Early Judas Priest guitarist Ernie Chataway has reportedly passed away at the age of 62. The sad news was announced by original Judas Priest vocalist Al Atkins.

Ernie Chataway was part of the very first Judas Priest lineup, which formed in 1969 and also consisted of Al Atkins on vocals, bassist Bruno Stapenhill and drummer John Partridge. After that incarnation of the band broke up, Atkins formed a new version of the band with classic members Ian Hill and K.K. Downing in 1970.

Chataway spent nearly a year in the original incarnation of Judas Priest before going on to play with Earth, Bullion and Ricky Cool and the Icebergs. He was reportedly battling lung cancer in recent years.

According to Blabbermouth, Al Atkins posted the following tribute to Chataway:

Just heard the very sad news that Ernie passed away last night. He was a lovely bloke and a great guitarist and will be sadly missed.

I remember the first time we met at the auditions for a new guitarist for JUDAS PRIEST in 1969 — his looks reminded me of Marc Bolan. When he plugged in his guitar, he totally blew us away, and made [later JUDAS PRIEST guitarist] KK Downing look a complete amateur (who we'd auditioned earlier).

I'm completely in shock and will sadly miss you, my old buddy.

Atkins also tweeted about Chataway's passing:

We'd like to extend our condolences to the family and friends of Ernie Chataway. Rest in peace.