The sudden passing of David Bowie and Glenn Frey overshadowed a lesser-known name in rock who passed away shortly after Bowie. That person is Dale Griffin, nicknamed “Buffin” by his pal Mott The Hoople bass player Overend Watts.
I was a big fan of Mott and worked closely with them during their early years on Columbia Records. Buffin was the perfect drummer for Mott The Hoople—he fit like a glove. The glam rock scene went beyond just being a good musician and the guys in Mott, rocked their glam rock looks to the max. Leader, Ian Hunter played a guitar shaped like the letter “H,” the keyboard player had a jacket with piano key lapels, and the bassist, Overend Watts wore boots that went all the way up to his thighs making him unable to bend his knees. In fact, roadies had to zipper them up before each show and manually lift him off the couch to a standing position in which he stayed until the end of the show and backstage meet and greet.
There are two things I remember most about Buffin. First, he was one of the nicest and most gentle people I ever met, and two, without a doubt, he was the cutest guy in the band. Because of that he had the most groupies constantly surrounding him. It was kind of funny, at times it was like just too many women mothering him around and you could see his anxiety about who to listen to and what to do. Oh to have such troubles!
I remember specifically a group of three gals who traveled together to each Mott The Hoople show. Sometimes they would come long distances and I would see them at the backstage entrance. “How the heck did you get HERE?” I’d ask. “Drove” they always answered. Of course they had no tickets to the show and very little money, and they would have had to drive all night and day to get to some of these gigs. The conversation was always the same, “Paleeeeeeeeze let us in, we HAVE TO SEE Buffin, he’s sooooooooo cute!! Please, WE MUST see him!
Well, I’m a big softy, so I’d always let them in. They got to know me and it was kind of one of those unwritten laws of rock shows—if they saw me standing outside a Mott The Hoople gig they knew they had an automatic backstage pass. I used to worry about all the STDs these gals might be carrying (or Buffin himself for that matter), but then I figured that was Buffin’s territory to negotiate—my job was just to make sure these rock and roll angels got in.
Recently I read a good article in Rolling Stone about the passing of our rock heroes that I would like to pass on to you. You can read it here.
I know for me, losing these people is losing more than the music. Artists like Bowie, Glenn Frey, and band’s like Mott The Hoople with songs like “All The Young Dudes,” helped define the culture in which we lived. They brought us real messages, ones that we lived by. We no longer get those sign-posts—life seems harder to navigate.
© Paul Rappaport 2016