Founding Nazareth guitarist Manny Charlton dead at 80

Mammy Charlton headshot
Manny Charlton in 1973 (Image credit: Fin Costello)

Nazareth founding guitarist Manny Charlton has died at the age of 80. The news was confirmed in a message to Classic Rock from Nazareth bassist Pete Agnew.

Charlton was born in Andalusia in southern Spain in 1941, but moved with his family to Scotland as a child. He joined the fledging Nazareth in 1968 alongside Agnew, vocalist Dan McCafferty and drummer Darrell Sweet. His appointment spurred the band to discard the strait-jacketed Top 40 mentality of the Scottish ballroom circuit and work on their own material.

“When Manny joined, he was the first guy to suggest writing songs of our own,” Agnew told Classic Rock. “We’d never even thought of it ’til then, because they employed you as human jukebox. Then suddenly Zeppelin, Purple and Spooky Tooth started to appear, and a whole range of possibilities opened up."

Charlton would go on to play on every Nazareth album from the band's self-titled debut in 1971 until 1989's Snakes 'N' Ladders, adding production duties for 1974's Hair Of The Dog after Deep Purple's Roger Glover had worked on the previous three albums.  

Hair Of The Dog was completed in just nine days in an oast house in a remote part of Kent, and would go on to become the band's most successful album. It sold two million copies worldwide, buoyed by the success of the title track – based on a Charlton riff, and later covered by Guns N' Roses – and a cover of Boudleaux Bryant’s ballad Love Hurts.

"Hair Of The Dog was a big, fat, greasy kahuna burger of an album that went on to become the only gold-selling eight-track in history,” said Charlton.

Charlton's connection with Guns N' Roses didn't end there. In 1986, Geffen Records flew the guitarist to Los Angeles, to work with the band on sessions for the album that would eventually become Appetite For Destruction. The 25 tracks they recorded together – including formative versions of Welcome To The Jungle, Paradise City, Nightrain and Rocket Queen – didn't make the final cut, but later surfaced as the Sound City Session on the deluxe edition reissue of Appetite   

“They were just a bunch of young guys living their rock’n’roll dreams and having the time of their lives,” Charlton told Classic Rock. “I never foresaw that they would become one of the biggest bands in rock history.

In 1989, following a lengthy tour to promote the Snakes ’N’ Ladders album, Manny Charlton retired from Nazareth, and after a decade away from the spotlight put out his first solo album, Drool. This was followed by a slew of releases under his own name, the last of which, Solo, was released in 2016. 

Last year Charlton returned to the studio for the final time, recording a new version of Nazareth's 1976 hit Telegram to celebrate his 80th birthday, alongside Norwegian rockers The Halloween Project, London's The Fluffy Jackets (whose 2014 debut album Fighting Demons featured Charlton), plus former Whitesnake bassist Neil Murray and TNT's Ronni Le Tekrø. 

No cause of death has been announced. 

Fraser Lewry

Online Editor at Louder/Classic Rock magazine since 2014. 38 years in music industry, online for 25. Also bylines for: Metal Hammer, Prog Magazine, The Word Magazine, The Guardian, The New Statesman, Saga, Music365. Former Head of Music at Xfm Radio, A&R at Fiction Records, early blogger, ex-roadie, published author. Once appeared in a Cure video dressed as a cowboy, and thinks any situation can be improved by the introduction of cats. Favourite Serbian trumpeter: Dejan Petrović.