Hilton Valentine, The Animals’ Guitarist, Dead At Age 77

Hilton Valentine, the founding guitarist of the English rock and roll band The Animals who is credited with coming up with one of the most famous opening riffs of the 1960s, has died. He was 77.

The band’s label ABKCO Music confirmed that Valentine died on Friday, saying it was told of his death by his wife, Germaine Valentine. The cause of death was not given.

Hilton Valentine, fourth from the left, and Eric Burdon, Chas Chandler, John Steel and Alan Price of The Animals in an undated photo.

“Valentine was a pioneering guitar player influencing the sound of rock and roll for decades to come,” the label said in a statement.

Valentine took up the guitar at 13 in his hometown of North Shields in northeast England, subsequently getting involved in the skiffle craze — a kind of fusion of American folk, country, jazz and blues — that was sweeping the U.K. His skiffle band The Heppers evolved into The Wildcats, a rock and roll band that became popular across the north of England, partly because of Valentine’s habit of rolling on the ground while playing his guitar.

Having learned his craft, Valentine formed The Animals in 1963…

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