Stooges Guitarist Ron Asheton Dead At 60
Stooges guitarist Ron Asheton was found dead this morning (Jan. 6) at his home in Ann Arbor, Mich., according to local police. He was 60.
Ann Arbor Detective Bill Stanford tells Billboard.com that police were called to Asheton's house early this morning by Dara Hytinen, his personal assistant, who had not been able to reach him for several days.
Hytinen let officers into the house with her key and Asheton's body was found in his bedroom. Stanford said he "looked fairly peaceful" and that there was no sign of foul play or drug use. Asheton, who had likely been dead since New Year's Eve or New Year's Day, had high blood pressure but no other major medical problems.
Asheton's body was taken to the University of Michigan medical center, where an autopsy was to be conducted this afternoon. Stanford said a cause of death likely won't be determined until toxicology reports are complete, which should take about a month.
Asheton and his drummer brother Scott formed the Stooges with Iggy Pop in Ann Arbor in 1967. Amid a music scene that also reared acts like Bob Seger and the MC5, the Stooges stood out for their reckless abandon, theatrics and pummeling style, a clear precursor for punk and alternative rock.
Asheton's riffs were at the heart of classic Stooges tracks such as "No Fun" and "TV Eye." And while albums such as "Fun House" and "Raw Power" would later be viewed as some of the most influential of the era, the band never enjoyed commercial success at the time, eventually splitting up in 1974. Pop then embarked on a solo career.
"No one ever said, hey, I quit," Ron Asheton said during a 2007 South by Southwest panel devoted to the Stooges' legacy. "It was just like, I need a break. It was a long break, but we needed a break." Seeing Pop play Stooges songs as a solo artist was no easy pill to swallow, but Asheton acknowledged, "It's show business and it's a wicked animal. You take the offers you get and see what happens."
Asheton also fondly discussed making whole grain waffles for his bandmates when they lived at the Fun House in Ann Arbor, where watching an old black-and-white TV and smoking pot were day-long activities. "We were foodies early on," Pop said. "I made the salad everyday," Asheton added.
"For all that knew him behind the facade of Mr. Cool & Quirky, he was a kindhearted, genuine, warm person who always believed that people meant well even if they did not," the Stooges said in a statement. "As a musician, Ron was The Guitar God idol to follow and inspire others. That is how he will be remembered by people who had a great pleasure to work with him, learn from him and share good and bad times with him."
Speaking to Billboard.com, MC5 guitarist Wayne Kramer remembered Asheton as "unique amongst rock guitarists. He had his own take on what the electric guitar was all about. He was one of the guys that understood that you not only play the guitar but you play the amp, too. He was into the sound of the guitar -- the sound was almost more important than the notes. He had a real visceral, raw expression."
Matthew Smith of the Detroit-based bands Outrageous Cherry and the Volebeats recalled meeting Asheton while both were en route to New York in 2004 when the Stooges performed at Little Steven's International Underground Garage Festival on Randalls Island.
"I asked Ron if he'd had a chance to see any of the other acts," Smith said, "and he told me he hadn't. He'd isolated himself in a trailer all day with his guitar, just to be able to concentrate without any distractions so he'd be in the right frame of mind to go onstage with the Stooges. He said he needed to do this for every gig. This is how Ron prepared for 'battle' ... which is what it must've literally been, back in the early '70s."
Detroit-born rocker Marshall Crenshaw concurred that Asheton's sound was "utterly singular. It was just like World War III. It was this monumental onslaught of sound -- and ideas, too. You just go, 'How on Earth does he do what he does?' It was a mystery to me."
After nearly three decades of inactivity, the Stooges reunited in 2003 to play the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival in Indio, Calif., and toured frequently in recent years.
With Mike Watt filling in on bass for the late Dave Alexander, the group also returned to the studio in 2006 to record a new album, "The Weirdness," released the following year by Virgin. "The one thing that kind of amazes me is that it sounds like us," Pop told Billboard of the album at the time. "You put it on, and right away, you'd know, well, that's them. There they go."
The Stooges had just completed a European tour last month. Funeral arrangements are pending for Asheton, who is survived by Scott and a sister, Kathy.