The Who's Bass Player Dies

The Who's bass player, John Entwistle, died in his hotel room Thursday, just as the band was about to kick off a North American tour. He was 57.

The Las Vegas Metro Police say that they responded to a call from the Hard Rock at about noon. While an official cause of death will not be announced until after an autopsy today, the police say it appears that the bassist died of natural causes. .

"There is no evidence whatsoever of any drug involvement," said Lieut. Tom Monahan of Las Vegas Metropolitan Police. "There is no evidence whatsoever of any violence or trauma, there is no evidence of anything except for a natural death."

Officials refused to reveal any details whether anyone was with Entwistle at the time of his death, or who found his body.

Fans Mourn Outside Hotel

As news of Entwistle's death emerged, stunned fans from across the country began gathering on the Hard Rock casino floor, outside the entrance to the resort's concert venue, The Joint. Soon, many appeared with flowers, which they left next to larger arrangements bought by the casino, and beneath a poster advertising today's show.

Michael Rudman traveled from San Francisco to see the show. "This was the opening of the tour, the smallest venue [they were going to play]. I had a killer seat. I was jazzed," he said.

"I just checked into the hotel an hour ago a friend of mine called me from San Francisco saying, 'I got bad news."

Rick Cermera, who came from New York, was also caught off guard.

"I didn't believe it. He looked in great health," he said. "I mean, seeing him play for over 25 years with Keith Moon and Pete Townshend, smashing their guitars and the drums. I mean, you would never think a tragedy like this would happen."

The Quiet Man Everyone Knew

While guitarist Pete Townshend wrote most of the songs, and Roger Daltrey served as lead singer for most of the band's best known songs — such as "My Generation," "Baba O'Riley," and "Pinball Wizard" — Entwistle wrote and sang a smattering of songs and provided a steady bass and backing vocals.

Entwistle was the quiet, nearly emotionless member of the raucous group. His death leaves Townshend and Daltrey as the only remaining original band members. Drummer Keith Moon died of a drug overdose in 1978.

The Who had planned to kick off a 24-venue tour throughout North America in Las Vegas today. It was to be the band's first visit to America in two years and grossed more than $21 million in advance ticket sales. Band Bristled at ‘Nostalgia Act’ Tag With no new studio album in 20 years, there had been plans to record in October. MCA Records just filled the gap with The Ultimate Collection, a two-CD hits package that debuted at No. 31 on the U.S. pop charts.

As they were setting out on tour, Daltrey, 58, chafed at the suggestion the band had become a nostalgia act.

"I know some critics say, 'Oh it's all nostalgia.' But … it's not nostalgia. It's our music," Daltrey told Reuters in a recent interview.

"If you could dig up Mozart today … and make him perform a concert, would that be nostalgia? Of course it wouldn't," he said. "Music transcends all that other crap and then the only question that should be answered is whether we can still do it, and do it well. And the answer to that is 'Yes!"'

‘He Was a Gentleman, A Real Quiet Cat’

As part of the British Invasion of the 1960s, the Who rank with the Beatles and Rolling Stones as one of the most influential bands of the 1960s, starting with the early hit "My Generation."

The British-born Entwistle teamed up with Daltrey in 1960 while working as a tax clerk. Four years later, the Who was born.

With legendary performances at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 and subsequently at Woodstock, the Who cemented its legend. They may have been the first act to regularly destroy their instruments as part of the show — a practice many musical bad boys, including members of Nirvana, have emulated. The band broke new creative ground with the first rock opera, Tommy.

At the House of Blues in West Hollywood Thursday, another giant of 1960s rock — Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek — learned of the news while announcing that the three surviving members of the group would reunite for the first time since 1971 to headline the "Harley-Davidson Open Road Tour."

"Could we have a moment of silence for one of the great, great rock 'n' roll bass players of all time, a real genius," Manzarek said. "That guy was was amazing … wasn't he? Dressed like a spider, he came on stage. He was just incredible."

Manzarek recalled when the Doors and the Who played together at the Isle of Wright Festival in 1969. "We played, then the Who came out and did the public debut of Tommy. Entwistle was just the strongest bass player I've ever seen … a gentleman and a really quiet cat."

Over the years, the band sold 18 million albums, according to the Recording Industry Association of America. They have had 14 gold albums, 10 platinum and five multiplatinum.

They retired in 1982, but reunited and toured frequently. They gave a rousing performance at last year's "Concert for New York," which raised money for the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks. ABC Radio's Al Manzini in Las Vegas contributed to this report.