UFO Guitarist Paul Chapman Dies on 66th Birthday

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Chapman and Def Leppard’s Rick Allen, in an undated photo via Chapman’s Facebook page

Paul Chapman, a rock guitarist most notably for UFO and Lone Star, died June 9, 2020. His death – on his 66th birthday, no less – was announced by his son on his father’s Facebook page. No cause of death was revealed.

His son’s tribute said, “It is with a heavy heart writing this, today is my dads 66th birthday. 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. will keep everyone posted on his celebration of life. I appreciate everyone’s thoughts and prayers as his family grieves and processes everything at this time. I love you Dad. So much.”

Chapman, born June 9, 1954, was known by his nickname, “Tonka.” His first significant career break was with the Irish blues band, Skid Row, in 1971, replacing Gary Moore as guitarist. Though his tenure in the band didn’t last long, he answered an ad in the U.K. weekly Melody Maker for a rock band seeking a second guitarist. He passed the audition, joining that group, UFO, in 1974.

He remained with the group for several stints throughout the ’70s, departing for a while to form a band called Lone Star, which released several albums.

Chapman would re-join UFO in 1978, replacing Michael Schenker. He remained until 1983 and was part of their considerable success for albums such as 1980’s No Place to Run, 1981’s The Wild, The Willing and the Innocent, and others.

Watch UFO, with Chapman, perform in 1980

Vocalist Phil Mogg, guitarist Mick Bolton, bassist Pete Way, and drummer Andy Parker formed UFO in 1969. Originally known as Hocus Pocus, the group, which took their name in honor of a London club, debuted in 1971 with UFO 1. Both the album and its follow-up found success in Japan, France, and Germany, but went barely noticed in the band’s native country.

In 1974, Bolton left the group; after brief trial runs with ex-Pink Fairies guitarist Larry Wallis and future Whitesnake member Bernie Marsden, former Scorpion Michael Schenker stepped in as a permanent replacement in time to record 1974’s Phenomenon, which sported a harder-edged guitar sound. After 1975’s Force It and 1976’s No Heavy Petting brought UFO acclaim with American audiences, keyboardist Paul Raymond joined for 1977’s Lights Out.

However, after 1978’s Obsession, Schenker departed, first to rejoin the Scorpions and later to form his own band. He was replaced in UFO by Chapman.

After 1983’s Making Contact, UFO dissolved, only to re-form two years later. A new album was met with little response, and they again called it quits. In 1993, the group’s most popular lineup — Mogg, Schenker, Way, Raymond, and Parker — reunited and recorded the 1995 album Walk on Water; after a tour, the members yet again went their separate ways.

Related: Paul Raymond died in 2019

Over the years, Chapman was in several other bands, including Waysted with former bandmate, Pete Way.

There have been various UFO reunions. A 50th anniversary tour, without Chapman, continued into 2020.

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