Dale Griffin: drummer with Mott the Hoople who went on to produce sessions for the BBC’s John Peel show | The independent


Drummer Dale Griffin was a founding member of Mott The Hoople, which was an excellent live band but whose albums between 1969 and 1972 did not sell in large quantities. They split in March 1972, but David Bowie encouraged them to reconsider their decision by offering them a classic song, “All The Young Dudes”, which became their first Top 10 single.

Dale Griffin was born in Ross-on-Wye in 1948 and from an early age listened to his parents’ big band records. He loved new rock ‘n’ roll music and when he attended local high school with Overend Watts they decided to play together. Griffin played Watts on drums and bass, and when Griffin rebranded himself as Sniffin ‘Griffin, Watts changed him to Snigger Buffin, and he was known as Buffin forever.

Griffin was also part of the creation of Charles Kingsley and was involved in the early days of Rockfield Studios. As a member of the Doc Thomas Group with Watts and guitarist Mick Ralphs, they had success in Italy. In 1968, the three musicians were joined by organist Verden Allen and became Shakedown Sound then Silence. Record producer and entrepreneur Guy Stevens wanted to sign them but they needed a good singer. They found it in Ian Hunter, who suggested a name change to Mott The Hoople, the title of a book by Willard Manus.

They released four albums, Mott The Hoople (1969), Mad Shadows (1970), Wild Life (1971) and Brain Capers (1971), all for Island Records. They sold enough to get into the Top 50 albums on occasion, but they had huge success with their gigs, which allowed them to play at the Royal Albert Hall. Watts and Griffin formed a solid rhythm section, and the band played extended and wild versions of familiar songs like “You Really Got Me” by the Kinks.

Frustration with the lack of hits and internal feuds caused their breakup in 1972 but David Bowie won them with “All The Young Dudes”, his take on the current scene. The single climbed to No.3 and was the title song of their best-selling album. They had further hits with Ian Hunter’s “All The Way From Memphis” and “Roll Away The Stone”, and Griffin produced their hit 1974 album, Mott The Hoople – Live.

Allen left in 1973, followed by Ralphs, who was replaced first by Ariel Bender and then Mick Ronson. Hunter collapsed from exhaustion before a European tour in 1974 and soon after formed a new group with Ronson. Watts and Griffin developed a new formation which worked under the name Mott and then with the addition of John Fiddler of Medicine Head, British Lions. They broke up in 1980 because the music scene had changed.

Griffin and Watts formed Grimtone Productions and they produced the hit single “Is Vic There?” for the S department in 1981. Griffin joined the BBC and produced numerous sessions, often for John Peel, with acts such as Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark, Pulp and Nirvana. Many of these sessions have been the subject of career retrospectives.

Griffin took a keen interest in Mott’s back catalog, organizing the issue of rarities and a box set. He wanted to play at their reunion concerts in 2009, but because he was showing symptoms of Alzheimer’s, he was confined to recalls. He and his partner, a former school friend, Jean Smith, gave interviews to explain the misconceptions about the disease.

SPENCER LEIGH

Terence Dale Griffin, musician and producer: born in Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire on October 24, 1948; partner of Jean Smith; died in Brecon on January 17, 2016.


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