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John Alec Entwistle (9 October 1944–27 June 2002) was the bass guitar player for the Who. He was born in Chiswick, a London suburb, in 1944 and joined Roger Daltrey in a pre-Who band, the Detours, in the early 1960s.
Sometimes known as ‘Ox’, he was generally regarded as the quiet person in the Who. Bill Wyman described him as “the quietest man in private but the loudest man onstage”. He was a talented songwriter and artist.
He wrote several well-known Who songs including ‘Cousin Kevin’, ‘My Wife’, ‘Boris the Spider’ and ‘Heaven and Hell’. Entwistle also contributed many backing vocals and horn performances to the group.
In addition to his work with the Who, Entwistle was an accomplished solo artist, releasing a number of solo albums beginning in the 1970s. Entwistle’s contribution to rock bass playing was to create a driving lead role for the instrument. Rarely captured well in the studio, his style and sound was fully developed by the time of the Who’s ‘A Quick One, While He’s Away’ performance for the Rolling Stones’ 1968 Rock and Roll Circus, as well as the seminal 1970 Live at Leeds concert recording. In concert, Entwistle and guitarist Pete Townshend frequently exchanged roles, with Entwistle providing rapid melodic lines and Townsend anchoring the song with rhythmic chord work. Entwistle also pioneered the use of roundwound steel bass strings, developed for him by the Rotosound company.
Entwistle helped develop the percussive potential of the bass sound, creating an unusual right-hand ‘typewriter’ technique several years before slapping was introduced by funk pioneer Larry Graham. This percussive sound is evident in the bass solo from 1965’s crudely recorded Who single ‘My Generation’ (available on the My Generation album).
Entwistle identified his influences as a combination of twangy rock ‘n’ roll guitarists such as Duane Eddy and Gene Vincent, American soul and R&B bassists such as James Jamerson, and his school training on French horn, trumpet and piano.
John Entwistle died in 2002 in Las Vegas, on the eve of the first show in a US tour by the Who. Italian-born bassist Pino Palladino replaced him onstage.