Blues guitarist Long John Hunter dies in Arizona at age 84

AP News
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Posted: Jan 05, 2016 5:32 PM

PHOENIX (AP) — Blues guitarist Long John Hunter, who recorded seven solo albums in a 60-year career and was known internationally for his onstage showmanship, has died. He was 84.

Hunter died in his sleep early Monday at his home in Phoenix, his family announced Tuesday on their Facebook page.

The cause of death wasn't immediately known, said Marc Lipkin, director of publicity for Chicago-based Alligator Records. Lipkin added that he believed Hunter lived in Phoenix for the past decade or more.

Hunter also was a singer-songwriter whose best-known tracks are "El Paso Rock" and "Alligators Around My Door."

Born John Thurman Hunter Jr. in Ringgold, Louisiana, Hunter grew up in Arkansas and Texas and bought his first guitar after seeing B.B. King in concert.

Hunter adopted his stage name in 1953 when he released his first single. He relocated to El Paso, Texas, and then made a name for himself leading the house band at the Lobby Bar in Juarez, Mexico, from 1957 to 1970.

James Brown, Buddy Holly, Etta James and Albert Collins reportedly attended shows by Hunter, who also became a mentor to then-teenager Bobby Fuller of "I Fought the Law" fame.

It was at the Lobby Bar that Hunter developed his showmanship. He was known for holding his guitar by the neck in one hand while continuing to play. With his free hand, Hunter would reach up, grab a rafter above the stage and start to swing but never missed a beat.

The antics inspired the title of Hunter's 1997 album "Swingin' From The Rafters," which made him an internationally touring festival headliner.

Hunter released independent CDs in 2003 and 2009 and reportedly continued to play regularly until he was 80.

He's survived by his wife, Gayle, and brother, Tom. Funeral services were pending.