The Animals guitarist Hilton Valentine has died aged 77.
The English musician’s death was confirmed by his wife Germaine Valentine via The Animals’ record label Abkco.
A tribute on Twitter read: “We, along with all of the music world, mourn the loss today of Hilton Valentine a founding member of The Animals.
“Valentine was a pioneering guitar player influencing the sound of rock and roll for decades to come.”
They added in a statement: “We at Abkco have been privileged to serve as stewards of The Animals catalog and his passing is felt in a truly profound way by the entire Abkco family.”
No cause of death has been given.
Valentine was born in 1943 in Northumberland and joined The Animals, which was led by frontman Eric Burdon, in the early 1960s.
Hilton’s guitar riff on The House of the Rising Sun is instantly recognisable.
The song, which topped the UK and US charts in 1964, is lauded as one of Rolling Stone’s Greatest Songs of All Time.
The Animals track We Gotta Get Out of This Place became associated with the Vietnam War after striking a deep connection with American GI’s and adopted by many as their anthem.
The bands other hits included Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood.
Back in 2006 Hilton talked of finding his passion for the guitar at a young age.
“What drew me to the guitar was seeing Lonnie Donegan doing Rock Island Line on television, on a show called The Six Five Special,” he told Modern Guitars magazine.
“I wanted to play guitar after seeing that, and of course, after hearing Chuck Berry and seeing him do the duck walk.”
Orphaned at just 16, the young Hilton threw himself into music.
He joined a skiffle group, The Heppers who then became the rock and roll band The Wildcats.
After building his reputation with the band he was recruited to The Animals.
Along with Eric and Hilton, the band was composed of Alan Price on organ and keyboards, John Steel on drums and Bryan “Chas” Chandler on bass.
Hilton left the group in 1966, but remained close to his former bandmates and rejoined for several reunions. His solo album All In Your Head was released in 1969.
He was inducted into the Hollywood’s Rock Walk of Fame in 2001.
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