Guitarist and founding member of The Boomtown Rats, Garry Roberts, has died aged 72, the band has announced. No cause of death has been revealed at the time of writing.
He was the “guy who summed up the sense of who The Rats are”, the Irish rock group said in a statement. It said they had known Garry since they were children and that they felt “strangely adrift” without him.
Lead singer Sir Bob Geldof fronted the Boomtown Rats which started in Dublin in 1975. The group said that to fans, Garry Roberts was “The Legend – and he was. For us he was Gazzer.”
The statement was signed by remaining members of the band including Sir Bob, drummer Simon Crowe and bassist Pete Briquette. The statement continued: “Safe travels Gaz. Thanks for everything mate.”
They said: “On a clear spring evening in 1975, in a pub in Dun Laoghaire, Co Dublin, Garry became the founding member of what turned out to be a great rock ‘n’ roll band, driven largely by that sound of his – a storm of massive considered noise that punched out from his overtaxed amplifiers and which animated not just the rest of the group but audiences he played to around the world.”
Roberts, as one of the group’s founding members, is said to have been instrumental in the band settling on the name Boomtown Rats. He is said to have threatened to quit unless they changed their name from The Nightlife Thugs. Their new name was chosen by Geldof after he read the phrase in US protest singer Woody Guthrie’s autobiography, Bound for Glory.
In a tweet, the band also described Roberts as: “A man who will be missed, a friend who will be remembered, a sound that will never been forgotten.”
Paying tribute, Hot Press’ editor Niall Stokes said: “Garry Roberts was every inch a rock ’n’ roller. The Boomtown Rats made a brilliant noise and it was Garry’s guitar which drove that. He was a fine musician, but he also embodied the spirit of rock music. He loved being in a band – and even more so being in a hugely successful band that changed the musical landscape in Ireland completely. The Rats’ fantastic, and extraordinarily quick success from 1977 onwards made it possible for Irish musicians to dream big – leading on to the success of U2, and all of the bands and artists that followed in their wake.
“Garry, and his ability as a guitar player, were central to that success – which arrived at its apotheosis when the band’s single “Rat Trap” hit No.1 in the UK, in 1978 – pushing “Summer Nights” by John Travolta and Olivia Newton John off the top of the UK charts.”
“It is a very sad day for Irish music – and for everyone who loved The Boomtown Rats, and who understood and appreciated what they achieved for this country culturally and musically.”