Guitarist Wayne Swinny, a founding member of the rock band Saliva, died Wednesday at age 59 after suffering a brain hemorrhage the previous day in the midst of a tour by the group.
Swinny was the only current member to have been with the nu-metal outfit since its first album in 1996. Over the intervening 27 years, Saliva had released 11 albums, been nominated for a hard rock Grammy, and reached No. 1 on Billboard’s alternative rock chart with the outfit’s biggest song, 2002’s “Always.”
The band announced Swinny’s death hours after first going on social media Wednesday to reveal that the longtime lead guitarist had been in the ICU since being “discovered in medical distress” Tuesday morning.
The group’s last show with Swinny, on the eve of his hemorrhage, was Monday night in Nashville at the Brooklyn Bowl. Tuesday, after he was admitted to the ICU, the rest of the band had gone on to do a show in the Pittsburgh area, with a fill-in guitarist. The Nashville gig that proved to be Swinny’s last was only three gigs into a 16-date headlining tour scheduled for the band.
“I’m not even sure what to think or how to feel right now,” said Saliva singer Bobby Amaru, who replaced original vocalist Josey Scott in 2011, in a statement. “My heart aches for Wayne’s family, his friends, and anyone who had the joy of being around him. My heart aches for his daughter Nikki. He loved that little girl so much. He was a guitar hero onstage with all the rock ‘n’ roll swag that most guitar players dream of. Offstage he was a proud father, an Ancient Aliens expert, and an incredible human who had zero enemies! He would go out of his way to make sure you had a good time. I’m grateful that I got to share almost 12 years of my life with Wayne on the stage and most importantly off the stage. He was the older brother I never had. I learned so much from him and we had a fucking blast together! I will cherish it all for the rest of my life! God bless you, Wayne. I know we’ll meet again!”
Meltdown, a DJ on the Detroit active-rock radio station WRIF, paid tribute in a testimonial on the station’s website.
“That guy was just fun to be around. I always kind of thought of him as the elder statesman, keeping the Saliva name going. He’d play anywhere there was electricity,” wrote Meltdown. “Through that thick jet black hair, under that beat up and well-worn cowboy hat, and behind those ever-present dark sunglasses was a genuine, quality person. Pictures? Sure! A fan wanted to say Hello? Absolutely. Just a solid guy.
“He’d always greet me with a hug and a big smile. Man, he also loved his Raiders football. No matter what city the team played in! He wore that tattoo proudly. He told me about some motorcycles he had laying around. Even sat with me while I sobered up once after being ‘over-served.’ A better guy is hard to find.
“I was supposed to do an interview with him yesterday, but was told to put it on hold. I found out last night that he was fighting for his life. I was hoping for the best, preparing for the worst. Unfortunately, the worst is what we got.
“I tell people all the time that I don’t want to know rock stars, I want to know nice people,” Meltdown concluded. “That’s exactly what I found in Wayne Swinny.”