Ian Samwell, the British rock guitarist and songwriter who wrote the 1958 hit “Move It” for Cliff Richard and the Drifters and later was credited with helping popularize the 1970s band America, has died. He was 66.
Samwell died Thursday at Mercy San Juan Hospital in Sacramento. The cause of death was heart failure, said Jeff Hughson, a longtime friend, who added that Samwell had undergone a heart transplant in 1991.
The British-born musician had been playing with a London skiffle band when he hooked up with Richard’s group in 1958 after seeing it perform in a London coffee bar.
A few months later, Samwell wrote “Move It” as he sat on a bus trying, as he recalled later, to play guitar like Chuck Berry.
The song peaked at No. 2 in the United Kingdom and was followed by a string of other British hits, including “High Class Baby.”
Samwell switched to producing in the 1960s, and in 1971 he produced America’s first album, which included the hit “A Horse With No Name.”
He moved to Sacramento in 1980, but remained active in the music business.
Among Samwell’s more recent production credits was the album “Blonde on the Bayou” for the Sacramento-area rock band The Beer Dawgs.
Samwell received a transplant after being diagnosed with an enlarged heart, Hughson said, adding that the musician’s friends raised nearly $100,000 for the operation.
Samwell is survived by two sons, both of London.