Hilton Valentine, guitarist and founding member of The Animals has died

He wrote the iconic riff on House Of The Rising Sun.

Hilton Valentine

Photo: Stanley Bielecki / Getty

Hilton Valentine, guitarist and founding member of The Animals has died at 77.

News of his death was made known in a social media post by record label Abkco. Valentine died on Friday (29 January). As yet, no cause of death has been revealed.

“Our deepest sympathies go out to Hilton Valentine’s family and friends on his passing this morning, at the age of 77,” the label’s statement wrote.

“A founding member and original guitarist of The Animals, Valentine was a pioneering guitar player influencing the sound of rock and roll for decades to come.”

Hilton Stewart Paterson Valentine was born in North Shields, England in 1943. He began playing the guitar at the age of 13 and eventually formed his own skiffle group called The Heppers while in high school.

The Heppers evolved into a rock ‘n’ roll band called the Wildcats. Valentine, at the time was known in the scene for his wild playing style, often rolling around on the stage whilst armed with his Futurama III solid-body electric.

In 1963, he caught the attention of Chas Chandler, Alan Price and Eric Burdon, who invited him to be part of a new group they were putting together. With drummer John Steel rounding off the lineup, that group became The Animals.

Valentine wrote the iconic guitar riff on House Of The Rising Sun – arguably the band’s most well-known recording. The Animals’ rendition of the traditional folk song – sometimes called Rising Sun Blues – remains the most commercially successful version of the tune to date and was a number one hit in the UK, US and France in 1964.

Valentine quit The Animals in 1966, but rejoined on several occasions. In 1977, he reunited with the band to record Before We Were So Rudely Interrupted, tracked at the Rolling Stones Mobile Studio at Goulds Farm.

In 1994, Valentine and his fellow Animals bandmates were inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. In 2001, they were also inducted into Hollywood’s Rock Walk Of Fame.

Animals founding member Eric Bourdon, speaking with Guitar International, discussed Valentine’s influence on the band saying “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,” he said. “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.”

Valentine’s final album was the solo record Skiffledog on Coburg ST, released by Tatty Records in 2011.

For more guitar news, click here.


Get the latest news, reviews and features to your inbox.


The world’s leading authority and resource for all things guitar.

Join our mailing list

Sign Up Now

© 2023 Guitar.com is part of NME Networks.