Having played in a number of different rock bands in Hereford, England, during the late 60s, the founding members of this outfit comprised Overend Watts (vocals/bass), Mick Ralphs (vocals/guitar), Verden Allen (organ) and Dale Griffin (vocals/drums). After dispensing with their lead singer Stan Tippens, they were on the point of dissolving when Ralphs sent a demo tape to Island Records producer Guy Stevens. He responded enthusiastically, and after placing an advertisement in Melody Maker, they auditioned a promising singer named Ian Hunter (vocals, keyboards, guitar). In June 1969 Stevens christened the band Mott The Hoople, after the novel by Willard Manus. Their self-titled debut album revealed a very strong Bob Dylan influence, most notably in Hunter's nasal vocal inflections and visual image. With his corkscrew hair and permanent shades Hunter bore a strong resemblance to vintage 1966 Dylan and retained that style for his entire career.
Their first album, with its M.C. Escher cover illustration, included pleasing interpretations of the Kinks" You Really Got Me' and Sonny Bono's 'Laugh At Me', and convinced many that Mott would become a major band. Their next three albums trod water, however, and it was only their popularity and power as a live act that kept them together. Despite teaming up with backing vocalist Steve Marriott on the Shadow Morton-produced 'Midnight Lady', a breakthrough hit remained elusive. On 26 March 1972, following the departure of Allen, they quit in disillusionment. Fairy godfather David Bowie convinced them to carry on, offered his assistance as producer, placed them under the wing of his manager, Tony De Fries, and even presented them with a stylish UK Top 5 hit, 'All The Young Dudes'. The catchy 'Honaloochie Boogie' maintained the momentum but there was one minor setback when Ralphs quit to form Bad Company.
With new members Morgan Fisher and Ariel Bender the band enjoyed a run of further UK Top 10 hits including 'All The Way From Memphis' and 'Roll Away The Stone'. During their final phase, Bowie's sideman Mick Ronson joined the band in place of Grosvenor (who had departed to join Widowmaker). Preparations for a European tour in late 1974 were disrupted when Hunter was hospitalised suffering from physical exhaustion, culminating in the cancellation of the entire tour. When rumours circulated that Hunter had signed a recording contract instigating a solo career, with Ronson working alongside him, the upheaval led to an irrevocable rift within the band, resulting in the stormy demise of Mott The Hoople. With the official departure of Hunter and Ronson, the remaining members, Watts, Griffin and Fisher, determined to carry on, working simply as Mott.
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