Guitarist and co-writer with Status Quo Born: October 12, 1948; Died: December 24, 2016 RICK Parfitt, who has died aged 68, was a musician who, for more 45 years, was, with Francis Rossi, the core of Status Quo, one of Britain’s most enduring rock bands.
They were never very fashionable, but Status Quo had an impressive record: they had more than 60 hit singles in the UK, released 32 studio albums and were one of the most successful British bands of the last 50 years – in 2015, they passed a milestone enjoyed by only a handful of musicians, spending a total of 500 weeks in the UK album charts.They also had the honour of opening Live Aid at Wembley in 1985 with their hit Rockin’ All Over the World – a performance which was broadcast around the world.
There were a number of other songs that became anthems for their enduring fan base, including Whatever You Want, which Parfitt co-wrote with Andy Brown. And apart from the very early days when the band had a more psychedelic image, the songs were all delivered in the same way: all-out guitar rock. Parfitt’s look also never changed from the long blond hair and denim jacket.
Parfitt had always wanted to be a musician and had played a guitar since he was 11 years old. His father was an insurance salesman who drank too much and the young Parfitt remembered giving his father money to pay off his gambling debts.
“He was forever getting in trouble and coming to me crying,” said Parfitt. “I probably ended up giving him a couple of thousand quid in total. Back then, that was a lot of money.”
At 15, Parfitt left school to try to make it as a guitarist and before long was earning a fiver a week at a holiday camp in Hampshire. He first met Rossi when he was performing at a Butlin’s holiday camp in Minehead and two years later they formed Status Quo with Alan Lancaster, John Coghlan and Roy Lynes.
Their first hit was Matchstick Men in 1968 but they struggled to build on the success and decided to change their image for a more full-on rock style.
Their breakthrough album was Piledriver in 1972, with Parfitt co-writing two of the tracks. But it was 1977’s Rockin’ All Over the World that provided some of the anthems that would serve them well. Whatever You Want followed in 1979.
As their popularity grew, Parfitt became known for his aggressive style, often played on his signature 1965 white Fender Telecaster or other similar models. But by the mid 1980s, the band had passed their peak.
They also never achieved critical success – something Parfitt was bullish about.“Peopletrytodismisswhatwedo buttheycan’t,”hesaid.“Peoplehave terrible goes at us about the music being simple when it’s not really. It appears simple perhaps in its chording but generally, to actually play what we play and how we play it, it’s not simple. It’s bloody hard work.”
The band set off on a farewell tour in 1984, but were persuaded to stay together when Bob Geldof asked them to appear at Live Aid.
Throughout it all, Parfitt enjoyed the party lifestyle and once admitted to spending £1,000 a week on cocaine and £500 on alcohol. But in recent years his health had not been good – in 1997, he underwent quadruple heart bypass surgery, although he was back performing with the band within a few months. Healsogaveupdrugsandbytheendof his life had not smoked a joint for 30 years and had not taken cocaine for 10.
However, he also said that, despite his health problems, he would not give up all his vices – he did still enjoy, he said, the odd pint. The band’s website said Parfitt was known as The Womorr, which stands for the wild old man of rock and roll, but added that had changed wild to mild over the years.
His band never really stopped, although in recent years their appearances were limited to one-offs. They appeared at Silverstone in 2003 and in 2007 appeared at a concert in memory of Princess Diana at Wembley. They also appeared at Glastonbury in 2009.
Parfitt’s face aged over the years but he retained his long hair, denim outfits, and no-holds-barred rock-and-roll style. He slowed down a bit after the quadruple heart bypass surgery, but stayed on the road with the band until this year, when a heart attack forced him to stop touring.
Parfitt suffered the heart attack in June after a performance in Turkey. Before his death, he had also been suffering from a severe infection while in a Spanish hospital, which he had visited due to complications with a pre-existing shoulder injury.
Parfitt and Rossi were awarded the OBE in 2010 for services to music.
In recent years, Parfitt had been dividing his time between Spain and London. In a statement, his management said that he had been hugely looking forward to launching a solo career with an album and autobiography planned for 2017 following his departure from Status Quo’s touring activities on medical advice.
Parfitt is survived by his wife Lyndsay Whitburn, the owner of a beauty salon, and four children.