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‘There has to be something in you of the crazy man to be in a rock group, because before I became a professional musician, everything warned against doing anything like that. It’s like hoping you’re going to win the pools and that’s going to get you through life. You’re going to be a musician and you hope to God something wonderful will happen and that will see you through. Music hypnotizes you and perhaps against your will you must do it.’
- Dale Griffin
Born in Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire, on 24 October 1948, Terence Dale Griffin grew up in a household surrounded by music. Inspired initially by his parents’ record collection Dale moved on to the big band sounds of The Ted Heath Band and Count Basie and, with the advent of rock ‘n’ roll, artists like Little Richard, Eddie Cochran and Buddy Holly. However, Dale’s real boyhood hero was John Leyton, a British TV actor who topped the charts with the Joe-Meek-produced single ‘Johnny Remember Me.’
At Ross Grammar School, Terry played drums in a number of bands with Peter Overend Watts whose talent for twisting names to produce amusing spoonerisms was responsible for Dale’s nickname; Buffin. ‘Sniffin’ Griff Griffin’ was Dale’s stage name which Overend amended to ‘that little bugger Sniffin’ and then to ‘that little Snigger Buffin!’
During 1965, Dale and Overend played in a very popular local group called The Silence, but by December that year, Overend was lured into turning professional with local rivals The Buddies. Dale continued to play semi-professionally in bands like The Charles Kingsley Creation and drummed on sessions at Future Sound, the embryonic Rockfield Studios, owned by Charles and Kingsley Ward. Dale appeared on two singles in 1966, ‘Is It Really What You Want?’ by The Interns and ‘Black Is The Night’, by (Bryn) Yemm and the Yemen.
In late 1966 Dale rejoined Overend alongside Mick Ralphs in the Doc Thomas Group who were enjoying some success in Italy and had recorded an album there for the Dischi Interrecord label. The DTG worked every summer in Italy until 1968, but further personnel changes followed and band names soon became mere flags of convenience to gain work. With the addition of organist Verden Allen, the DTG evolved into the Shakedown Sound and then Silence, eventually moving to London early in 1969. Signing with Guy Stevens and Island Records in May 1969, they found Ian Hunter via an audition and in June were renamed as Mott The Hoople.
Mott The Hoople’s reputation as a live act grew quickly with sold-out signs outside clubs and halls all over the country. Gigs were wild, riotous affairs with the group playing raw, magnificently untamed rock ‘n’ roll, powered by the incomparable rhythm section of Griffin and Watts. Songs such as ‘You Really Got Me’ were stretched out far beyond their recorded length, sometimes for up to twenty minutes, and Dale’s energy and stamina became essential ingredients in the band’s distinctive style. Morgan Fisher, who played in a later version of Mott The Hoople, is full of praise for Dale’s drumming. “Buffin, as far as I’m concerned, was one of the best British drummers. He was unique and powerful, and had a way of delaying the snare just behind the beat which made the whole thing bigger and gave it more tension.”
After Mott The Hoople finally split in December 1974, Dale, together with Overend and Morgan Fisher formed MOTT who lasted around two years and recorded two well received albums for CBS. The first MOTT album ‘Drive On,’ featured Dale’s song writing debut, ‘It Takes One to Know One’ which was also released as a single, and ‘I Can Show You How It Is’ which was co-written with Overend. The nucleus of MOTT then joined with ex-Medicine Head vocalist John Fiddler to form British Lions. Early signs were promising with their debut album receiving a favourable response, but the advent of punk combined with weak management led to the band’s demise in April 1979, with their second LP unreleased.
Dale had long been interested in record production and produced ‘Mott The Hoople Live’ in 1974 and had considerable input into the band’s self-production of ‘Mott’ (1973) and ‘The Hoople’ (1974). During the early 1980’s Dale, together with Overend formed Grimtone Productions, producing a number of artists including Department S and Hanoi Rocks. Between February 1980 and February 1993, Dale worked for BBC Radio 1 and produced almost 2,000 sessions including Nirvana, The Smiths and U2 among many others. Many of these productions have since been released commercially in one form or another.
Out of all the ex-members of the band, it is perhaps Dale who has shown most determination to keep the Mott The Hoople flag flying. In 1980, he put together ‘Two Miles From Heaven’ a collection of rare and previously unreleased tracks, some of which had to be pieced together or added to in the studio. In the late nineties Dale spent three years researching and putting together a 3CD Mott The Hoople box set, ‘All The Young Dudes- The Anthology’ which again contained a treasure trove of rarities for fans. Today, Dale continues to work on Mott The Hoople related projects for the Angel Air label.