Scots drummer Ted McKenna, known for stints with Michael Schenker, Ian Gillan, Rory Gallagher and the Sensational Alex Harvey Band, among others, died during surgery at the age of 68, associates confirmed.

He was undergoing a routine hernia procedure when a “freak occurrence” caused a haemorrhage which could not be stopped, despite a 10-hour bid to save him, close friend Claire Taylor reported.

McKenna was a member of Scottish heavy rock band Tear Gas, who became the Sensational Alex Harvey Band in 1972 when they teamed up with frontman Alex Harvey. They split in 1977 and McKenna went on to join Gallagher’s band then Michael Schenker Group. He toured with Gillan, Greg Lake and many others, and notched up a discography of over 60 album appearances. He also worked as a college lecturer in Glasgow, Scotland. He was preparing for a U.S. tour with Michael Schenker Fest, and the band had recently begun work on their second album, due to be released later this year.

The Sensational Alex Harvey Band – “Next”

“We are totally heartbroken to hear about Ted McKenna, our amazing drummer and dearest friend, passing away this morning,” Schenker said. “One of the great rock drummers, he always played from the heart and his heart was music.” Singer Graham Bonnet said: “I have had the pleasure, the honor, of knowing Ted since 1981 when we began working on the Assault Attack album. As a drummer, he was unparalleled. … As a man, Ted was one of the kindest people you could know.”

Former Marillion frontman Fish described McKenna as “a truly legendary stick man who graced so many kits behind so many world famous bands.” Former David Bowie drummer Woody Woodmansey hailed him as the person who “started me on the road to learning drum rudiments.”

“I used to watch Fred Astaire films," McKenna said of his early inspiration a 2008 interview. “I loved to watch him dance and that's when I learned about syncopation. The rhythm just grabbed me.” He continued: “When you told people you drummed in the Sensational Alex Harvey Band that made them sit up and take notice. There was something really scary and mysterious about Alex – I thought he was magical. That was the beginning of my career – going from transit vans and playing pubs and social clubs to bigger venues and blowing people away everywhere we went.”

Reflecting on a career of rock, blues and jazz, he said: “One of the most important things for anyone starting out is to learn how to play with other musicians. You should also listen to as many kinds of music as possible because you've got to be versatile – be aware of different styles.”

Michael Schenker Fest – “Take Me To the Church”