5 Famous Missing Fingers

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You can do a lot with less than the normal complement of fingers -- including becoming a guitar legend! Here are five famous examples of people achieving fame despite missing some digits!

Jerry Garcia's missing finger1. Jerry Garcia

Grateful Dead frontman Jerry Garcia lost two-thirds of his right middle finger as a child, while steadying wood his father was chopping. (A similar scene was shown in The Royal Tenenbaums to explain Margot's prosthetic finger.) Despite the accident, Garcia went on to play a mean guitar, and often showed off his missing finger in a sort of salute to fans. Today the Barley Mill Pub (a virtual museum of Dead memorabilia) in Portland, Oregon features an illustration of Garcia's right hand, encouraging us all to keep on truckin' regardless of life's little wood-chopping accidents.

James Doohan's missing finger2. James Doohan (Scotty on Star Trek)

James Doohan landed at Normandy on D-Day as part of the Royal Canadian Army. After taking out two snipers, Doohan was hit by six rounds from a Bren light machine gun fired by a sentry (in other words, friendly fire). He took four bullets in one leg, one in the chest (stopped by a silver cigarette case), and the final round amputated his right middle finger. Trek fans who haven't noticed the missing finger have a good excuse: special stunt hands were used in closeups whenever Scotty operated the transporter.

Django Reinhardt's missing finger3. Django Reinhardt

Jean Baptiste "Django" Reinhardt played banjo, guitar, and violin starting in childhood, but his fame as a performer didn't come until after he lost the use of several fingers. At age 18, Django was severely injured in a fire -- he and his wife sold paper and celluloid flowers, which likely fed the fire that consumed their caravan one night. His right leg was paralyzed and the fourth and fifth fingers of his left hand (the hand he used to fret the guitar) were badly burned and remained partially paralyzed for the rest of his life. Django painfully relearned the guitar, developing a new playing style to work around his bad fingers -- becoming a jazz legend in the process.

Tony Iommi's missing finger4. Tony Iommi (Black Sabbath)

The blokes from Black Sabbath were genuinely working-class, holding tough industrial jobs in Birmingham, England. Guitarist Tony Iommi was working his last day at a sheet metal factory when an industrial accident severed the tips of the middle and ring fingers on his right hand -- because he's left-handed, the right hand was what he used to fret the guitar. Iommi was heartbroken, but after hearing about Django's recovery, Iommi became inspired. First he tried learning to play guitar right-handed -- no dice -- then he re-strung his guitar with extra-light strings and fashioned prosthetic fingertips from plastic covered in leather. Using his "Iron Man" (okay, "Plastic Man") style artificially enhanced fingers, Iommi rocked on.

Jesse and Frank James5. Jesse James

Although accounts differ, some historians believe that infamous outlaw Jesse James was missing the tip of his left middle finger. (Some think it was a different finger, or that there was no missing finger at all. But anyway....) It's unclear exactly how the fingertip was lost, but it's a good bet that a gun was involved. After Robert Ford killed Jesse James in 1882, a photo showing the body had James's left hand concealed under his right, causing some to believe that the photo was fake and Jesse James lived on. An exhumation in 1995 proved that the body was indeed Jesse James, but no mention was made of his missing finger. Pictured at right: Jesse and his brother Frank James.

If you enjoyed this list, check out Neatorama's Missing Body Parts of 10 Famous People which includes a great story about Saint Catherine of Siena's finger!

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February 1, 2008 - 7:05am
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