of debate about who actually invented the hand gesture. Was it actually Dio or maybe Gene Simmons? Or maybe someone else entirely? Well, according to Black Sabbath bassist Geezer Butler, he was at least the person responsible for first showing the horns to Dio.

Speaking on SiriusXM's Trunk Nation with Eddie Trunk, Butler claimed he was the one who first introduced the hand gesture to Dio and was doing it long before he was.

"I've been doing that sign since — I've got pictures of me doing it since 1971," Butler said. "And I always used to do it in the breakdown in the song 'Black Sabbath' — just before it goes into the fast part at the end, I'd do that sign to the audience."

Of course, Dio would eventually join Black Sabbath temporarily in 1979 as Ozzy Osbourne's replacement, and that's when the late singer really began to get into the horns.

"And on the first couple of 'Heaven and Hell' tour shows, Ronnie was saying, 'When I'm going on stage, everybody is doing the peace sign to me, and that's an Ozzy thing. I feel like I should be doing something back to them.' He says, 'What's that sign that you do in 'Black Sabbath?'' And I showed him the devil horns sign. And he started doing it from there and made it famous."

At this point, you may be asking yourself why Butler is suddenly going public about him being the one who showed Dio the horns, and luckily Trunk asked him about that.

"I didn't really think much of it," Butler explained. "As I say, I've got pictures of me doing it in 1971. And it was just an alternative to Ozzy's peace signs, I was doing it. And if you look at the 'Yellow Submarine' album cover [from the Beatles], John Lennon's cartoon character is doing it, in 1966 or whatever it was. So it's an old sign. I was just doing it 'cause [English occultist] Aleister Crowley used to do it."

Butler went on to say that Dio also got a few other ideas from him as well over the years beyond just the devil horns.

"There's a lot of things that he nicked off me that he claimed that he was the originator," Butler said. "But he made it famous, so I didn't care. The [Dio] album title Sacred Heart; that's where I used to go to school. And he called one of his songs 'One Foot in the Grave.' I jokingly said, 'We should call the album One Foot in the Grave.' And then when he left [Black Sabbath], he called one of his songs that. He was very naughty about things like that. And when I did an autograph, I'd write 'Magic.' So Ronnie started writing 'Magic' as well. In fact, he called his [Dio] album Magica. He was very naughty about things like that."

When asked if he ever brought any of this up with Dio, Butler replied: "Nah. Only about the devil horn sign."

Over the years, Dio was asked a lot about the devil horns and their origins. For example, in a 2001 interview, Dio said, "I doubt very much if I would be the first one who ever did that. That's like saying I invented the wheel. I'm sure someone did that at some other point. I think you'd have to say that I made it fashionable. I used it so much and all the time and it had become my trademark."

Of course, then there is KISS dude Gene Simmons, who actually tried to trademark the horns at one point back in 2017. However, Simmons quickly withdrew his claim in less than two weeks.

Check out Butler's interview on Trunk Nation with Eddie Trunk below and see a bit of photo evidence.

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