Guitarist Michael Burston, 61, who joined Lemmy’s band in 1984 and left in 1995, passes away suddenly from long-standing illness

Motorhead

Fourth man: Wurzel, left, with Motorhead

Former Motorhead guitarist Wurzel has died of heart failure at the age of 61.

Wurzel, real name Michael Burston, joined Lemmy’s outfit in 1984 and appeared on nine albums before leaving in 1995.

He got his nickname while serving in the British Army as a corporal, when colleagues compared his appearance and character to kids’ TV scarecrow Worzel Gummidge.

He was already 35 years old and working as a builder when he sent a demo tape to Lemmy following the departure of Brian “Robbo” Robertson from the band. That led to an audition and the end of his pub-rock hobby.

When he arrived with fellow recruit Phil Campbell he extended Motorhead’s lineup to four members. Their first public appearance together was on the cult alternative sitcom The Young Ones. His debut Motorhead album was 1984′s No Remorse for which he was lead co-writer for the single Killed By Death; and he contributed to Orgasmatron, Rock’n'Roll, No Sleep At All, The Birthday Party, 1916, March or Die, Bastards then finally Sacrifice in 1995.

When he left Campbell remained, and with drummer Mikkey Dee makes up the three-piece outfit who have remained together ever since.

His unlikely rise to success and his light-hearted nature made him a fast fan favourite. Even after a series of disagreements with Lemmy over business matters led to his departure, the two remained firm friends and he was often seen on stage guesting with his former colleagues. His last appearance was in 2009.

Frontman Lemmy’s bass tech Tim Butcher says: “RIP Wurzel, a great guitarist and a complete gent. We will miss you. We’ll have a drink for him.”

Wurzel was suffering from cardiomyopathy, a disease of the heart muscle which often leads to the organ’s failure.

He was recording an album with his new band Leader of Down before his death.

Related stories: