Former UFO guitarist Paul “Tonka” Chapman died on his 66th birthday June 9, a family member announced.

The Welsh-born musician was active from 1968 until his death. He replaced Gary Moore in the British band Skid Row in 1971, and first joined UFO in 1974. But he left a year later due to personal differences and formed Lone Star instead. He rejoined in 1978 and appeared on four albums – No Place to Run, The Wild, The Willing and the Innocent, Mechanix and Making Contact – before their split in 1983.

When they regrouped the following year, Chapman did not return and continued his career elsewhere.

After relocating to the U.S., he became a member of the southern-rock band Gator Country alongside members of Molly Hatchet, and operated a studio in Melbourne, Fla. He’d also spent time in former UFO bandmate Pete Way’s Waysted. It was reported last year that Chapman had suffered a stroke. His wife had also recently died.

“Today is my dad’s 66th birthday,” a post on Chapman’s Facebook page read. “He passed away earlier this afternoon. He was a brilliant, energetic, loving and most carefree person and the first man I ever loved. Everyone he came in contact with loved him - no, adored him. … I appreciate everyone's thoughts and prayers as his family grieves and processes everything at this time. I love you, Dad, so much.”

Discussing the difference between his guitar work and that of UFO alumnus Michael Schenker, Chapman said in 2015 that the latter "was a big Ritchie Blackmore, organized kind of player, whereas I was more of a Hendrix, Zappa type, a freer type. … I’d say to Michael, ‘Why don’t you let loose some nights, you know?’ He’d be doing the same thing. The solos, they’d be beautiful, but they’d be almost identical every night. ... I’d have a certain part, but I’d go [off], and that’s the difference between the two players, really.”

 

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