Sir Elton John says he’s “devastated and shocked” after his bass player was found dead, aged 56.

Robert Wayne Birch, who had recorded and toured with Sir Elton for two decades, was discovered in his apartment with a gunshot wound to the head on Wednesday.

According to Los Angeles County chief assistant coroner, Ed Winter, the case is being investigated as a possible suicide.

Birch joined Sir Elton’s touring band in 1992 and worked on four of his albums, as well as the 1997 re-working of Candle In The Wind.

He also collaborated with a string of other famous names including George Michael, Gary Barlow, Tina Turner and Eric Clapton.

Sir Elton subsequently issued a statement on his website saying: “Bob was family … He had been a member of my band for 20 years; we played over 1,400 concerts together.

“He was one of the greatest musicians I have ever worked with, and in all our years on the road he never played or sang a bad note.

“I cannot find the words to describe this tragic death, and how much I loved him. May he rest in peace.”

TMZ reported that police did not find a suicide note and there were no apparent signs of drug use.

Birch is survived by his wife, Michele, and a son, Jonathan.

Sir Elton is currently taking a break from touring, and returns to performing in Ontario on 7 September.