DETROIT - Ron Asheton, the guitarist for the Stooges whose raw sound helped inspire the first generation of punk musicians, has died. He was 60.
Asheton was found at his Ann Arbor home early Tuesday morning by police officers after they were called by an associate who had not heard from him in several days, said city police Sgt. Brad Hill.
There were no signs of foul play, and the death appeared to be of natural causes, Hill said.
Asheton was a founding member of the Stooges, the influential protopunk band formed in Ann Arbor in 1967, along with his brother, Scott.
Lead singer Iggy Pop called Asheton "my best friend" in a statement Tuesday, and the band expressed shock at his death.
"For all that knew him behind the facade of Mr. Cool & Quirky, he was a kind-hearted, genuine, warm person who always believed that people meant well even if they did not," the band said in a written 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."
Asheton's powerful, distorted guitar on songs like "I Wanna Be Your Dog" and "T.V. Eye" was a hallmark of the group's sound. His "technically adept but also beautifully raw" style was heavily influenced by free jazz and created "beauty out of noise," said Brian Cogan, a punk-music historian at Molloy College on New York's Long Island.
"He invents the template for punk-rock guitar," Cogan said. "He's the one who allows Johnny Ramone and the guys in the Dictators to play the way they do."
When he was named the 29th greatest guitarist of all time in 2003 by Rolling Stone, the magazine described Asheton as "the Detroit punk who made the Stooges' music reek like a puddle of week-old biker sweat."
After recording three albums in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Stooges split and Iggy Pop went on to a successful solo career. Asheton played guitar for bands including the New Order, New Race, Destroy All Monsters and Dark Carnival.
In 2003, Asheston reunited with the rest of the Stooges and a new album, "The Weirdness," was released in 2007.
Russ Gibb, who owned Detroit's legendary Grande Ballroom and gave the Stooges their first major show there in 1968, said Asheton was a gentleman in all of their dealings.
"Wherever he is today, it's a better place because he's there," Gibb said Tuesday. "He was a gentleman musician. The musicland that you and I live in has lost something today and wherever musicians go, they're better today because he's there."
Ronald Asheton was born July 17, 1948, in Washington, D.C.
He is survived by his sister Kathy and his brother Scott, who is The Stooges' drummer.