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Hilton Valentine, the founding guitarist in the Animals, passed away on Friday. Born May 23, 1943, Valentine started playing guitar in his first year as a teen, and formed a skiffle group named the Heppers while in high school. The group shifted into a Rock mode in 1959, adopting the name the Wildcats. Four years later, future Animals leader Eric Burdon, bassist Chas Chandler and keyboard player Alan Price were performing as the Alan Price Rhythm and Blues Combo to the Animals. Chandler invited Valentine and drummer John Steel to join and the name was changed to the Animals. During a recent interview with Guitar International, front man Eric Burdon attributed much of the success of the Animals to the guitarist, saying, "It really was Hilton who made the early Animals a rock band", adding, "Hilton wasn't just playing rock n' roll, he looked rock n' roll", and called his playing, his appearance, attitude and energy the band's "secret weapon". R.I.P. Hilton.