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His Generation pays tribute to Entwistle, a pioneer of rock

The opening dates of a three-month American tour by the Who were cancelled yesterday after the death of John Entwistle, the bass player who helped to make the band part of rock history.

But the rest of the tour would go ahead "as a tribute" to Entwistle, who died in his sleep only hours before he was due to perform at the opening concert in Las Vegas, the band announced last night. The first concert will be at the Hollywood Bowl on Monday.

His son Christopher said: "He lived for music and will always live within the Who's music. This is what he would have wished."

Entwistle, 57, is thought to have suffered a heart attack in his room at the Hard Rock Hotel. A spokesman for the coroner's clerk said there was "nothing suspicious" about the death. Friends said he had been taking medication for a heart condition.

Flowers were placed outside the concert hall and music from the Who was played throughout the city as fans and fellow musicians played tribute to the quiet, bearded member of the legendary British band who was known affectionately as "Ox" or "Thunderfingers".

Pete Townshend, 57, and Roger Daltrey, 58, the two surviving members of the band who lost their drummer, Keith Moon, through a drug overdose in 1978, were said to be too upset to speak.

But in a message on Townshend's website, they wrote: "The Ox has left the building – we've lost another great friend. Thanks for your support and love. Peter and Roger."

Ray Manzarek, keyboard player for the Doors, said Entwistle was "one of the great, great rock'n'roll bassists of all time. He was a real genius". Other tributes were paid by Bill Wyman, formerly of the Rolling Stones, who said Entwistle was "the quietest man in private, but the loudest man on stage", and Noel Gallagher of Oasis, who said: "They don't make 'em like him any more."

John Entwistle was born in London in 1944 and became interested in music at a young age, playing the piano, trumpet and tenor horn.

But his musical life went in a different direction after he discovered Duane Eddy and the guitar.

He, Townshend and Daltrey were all pupils of Acton County Grammar School in west London but only after leaving did they begin performing together in Daltrey's band, the Detours.

With the addition of Moon, they renamed themselves the Who and became known for loud, explosive performances and eventually entered the Guinness Book of Records for the loudest concert in history.

The Who's first hit came in 1965 with "I Can't Explain" followed later that year by "My Generation", probably the band's most celebrated track. It became an anthem for baby boomers with the immortal line "Hope I die before I get old".

A string of successes for the band followed, including the rock opera Tommy, an appearance at the Woodstock festival in 1969 and the film Quadrophenia. Entwistle wrote only one or two numbers, such as "Boris the Spider" and "My Wife" but Townshend once said the bass player's improvisation contributed as much lead material as he did. He was one of the first rock guitarists to experiment with the six- and eight-string bass.

Entwistle released Smash Your Head Against the Wall in 1971, the first of nine solo albums, but they never achieved the commercial success of the Who in their heyday of the late Sixties and Seventies.

His other interests including writing a novel, which was unfinished at his death, and painting. He had arrived early in Las Vegas for the opening of an exhibition of his work, which included cartoon-type portraits of himself and band members.