Motorhead Guitarist Dead at 61

Monday, Jul 11, 2011  |  Updated 10:21 AM CDT
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In Memoriam

Kirsty Umback

Motorhead guitarist Michael "Wurzel" Burston passed away over the weekend from complications stemming heart disease.

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Motõrhead's colorful guitarist Michael "Würzel" Burston passed away over the weekend after stuggling with heart disease. He was 61 years old.

Burton, a native of Cheltenham, England, joined the legendary metal band in 1984 and quickly established himself as a quirky and often comical stage presence. His lanky build and straw-like hair earned him his nickname during his stint serving in Germany with the British military - it's a reference to a German children's show character named Worzel Grummidge, who was a scarecrow (Motõrhead frontman and umnlaut enthusiast Lemmy Kilmister urged Burston to adopt the slightly altered spelling).

Despite being an iconic member of Motõrhead (he performed on nine studio albums following the departure of original guitarist Brian Robertson), Burston last performed with the band in 1996. He went on to pursue solo albums and form a new group called Leader of Down.

Kilmister was fond of recounting stories about Burtson's antics, such as the time the guitarist had a rather ignominious meeting with Rolling Stones' bassist Bill Wyman.

"It was downstairs in the basement," said Kilmister. "W#252;rzel ran down there, all excited, and, just as he comes to the bottom, Bill Wyman comes along, and he hits him full-on and lands him flat on his back. Great start to the evening, you know? 'Hello, Bill, I've always been a fan of yours. Oh sorry, have I knocked you out?'"

Burston is survived by his companion, Jem.

Selected Reading: Rolling Stone, Washington Post, Entertainment Weekly

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