Former Mott the Hoople frontman Ian Hunter has confirmed Watts is dead. “Oh my God,” he said via Twitter. “My extremely eccentric and adorable companion – Peter Overend Watts – left the building. Devastated.”
Watts helped start the Buddies with Mick Ralphs, a group that became Mott the Hoople after periods where it was known as Doc Thomas Group, Shakedown Sound, and then Silence. They became Mott the Hoople after Hunter arrived in 1969.
Born near Birmingham, England, Watts began his musical career on guitar before moving on to bass. It would have taken the name “Overend” at the suggestion of manager Guy Stevens, then participated in a series of subsequent variations on Mott the Hoople when the group morphed into Mott, then into British Lions as their staff changed.
Ralphs, who also struggles with health issues, Verden Allen and Ian Hunter are now part of the classic Mott the Hoople lineup, best known for their 1972 UK No.3 hit “All the Young Dudes”. Drummer Dale “Buffin” Griffin passed away last January after being diagnosed with early-stage Alzheimer’s disease.
Watch Peter Overend Watts reunite with Mott the Hoople
Watts struggled for years to find success with Mott the Hoople. Their self-titled album, released in November 1969, landed at No.66 in the UK and only reached No.185 in the US. The band’s next two studio projects ended just in the UK Top 50. Brain capers failed to map out, Mott the Hoople considered breaking up.
It was then that David Bowie offered them “All the Young Dudes”. “Bowie played me this song, ‘All The Young Dudes’, on his acoustic guitar,” Watts said. Mojo in 1998. “He didn’t have all the words but the song just blew me away, especially when it hit the chorus.”
The momentum of this single carried the follow-up album, 1973’s Mott, in the Top 10 in the UK and the Top 40 in America. The hoop, released the following year, became the group’s biggest American hit, reaching 28th place. But soon Watts will have to persevere despite the departure of Ralphs, who leaves to co-found Bad Company, then Hunter.
After Hunter left they released two albums in Mott, 1975 Drive on and 1976 Shout and point fingers. Peter Overend Watts then joined singer Nigel Benjamin and former Mott members Stephen Morgan Fisher and Dale Griffin in British Lions; they released an eponymous debut album in 1977 as well as in 1982 Problem with women. Watts then worked as a producer with Hanoi Rocks (1983s Return to Mystery City), before attending Mott-related meetings in 2009 and 2013.
In other sad musical news, Jaki Liebezeit, drummer and founding member of Krautrock Can Legends, has also passed away. The 78-year-old man had recently suffered from a case of pneumonia. Liebezeit also appeared on Brian Eno’s Before and after science.