80-Year-Old Guitarist and Early Guns N’ Roses Producer Manny Charlton Dies

According to a post by his grandson, Manny Charlton, founding guitarist of the Scottish hard rock band Nazareth and producer of early Guns N’ Roses demos, has passed away. No cause of death was given; he was 80 years old. From 1968 until 1990, he was Nazareth’s guitarist, producer, and co-songwriter, performing on the band’s most successful albums, including 1973’s “Razamanaz” and 1975’s “Hair of the Dog.” The group’s biggest hit, a dramatic cover of the Everly Brothers’ “Love Hurts” that reached the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100, was featured on the group’s second platinum-selling album in the United States. With 1980’s “Holiday,” the group also scored a later, less successful hit single.

Guns N’ Roses frontman Axl Rose reportedly wanted the producer of Nazareth’s “Hair of the Dog” for the group’s 1986 debut album. Charlton ultimately recorded 25 songs with the band at the legendary Sound City studio in Los Angeles, all of which have been bootlegged and some of which were officially released as B-sides or bonus tracks, but declined to produce the album due to obligations with Nazareth. The album, which was ultimately produced by Mike Clink, sold an estimated 30 million copies worldwide, making it the best-selling debut of all time. GNR covered “Hair of the Dog” on their 1993 covers album The Spaghetti Incident?

Although he was born in Spain, his family moved to Dunfermline, Scotland, when he was a child. In the 1960s, he played with a number of local bands, including the Shadettes, who changed their name to Nazareth in 1968 after hearing the lyrics to the Band’s classic song “The Weight.” With Charlton’s blues-inspired guitar, Dan McCafferty’s powerful, sandpaper vocals — which were a major influence on Axl Rose’s style — and bassist Pete Agnew’s high harmonies, which brought a melodic flair uncommon for hard rock bands of the era, the band developed a gritty and distinctive sound.

The band gained momentum in 1971 while opening for Deep Purple, whose bassist, Roger Glover, produced several of the group’s early albums. However, Charlton directed “Hair of the Dog” and remained in that position until 1983. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Nazareth toured and recorded extensively, releasing approximately 17 studio albums during his tenure. After leaving the group in 1990, he released nearly as many solo albums, including 2014’s “Hellacious,” which featured appearances by original Guns N’ Roses drummer Steven Adler, Def Leppard/Dio guitarist Vivian Campbell, Vanilla Fudge’s Tim Bogert, and others.

In a 2012 interview cited by Blabbermouth, Charlton expressed surprise that the first album he ever produced, “Hair of the Dog,” was a platinum-selling success and broke Nazareth in the United States. “That album set the band up for everlasting success in the United States,” he said. “In retrospect, I’m still attempting to comprehend why it was so successful. I’ve concluded that it’s all about the attitude of the songs, the performances, and the production’s rawness. I produced my first album for the band. Beginners’ luck, one could say.”

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