04/21/2004 at 12:00 AM EDT
Acoustic guitarist John Fahey, 61, whose polished steel-string variations on about 40 albums in the 1960s and '70s earned him a tremendous cult following, died Thursday following open-heart surgery earlier in the week. Fahey's albums include 1964's "The Dance of Death and Other Plantation Favorites" and 1973's "Fare Forward Voyagers." In 1997, he shared a Grammy for writing album liner notes for "Anthology of American Folk Music." Upon hearing of Fahey's death, music writer Charles M. Young told PEOPLE.com, "He was the father of steel-string acoustic guitar as a solo instrument, truly one of the greatest musicians and composers of American music ever."