Eric Wrixon, who played keyboards in the earliest versions of both Them and Thin Lizzy, has died on July at his home in Italy. He was 68.

Hot Press is reporting that the news was confirmed by Terry O'Neill, who was Thin Lizzy's first manager, and Irish musician Bob Kelly, who had known him for 50 years. The cause of death has not been revealed.

A native of Belfast, Northern Ireland, Wrixon was piano and organ in a local group called the Gamblers when they were recruited by Van Morrison to back him up at an R&B club he was opening in the Maritime Hotel. According to the story, it was Wrixon who came up with the name for the new group, which he took from the 1954 science fiction movie Them!

Unfortunately, Wrixon was still a minor when the band were recruited by Decca Records, and his parents refused to sign the contract, and he was replaced by Pat McAuley. He eventually re-joined the band for a short period in 1965.

After that, he kicked around in a series of bands in the U.K., Ireland and Germany until 1969, when he met another former Them member, Eric Bell, in a Dublin pub. They decided to form a group on the spot and then went to another club where another outfit, Orphanage, was playing. They were impressed with the singer and drummer, Phil Lynott and Brian Downey, and Thin Lizzy was born.

But again, Wrixon didn't stay long. He played on their first single, "The Farmer," but left before its release in July 1970, citing a lack of money, which caused him to return to Germany.

Wrixon and two other original members of Them reunited in 1979 for the Shut Your Mouth album. In 1993, he and several other former members of the group formed "Them - The Belfast Blues Band," in which he played untli his death.

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