Dale “Buffin” Griffin, drummer and founding member of the Seventies glam rock group Mott the Hoople, passed away Sunday in his sleep following a long battle with Alzheimer’s. He was 67. The band’s manager Peter Purnell confirmed Griffin’s death to the BBC, adding that the drummer was “one of the nicest, friendly and talented men I have ever known.” Griffin’s death comes just one week after the passing of David Bowie, who penned and produced Mott the Hoople’s biggest hit, “All the Young Dudes.”
After performing in series of bands in his native Herefordshire, Griffin along with bassist Pete Overend Watts, organist Verden Allen, singer/guitarist Ian Hunter and guitarist Mick Ralphs formally formed Mott the Hoople – named after a Willard Manus novel – in 1969. After a series of albums that were modestly received both commercially and critically, Mott the Hoople were on the verge of breaking up when Bowie, a fan of the band, offered them a pair of songs to record. After rejecting his “Suffragette City,” Mott the Hoople opted to record “All the Young Dudes,” which became the title track of the band’s 1972 Bowie-produced LP. The smash single was named one of Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
Mott the Hoople continued on for another few years before Allen, Hunter and Ralphs departed the group. Augmented by replacements like Spiders of Mars guitarist Mick Ronson, Griffin and Watts continued on under the moniker Mott. After releasing two albums under that name, following another series of lineup changes, Griffin and Watts recorded music as the British Lions. However, by 1980, Mott the Hoople and its offshoots had officially disbanded.
Nearly 30 years later, in 2009, Hunter announced that the five founding members of Mott the Hoople would reunite for a string of U.K. performances; unfortunately, Griffin, having recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, was unable to perform in the reunion gigs, although he did partake in the encores portion. “All he ever wanted was for his beloved Mott The Hoople to reform and it was his determination that achieved that very feat in 2009, but sadly by then he was too ill to perform at the five sold-out dates – though he did join the band for encores,” Purnell told the BBC.
“I used to be fearless, but Alzheimer’s has stopped me in my tracks. It is my dreadful little bug and I have to fight to keep it from controlling me,” Griffin said at an Alzheimer’s Society campaign in 2010 (via The Telegraph). “Alzheimer’s has prevented me from doing a lot of the things I love – like reading and writing – but I try to keep as relaxed and easygoing as possible. It is really important for people to ‘remember the person’ and look beyond someone’s diagnosis of dementia. Many old friends now avoid me as they do not know what to say, which is really hurtful. I just wish they would realise that inside, I am still the same old ‘Buffin’ I always was.”
Throughout the Eighties and Nineties, Griffin also served as producer on some of John Peel’s BBC Radio 1 sessions; one such session, an October 1990 studio visit by Nirvana, resulted in the Incesticide tracks “Molly’s Lips” and “Son of a Gun” (originally by the Vaselines) as well as a cover of Devo’s “Turnaround.”