Hilton Valentine, the founding guitarist of The Animals, has died. The band label ABKCO confirmed the news with a statement on Friday (January 29th). He was 77 years old.

Valentine was born in 1943 and grew up in the northernmost part of England. As a teenager, she became interested in skiffle music. He co-founded Animals in the early 1960s with Eric Burdon, Chas Chandler, Alan Price and John Steel. In 1964 the young rock group released their self-titled debut album, which contained their interpretation of the sad folk-blues song “House of the Rising Sun”. Valentine played the recording’s distinctive opening riff, a widely acclaimed guitar part that helped establish folk rock as a concept in popular music.

Valentine stayed with the group until 1966 and reunited for occasional meetings in 1975 and 1983. In 1993 he formed an outfit as Animals II with a cast that included Steel and other Animals employees from various years. He stayed on this project until 2001. Valentine was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Animals in 1994. Animal singer Eric Burdon paid tribute to his late colleague on Instagram, writing: “Rising Sun’s opening work will never sound like that! … You didn’t just play it, you lived it!”