Magnum guitarist and founder Tony Clarkin dies aged 77

Tony Clarkin of Magnum
(Image credit: Sebastian Reuter / Getty Images)

British guitarist Tony Clarkin, best known as the founder and songwriter behind hard rock band Magnum has passed away at the age of 77, according to a statement from his family. 

Clarkin founded the group with vocalist Bob Catley in 1972, initially as the house band for the Rum Runner club in Birmingham, UK. He remained the sole songwriter across the entirety of the group’s 22 studio albums, including the band’s commercial zenith, which ran from 1982’s Chase The Dragon through to 1990’s Goodnight LA

While they were denied the international stardom of early contemporaries like Def Leppard, albums like On a Storyteller’s Night, Vigilante and Wings of Heaven remain much-loved by fans of the AOR/hard rock era. 

The band’s first and only US tour took place in April and May of 1982, in support of fellow Birmingham musician Ozzy Osbourne – as the metal great mourned the loss of Randy Rhoads, who had died just weeks before, on March 19.

Clarkin remembered the dates as being tough for a number of reasons but, despite the hell-raising reputation of Osbourne in the 1980s, recalled the kindness of the Black Sabbath great.

“I can remember Ozzy actually introduced us,” Clarkin told metal fan site Defenders of the Faith in 2022. 

“He had made a tape saying, ‘This is a band from where I come from.’ I had known Ozzy for a long time. We crossed paths over the period of time we had been playing in bands. So yeah, he introduced us. That was good of him to do that. 

“He had these massive shows. He was phenomenal. I remember he had this dwarf that he’d hang halfway through the show! He’d have this giant hand come out of the back, and… there’d be a big bang and there he was sitting [on a throne]. I don’t think the [US metal audience] knew what to make of us, quite truthfully, but I enjoyed doing it.”

Clarkin wrote, recorded and toured with the band throughout their 50-year career. He formed Hard Rain when Magnum split for a period in 1995 and later reunited the group in 2001, at which point the band continued to tour and record consistently, albeit with a line-up that rotated around the core of Clarkin and Catley.

Tony Clarkin and Bob Catley of Magnum

Tony Clarkin and Bob Catley of Magnum (Image credit: Future)

More recently, the band finished recording a new album, Here Comes the Rain, which is due for release this Friday (January 12). 

Magnum had previously announced that Clarkin was battling a spinal condition, which led to them cancelling their 2024 tour dates.

According to a statement from Clarkin’s daughter, Dionne – shared by Magnum’s longterm record company SPV/Steamhammer – the guitarist died following a short illness and in the company of “his girls” on Sunday (January 7). 

“I know that Tony has touched so many people through his music in so many different ways. I don‘t really have words to express what he meant to me right now as the grief is too fresh,” reads Dionne’s statement.

“As many of you know Tony had a great affinity with animals. It is the family‘s intention to set up a charitable trust in his name to aid this cause, further details to follow. 

“Please do not send flowers or cards, as he would have much preferred expressions of sympathy to go to charity in this way. It was a privilege to call him my Dad.”

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Matt Parker

Matt is a staff writer for GuitarWorld.com. Before that he spent 10 years as a freelance music journalist, interviewing artists for the likes of Total Guitar, Guitarist, Guitar World, MusicRadar, NME.com, DJ Mag and Electronic Sound. In 2020, he launched CreativeMoney.co.uk, which aims to share the ideas that make creative lifestyles more sustainable. He plays guitar, but should not be allowed near your delay pedals.