Stooges guitarist flames out at 60

Written by Scott Mervis on .

If the Stooges get their deserved induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this month, Ron Asheton will not have lived to see it.

The guitarist for the Detroit proto-punk band was found dead of an apparent heart attack Tuesday at the age of 60 at his home in Ann Arbor. According to the Ann Arbor news, he was found on the living-room couch, and appeared to have been dead for at least several days.

Asheton, along with brother Scott, formed the Stooges with Iggy Pop in 1967 as a brutal Motor City alternative to the hippie rock of the day. The band debuted in 1969 with a self-titled album that's often considered an early call to punk rock.

Although Asheton's style was raw and bludgeoning, Rolling Stone declared him the 29th greatest rock guitarist of all time in a 2003 list, saying, he made the "Stooges' music reek like a puddle of week-old biker sweat. He favored black leather and German iron crosses onstage, and he never let not really knowing how to play get in the way of a big, ugly feedback solo."

The Stooges' only local performance was May 5, 1971 at a club called the Psyche-Dilly in McKees Rocks (also at the club that year were the MC5, Amboy Dukes and Little Feat).

The Stooges disbanded after 1973's "Raw Power," a third commercial failure but another influential record. After working on the 1998 glam-rock soundtrack to the movie "Velvet Goldmine," the Ashetons, along with Mike Watt, began playing as The New Stooges in 2000.

Iggy rejoined them as The Stooges in 2003, setting the stage for a triumphant reunion tour but a letdown of a comeback album, "The Weirdness," in 2007.

That tour did not play Pittsburgh, meaning the punk generation in this town never got a look at the Stooges without a road trip.

"He was definitely one of my favorite guitarists," says local musician Jay Miller. "His playing on those Stooges albums is just perfect. I always thought that one of the other guys would go first since he seemed to be the only semi-sane member of the group. I was hoping to see the original Stooges again. Glad I got to see them once, also glad this guy got to reap some rewards for his legacy -- you know, pretty much inventing punk and all."

"Yeah, of course Ron's playing influenced [my] guitar playing," says Eli Kasan of Kim Phuc. "I'm always into guys who could obviously play (and i mean [bleeping] riff) but didn't feel the need to overplay. A lot of the time the Stooges found a nice simple groove and weren't afraid to ride it for awhile. I think that aspect (as well as the rawness of sound) is what drew not only rock fans but luminaries like John Cale who could appreciate what they were doing on another level."

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In the photo, Asheton is the one with the glasses.


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