Skip to main content

Home Music Music News

Budgie singer and Welsh rock legend Burke Shelley dies aged 71

Budgie have previously been hailed as an influence on Metallica, Iron Maiden and Megadeth

By Will Richards

Burke Shelley of Budgie performs live
Burke Shelley of Budgie performs live (Picture: Alamy)

Burke Shelley, the singer, songwriter and bassist for Budgie, has died aged 71.

Shelley’s daughter Ela broke the sad news in a post on social media. No cause of death has been revealed yet, but Shelley suffered with genetic disorder Stickler syndrome. The condition is known to affect vision and hearing.

In the statement, posted to the ‘budgie fans worldwide’ Facebook page, Ela wrote: “It is with great sadness that I announce the death of my father, John Burke Shelley. He passed away this evening in his sleep at Heath Hospital in Cardiff, his birth town. He was 71 years old.

“Please respect the family during this time.

“With love,“His four children: Ela, Osian, Dimitri and Nathaniel.”

John Burke Shelley was born in Cardiff in 1950 and co-founded Budgie – originally known as Hills Contemporary Grass – in 1967 with guitarist Tony Bourge and drummer Ray Phillips.

Budgie went on to become a legendary force in the hard rock scene, with Metallica notably citing them as an influence and covering their tracks ‘Breadfan’ and ‘Brain Surgery’ across their career.

The band’s music has also been previously covered by the likes of Iron Maiden and Megadeth

Shelley was a member of Budgie through their entire career up until their original split in 1988, and for reunions that took place from 1995-96 and 1999-2010.

Since the news of his death was shared, tributes have been pouring in on social media. See a selection below.

Mikael Åkerfeldt of Swedish metal band Opeth led tributes, writing on Facebook: “I almost choked on my coffee this morning when I read that one of my idols, the great Burke Shelley of Budgie had passed away. What a terrible loss!

“They remained underdogs in the scene even if they’re there right in the beginning of the creation of hard rock/heavy metal music. I think Burke was one of those guys who was quite uncomfortable with the heavy metal tag, but it’s undeniable that they were instrumental in bringing it to the masses,” he added.

Other tributes came from Martin Carr, the lead songwriter of Britpop stalwarts The Boo Radleys.

“I have fond memories of squeezing onto a tiny couch in Music Box with Burke Shelley and chatting with him about our love for The Beatles. Lovely fella. RIP,” wrote Carr.