Former JUDAS PRIEST guitarist K.K. Downing has paid tribute to vocalist/bassist Burke Shelley of legendary Welsh rockers BUDGIE who died on Monday, January 10 at the age of 71.
Earlier today (Friday, January 14), Downing took to his social media to write: “It is with much sadness that I hear that our great Bass player, singer, and songwriter Burke Shelley has passed away.
“I have so many treasured memories when supporting BUDGIE on those great and extensive tours of the UK, I think we felt a special bond as both bands were perusing a direction together that was in some way different to everyone else back in the late 60s early 70s.
“Before I knew the band, I was a huge fan,” he continued. “I used to look forward to turning on the radio late at night when a brave DJ named Kid Jensen used to play the band from a pirate radio ship somewhere in the North Sea,
“There can be no doubt that Burke Shelley was part of the embryo that became responsible for the creation of Rock, Hard Rock, Heavy Rock and Heavy Metal as we know it today. For this we can truly thank him. Burke can rest in peace knowing that we all that were there in the beginning or somewhere along the way will live the rest of our lives cherishing the music of BUDGIE, music that has always been a part of us and always will be.
“If I may I would like to extend sincerest thoughts and condolences to all of Birks family, friends, and loved one’s form both myself and fans all over the world,” Downing added.
The news of Burke‘s passing was shared Monday by his daughter Ela. She wrote on Facebook: “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.”
Two years ago, Shelley said that he was suffering from aortic aneurysm — a dangerous and abnormal swelling of the main artery that supplies blood to the body. He was also batting Stickler syndrome, a genetic disorder that can cause serious vision, hearing and joint problems. At the time, he told Wales Online that he turned down surgery because of the risk that it would cause irreparable spinal damage.
“I want to live what life I have left and not be crippled,” he said. “I’ve got faith in God and have no worries about where I’m going. So I’ll just go when He decides to take me and, in the meantime, I’ll carry on doing what I want to do. Simple as that.”
Shelley said the surgery he had in 2010 for aortic aneurysm resulted in damage to his diaphragm, leaving him unable to sing properly.
Often thought of as a cross between BLACK SABBATH and RUSH, the underappreciated outfit has influenced countless acts, despite enduring countless line-up shifts throughout their history.
The group originally formed in 1967 in Cardiff, Wales, comprised of Shelley (vocals, bass), Tony Bourge (guitar) and Ray Phillips (drums), and by the early 1970s they’d inked a deal with MCA Records.
This early lineup remains BUDGIE‘s most definitive, due to the fact that it spawned three of the group’s finest albums — 1971’s self-titled debut, 1972’s “Squawk” and 1973’s “Never Turn Your Back On A Friend” — while the group’s quirky song titles became somewhat of a trademark for the trio (such ditties as “Nude Disintegrating Parachutist Woman”, “Hot As A Docker’s Armpit”, “In The Grip Of A Tyrefitter’s Hand” and “You’re The Biggest Thing Since Powdered Milk”).
Despite building a sizeable following in their homeland (while never breaking out of cult status stateside), Phillips left the group prior to their fourth album, 1974’s “In For the Kill!”, replaced by newcomer Pete Boot, which would in turn set off a flurry of steady lineup changes over the years for the group (the only constant BUDGIE member from the beginning was Shelley). Further releases were issued throughout the ’70s, including 1975’s “Bandolier”.
Shelley and company would remain together for a few more years before splitting up quietly by the mid-’80s. But almost as soon as they disbanded, several high-profile groups began covering BUDGIE classics, including METALLICA (“Crash Course In Brain Surgery” and “Breadfan”), IRON MAIDEN (“I Can’t See My Feelings”), while back in their early club days VAN HALEN was known to cover the title track from “In For The Kill!”
It is with much sadness that I hear that our great Bass player, singer, and songwriter Burke Shelley has passed away.
Judas Priest have strong memories of great times with Burke Shelly from our tours together. We send our love with condolences for his family friends and fans
— Judas Priest (@judaspriest) January 13, 2022