UFO guitarist Tonka Chapman died June 9, 2020

Tonka Chapman

Paul William “Tonka” Chapman (June 9, 1954 – June 9, 2020) was a Welsh rock guitarist known as Tonka Chapman and best known for his work in bands such as UFO, Waysted and Lone Star. Paul Chapman was well known by his nickname “Tonka”, allegedly given to him because of his indestructible qualities.

Tonka Chapman’s first notable band was when he replaced Gary Moore as guitarist in Skid Row in December 1971, but his time in the band was fairly short and only lasted until July 1972.

His next band was Kimla Taz, which he was guitarist in from December 1972 to May 1974.

Tonka Chapman then joined UFO in 1974 as a second guitarist to augment their live sound having answered an advert in the UK music paper, Melody Maker. He auditioned at the Unity Theatre in London. Although Chapman did not record an album during this period, he did join in time to tour and promote the “Phenomenon” album. However, he can be heard with the band on several tracks on the BBC live sessions album that was released retrospectively. He left UFO in January 1975 due to personal differences with the band, and went on to form Lone Star, where he remained until June 1978.

Although he had left UFO, he filled in for Michael Schenker in 1977, when they were on tour with Rush in the United States during one of the German guitarist’s absences.

After going back to Lone Star following the tour, Tonka Chapman rejoined UFO again in December 1978 on a full-time basis after Michael Schenker left UFO. By this time UFO were an international success, and were about to release their live album, “Strangers in the Night” which would increase their profile even further.

Paul “Tonka” Chapman recorded his first album with UFO, “No Place To Run” with ex-Beatles producer George Martin, which was released in January 1980. He continued with UFO until 1983 and played on another three albums, “The Wild, The Willing And The Innocent” in 1981, “Mechanix” in 1982 and “Making Contact” in 1983.

In 1983, after many line-up changes UFO decided to call it a day and the tour was promoted as a farewell tour, although they then got back together the following year. UFO released a compilation album later that year incorporating songs featuring some of their various members in other bands, with Chapman represented by a Lone Star song, and several songs recorded live on the farewell tour.

After the farewell tour, Paul “Tonka” Chapman went to Florida, United States, to form a new band called DOA. He later hooked up with another former UFO band member Pete Way in Waysted and recorded the albums “The Good the Bad the Waysted” and “Save your Prayers”.

In 1993, Tonka Chapman founded a band called Ghost, fronted by another Welshman, Carl Sentance. He was also lined-up as the guitarist for a reformed UFO, but Michael Schenker got the job instead.

Paul “Tonka” Chapman released an album, “Anthology Volume One”, on his own Paul Chapman Enterprises label, which covered his career from Lone Star through to Ghost. A solo instrumental track, “The Bells of Berlin” then appeared as part of the December 2000 Waysted collection “Your Prayers Are Saved”.

In 2001 he played on two tracks on a Nazareth tribute album, “Another Hair Of The Dog”, on “This Flight Tonight” and “Let Me Be Your Dog”.

His next appearance was in late 2002, when he guested with former Virgin Steele guitarist Jack Starr’s new band project, Jack Starr and the Guardians of the Flame, for the February 2003 album, “Under A Savage Sky”. Following this Tonka Chapman and Pete Way reformed Waysted along with original singer Fin, and after completing a new album Chapman resigned from the band in November 2004.

In May 2006, Paul “Tonka” Chapman announced he was planning to re-record classic UFO songs and enlisted singer Robin McAuley who sang on versions of “No Place To Run”, “Wild, Willing & Innocent” and “The Writer” which were recorded at Garudio Studios in Palm Bay.

In July 2006, Chapman joined the American southern rock band Gator Country, a collection of Molly Hatchet veterans.

In 2015, Tonka Chapman went on a 10-week US tour with the Swedish/Canadian band Killer Bee and he also recorded on their album “Eye In The Sky” which was released in 2016.

Prior to his death, Chapman gave one-on-one music lessons at his studio in downtown Melbourne, Florida.

Paul “Tonka” Chapman died on June 6, 2020, on his 66th birthday, no cause of death was given.

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