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Ian Hunter Biography

Home > Music > H > Hunter, Ian > Biography

Birth Name: Ian Hunter Patterson
Birth Place: Shropshire, England
Years Active: 1958–present
Genres: Rock, Hard Rock, Glam Rock

Ian Hunter, (born Ian Hunter Patterson, June 3, 1939), is an English singer-songwriter who is best known as the lead singer of the English rock band Mott the Hoople from its inception in 1969 to its dissolution in 1974, and at the time of its 2009 reunion. Hunter was a musician and songwriter before joining Mott The Hoople, and continued in this vein after he left the band.

Hunter was in the band The Apex Group alongside Frank Short, Colin York and Colin Broom. He left the band in 1958, just before they recorded their first single “Yorkshire Relish, Caravan” for John Lever Records. Hunter rejoined the band in 1962 which had steady regional work at clubs and military bases, but Hunter bristled at the formality of the band, who wore matching stage jackets and were moving increasingly toward an R&B-like stage revue. In 1963, while still a group member, Ian formed a band in direct competition to them called Hurricane Henry and the Shriekers, with Tony Marriott on drums and Julian Coulter on guitar. Short eventually learned of Hunter's duplicity, and Hunter was kicked out of The Apex Group.

In 1966 Hunter moved to London, where he joined The Scenery with guitarist Miller Anderson, drummer Dave Dufort and keyboard player Dante Smith. There Hunter met Mick Ronson, then guitarist of bands the Voice and The Rats. Hunter remained in the band after Anderson's early 1968 departure.

Hunter played with various other artists throughout the 1960s, including The Young Idea, Billy Fury and David McWilliams. In late 1968 Mickie Most hired Hunter and Dufort to play in a band that was to be called The New Yardbirds, a name that Jimmy Page had been using for his post-Yardbirds group before discarding it in favor of Led Zeppelin. This led confused fans to think that Hunter had been a member of Led Zeppelin.

By 1969 guitarist Mick Ralphs joined organist Verden Allen in Jimmy Cliff's backing band, The Shakedown Sound. Eventually Ralphs, Allen, vocalist Stan Tippins, bassist Overend Watts and drummer Dale Griffin united to become Silence, who auditioned for British impresario Guy Stevens. Silence renamed themselves after Willard Manus' 1966 novel, “Mott The Hoople.”

The band lacked a credible singer with stage presence, and the seasoned Hunter, who had by this time taken to wearing his trademark sunglasses, auditioned on a lark. They were a critical success in the U.K., where some of their most dedicated early fans included future members of the Clash. However, they could not sustain their commercial appeal, and their American tours were slow in building a following. Mott released several LPs and attracted enthusiastic live audiences, but experienced dismal sales despite the svengali-like leadership and promotion of Stevens. After a 1972 concert in a "gas cylinder" in Switzerland, the band announced their end.

David Bowie, a fan of the band, then offered them a song he had just written. "Suffragette City", was passed over for “All The Young Dudes” which reached #3 on the UK Singles chart, and revived the band, who were appreciative of Bowie's rescue. Bowie’s guitarist Ronson also significantly contributed to Mott's sound, a fact noticed by Hunter, who would later collaborate with Ronson a great deal.

The post-Bowie Mott the Hoople had notable commercial success with the albums “All the Young Dudes” issued 1972 and produced by Bowie, “Mott” released in 1973 and “The Hoople” released in 1974. The band experienced financial success with songs such as “Roll Away The Stone,” “Golden Age Of Rock´n´Roll,” “Honaloochie Boogie,” “All The Way From Memphis,” “Saturday Gigs” and especially “All The Young Dudes.” After the release of a live album following “The Hoople,” Hunter left the band in December 1974. The remaining members carried on under the names Mott and British Lions.

In March 1975 Hunter joined forces with Ronson, his most frequent collaborator until Ronson's death in 1993. Hunter's first single from his 1975 eponymous solo album was the U.K. Top 40 hit, “Once Bitten Twice Shy.” Hunter and Ronson then parted professionally, reportedly due to Hunter's refusal to deal with Ronson's manager, Tony DeFries.

Hunter's 1976 second solo album, “All American Alien Boy,” was a more soul-infused work which featured saxophonist David Sanborn and bassist Jaco Pastorius. Queen, once an opening act for Mott the Hoople, provided backing vocals on one track. His next album, 1977’s “Overnight Angels,” was produced by Roy Thomas Baker and featured a heavier guitar sound courtesy of former Bowie sideman Earl Slick. Hunter's record label in America, Columbia Records, refused to release the album in the U.S. due to issues concerning Hunter's management.

Ronson returned as producer and guitarist on Hunter's 1979 album, “You're Never Alone with a Schizophrenic,” which also featured John Cale and several members of Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band. Two songs from “...Schizophrenic”became successes for other artists: Barry Manilow's version of “Ships” became a Top 10 Billboard hit in late 1979, and the Presidents of the United States of America's 1997 cover of “Cleveland Rocks” was used as the theme song for “The Drew Carey Show.”

The bestselling status of ...Schizophrenic led Hunter's record label, Chrysalis Records, to commission the release of the 1980 double album “Welcome to the Club.” Primarily a live album, it also featured some original studio material.

Hunter's first studio album of the 1980s was 1981’s “Short Back 'n' Sides,” produced in collaboration with Ronson and Clash guitarist Mick Jones. Ronson's input on Hunter's next album, 1983’s “All of the Good Ones Are Taken,” was restricted to playing guitar on a single track. The title track became a minor hit in the U.S., after MTV put the song's video into heavy rotation.

“YUI Orta” was released as a joint album by Hunter and Ronson in 1990, and the pair performed alongside Bowie and Queen at The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert in April 1992. Ronson died of liver cancer a year later. Hunter wrote and recorded "”Michael Picasso,” a tribute to Ronson that was included on Hunter's 1996 album “The Artful Dodger,” the follow-up to 1995’s “Dirty Laundry.” Hunter appeared on Ronson's posthumously-released 1994 solo album, “Heaven and Hull,” and performed at the first Mick Ronson Memorial Concert in April 1994.

In 2001, Hunter toured North America with Ringo Starr and his All-Starr Band as part of a line-up which included Starr, Sheila E., Greg Lake, Howard Jones, Roger Hodgson, and Mark Rivera. Hunter's studio album “Rant,” was released the same year, received wide critical acclaim, and was followed by two live albums, 2004's “Strings Attached” with a 20-piece orchestra, and 2005's “The Truth, The Whole Truth and Nuthin' But The Truth” with Ralphs, Joe Elliott of Def Leppard, and Brian May of Queen.

His 2007 studio album “Shrunken Heads” was accompanied by a three-song bonus disc, and was released by Jerkin' Crocus promotions in Europe and Yep Roc Records in the U.S. “Man Overboard,” was released in 2009, by New West Records. Hunter's 20th solo studio album, “When I'm President,” was issued in 2012 by Slimstyle Records.