Black Sabbath star TONY IOMMI has paid tribute to guitarist Alvin Lee following his death, insisting his friend "broke new ground" during his career.

The 68-year-old rocker unexpectedly passed away on Wednesday (06Mar13) from unforeseen complications following a routine surgical procedure, and guitar great Iommi is upset about his untimely demise.

He tells Britain's Birmingham Mail newspaper, "I was extremely saddened to hear of Alvin's death. It was a great shock. I had not known that he was ill. Alvin was a really great guitar player but, more importantly, has been a good friend of Black Sabbath over the years."

Opening up about his friendship and memories of Lee, Iommi adds, "In the early days, when we were still going by the name of Earth, it was Alvin who helped us get some gigs. He'd been out there a bit before us, and knew the ropes. We'd sit and talk the night away at a flat in London.

"I remember telling him that we were thinking of changing our name to Black Sabbath. He was horrified! He told me we'd never do any good with a name like that.

"Alvin broke new ground with the way he played. After he played Goin' Home at Woodstock, he became known as the fastest guitar player in the world. But it wasn't just about speed. He could rock, he could play the blues, and he was a fine jazz guitarist, too. He will be greatly missed by everyone in the rock and roll community."