WALLINGFORD, CT (CelebrityAccess) — Hilton Valentine, a Rock & Roll Hall of famer and pioneering guitarist, best known for his role as a founding member of The Animals, died on January 29th. He was 77.
His passing was confirmed by his wife Germaine Valentine through his label, Abkco Records, but a cause of death was not revealed.
A native of North Shields, Northumberland, Valentine being playing guitar when he was just 13 and was caught up in the skiffle craze that swept the UK in the 1950s.
By the time he was 16, he’d formed his own skiffle group The Heppers, which later became The Wildcats and provided Valentine with formative stage experience as a musician.
In 1963, Valentine was recruited by Chas Chandler, Alan Price and Eric Burdon as they were forming a new group that would become The Animals after the final addition of John Steel.
Valentine played guitar for the Animals for the next four years, contributing the classic introductory arpeggio for the band’s breakout hit “House of the Rising Sun” as well as songs such as “Baby Let Me Take You Home,” “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood,” “We Gotta Get Out of This Place,” “It’s My Life” and “Don’t Bring Me Down.”
“It really was Hilton who made the early Animals a rock band because I don’t think the element of rock was in the band until we found him. In those days, Hilton wasn’t just playing rock ‘n’ roll, he looked rock ‘n’ roll. Here was a guy with the greased mop of hair combed back, cheap leather jacket, winkle picker shoes, black jeans and a smile on his face playing through an echoplex, which was a secret weapon back then,” Burdon told Guitar International in a 2010 interview.
After The Animals dissolved in 1966, Valentine relocated to California, where he recorded a solo album All In Your Head which was not a commercial success. Valentine then returned to the UK, and over the years joined several Animals reunions.
He, along with Eric Burdon, Chas Chandler, Alan Price and John Steel, were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1996.
In 2004, he released a new album Folk ‘n’ Skiffle, Mate! and began touring in the U.S. and U.K. with his band Skiffledog.
He also reunited with his former Animals bandmate Eric Burdon for a tour in 2007-08.