Home featured Walter Lure, Guitarist for the Heartbreakers, Dies at 71

Walter Lure, Guitarist for the Heartbreakers, Dies at 71


Walter Lure, who played rhythm guitar for the Heartbreakers, a pioneering band of the 1970s New York punk scene, and who had a most unpunk second career on Wall Street, died on Aug. 21 at in Queens. He was 71.

Mr. Lure’s current group, Walter Lure and the Waldos, confirmed his death, at Flushing Hospital. His partner, Andy Le, said the cause was liver cancer.

The Heartbreakers were together for a brief three years and recorded only one studio album, “L.A.M.F.,” released in 1977 on the British label Track Records. But among the bands that clustered around downtown clubs like Max’s Kansas City and CBGB during the early punk years, the Heartbreakers had an outsize reputation.

“They were probably the best band besides the Ramones and the Dictators,” Legs McNeil, a co-founder of Punk magazine and the co-author of “Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk” (1996), said in a phone interview. “But they’re kind of like mythical, you know, because no one ever saw them. And when they did, Johnny was usually too drugged out to perform.”

Johnny was Johnny Thunders, the band’s charismatic and doomed singer and guitarist, who, along with the drummer, Jerry Nolan, had been a member of the New York Dolls. Richard Hell, the Heartbreakers’ first bassist, was previously with Television, another influential group in that scene. (The band sometimes billed themselves as Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers to avoid confusion with Tom Petty’s backing band, also named the Heartbreakers.)

Mr. Lure had played mostly in cover bands before he joined the Heartbreakers in 1975, but he quickly bonded with the other members musically and otherwise. In his memoir, “To Hell and Back,” published in March, Mr. Lure wrote of his initiation into the band in Mr. Hell’s East Village apartment. His bandmates cut off his long hair, and Mr. Nolan cooked him up a shot of heroin.

“Everything I would experience during that period, but especially throughout the life span of the Heartbreakers, would ultimately be refracted through the lens of my addiction,” Mr. Lure wrote.

Tall and lanky, with a performing style the British magazine Sounds once described as “jerking about like an out of control puppet,” Mr. Lure was a more proficient guitarist than many punk musicians and the linchpin of the Heartbreakers, onstage and off.

He had strong opinions about how a rock band should sound. In his book he disparaged artier contemporaries like the Talking Heads and Television, writing: “It was as if everybody was so concerned about somehow sounding ‘unique’ that they forgot that, sometimes, the kids just wanna rock. That was the niche that the Heartbreakers slipped into, and that was why they’d excited me so.”

Walter Charles Luhr was born in Queens on April 22, 1949, to Eillien (Kealy) Luhr and Walter Luhr, a retail banker. Walter grew up in Queens Village and, during his teens, in Floral Park, in Nassau County. He changed the spelling of his surname when he joined the Heartbreakers.

Mr. Lure had an unusual background for a punk rocker. After graduating from Fordham University, where he majored in English and minored in chemistry, he tested the safety of products for the Food and Drug Administration in Brooklyn.

And in the early 1980s, through his father’s connections, he got a Wall Street job running financial data for a computing company. It led to a position at a brokerage firm overseeing a team of 125 and a long career in finance that lasted until he retired, in 2015.

ImageMr. Lure performing in 2011 with his group, Walter Lure and the Waldos. He continued to moonlight as a rock musician into his later years. 
Credit…Robert Kenney/Associated Press

“The only thing I ever knew about money was that I never had enough and always wanted more,” Mr. Lure wrote in his book. “But the more I learned, the more fascinating it seemed.”

Mr. Lure remained a drug addict until sobering up in 1988. He continued to moonlight as a rock musician, playing reunions with the Heartbreakers throughout the 1980s and then touring and recording with the Waldos.

In addition to Mr. Le, he is survived by a son, Damian Da Costa; a brother, William Luhr; and twin granddaughters.

Mr. Thunders died in 1991, Mr. Nolan in 1992 and the bassist Billy Rath, who replaced Richard Hell early on, in 2014. Aside from Richard Hell, Mr. Lure was the last Heartbreaker standing.

After he heard the news of Mr. Lure’s death, Glen Matlock, the bassist of the Sex Pistols, who toured with the Heartbreakers in the 1970s, noted the end of an era, tweeting, “And then there were none.”


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