I was 12 or so, when my father came in with a bunch of vinyl albums he had found at the dump when taking trash there. I spotted two Uriah Heep albums – Very ‘Eavy Very ‘Umble and Sweet Freedom. I had read about the band, but never heard their music. It wasn’t so simple for a kid of that age to find music those days as there was no internet or anything like that. So getting these albums was a happy surprise for me – and I listened to them a lot. I was a hard rock and metal guy from head to toe, and I loved the grinding guitar & organ sound on Gypsy, Stealin’ and other classic Heep tunes – but surprisingly enough my favourite tracks on the albums were both ballads – Come Away Melinda and Circus. Beautiful stuff!
Needless to say that making a guitar for Mick Box felt rather surreal after being his fan since a young kid. My fondest Uriah Heep related memories date back to 2003, when Mick had sent me his Duke for a little modification – I changed the pickups and rewired the guitar. I was supposed to deliver it back to him in Helsinki, as they were touring together with Deep Purple. My cousin Sami Ruokangas worked at the time for a Finnish television channel MTV3, and he had tipped their editor-in-chief about the fact that the Heep guitarist played a guitar made in Finland – and I got a call from the MTV3 news room. They wanted to feature Uriah Heep and myself in the prime time news. The news crew came over to my shop to shoot some material, and then we were off to Helsinki – I met Mick at their hotel where the news team shot some more material. I found the old news clip on YouTube – funny, I haven’t aged a day!
My whole team was invited to the Heep / Purple concert, and I got to meet all the band members. I collect vinyl albums, and I thought I’d take the opportunity to ask Ian Gillan’s autograph to the booklet of Jesus Christ Superstar musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. In the booklet, there’s a little photo of young Ian, titled ‘Jesus Christ’. So I pulled out the booklet from my backpack and told Ian that I’d like to get an autograph from the Son of God… The guys from Heep and Purple circled around us and we all had a good laugh.
During the soundcheck Mick waved his hand asking me to climb on stage – they were playing the Gypsy riff, and Mick shouted to my ear: “The guitar sounds fantastic!”. They started the concert with Easy Livin’ – Mick played my guitar – I stood in the press area in front of the first row, a trail of goose bumps going down my spine. Epic! These moments I’ll never forget.
Uriah Heep – one of the most legendary British hard rock bands – has left a vast catalogue of recordings in their wake, much of which has inspired and been imitated by artists all over the world. Their classic albums include such unforgettable hard rock anthems as Gypsy, Lady In Black, July Morning, Easy Livin’, Sweet Lorraine, Stealin’ and many others.
Uriah Heep was formed in 1969 by David Byron (vocals), Mick Box (guitar), Ken Hensley (keyboards), Paul Newton (bass) and Alex Napier (drums). Throughout their long career the band has survived many changes – Mick Box playing the lead guitar from the very beginning to this date.
Mick is a true guitar enthusiast, owning a vast collection of instruments. He has two of our guitars in his collection – a 2-tone sunburst VSOP Classic (one of the very earliest pieces ever made) and a cherry sunburst Duke Custom with such details as wildly figured top handpicked by Mick and Wizard’s Wand inlays I designed for him.