Ian Hunter Patterson was born in Oswestry, Shropshire on 3 June 1939 to Walter and Freda Patterson. His father was a policeman, and so the family moved around quite a bit. Ian lived in Hamilton Scotland for a time, before the family settled into Shrewsbury. Ian went to Priory Grammar School in Shrewsbury, and apprenticed as a journalist at the The Shrewsbury News and Wellington Evening Journal. Ian's father, however, didn't appreciate Ian's penchant for delinquency and so Ian left home at 17. (Listen to The Loner and 23A Swan Hill and you'll get the basic idea). The first indication of his future in music came in 1957 when he won a talent competition at a Butlin's holiday camp in Pwllheli, performing Blue Moon as part of a skiffle group with Colin York and Colin Broom. York and Broom came from Northampton, and were in a band there called The Apex.
York, Broom, and Patterson at Butlin's
[Ian Hunter] We entered a Butlin's competition, and we sang Blue Moon with Spanish guitars. Colin Broom and I did the 'oohs' while Colin York sang the song. We won it, and got a free weeks' holiday. It was all tying in. I was in a bit of trouble, so my dad and me were falling out and things were not good at home. I decided to make a move and went to Northampton.
Ian moved to Northampton in August 1957, initially staying with Colin Broom and his parents. Ian was able to transfer his employment from Sentinel / Rolls Royce in Shrewsbury to British Timkin in Northampton, and soon joined The Apex Skiffle Group. Ian played rhythm guitar and remembers that he 'danced like an idiot' while playing, and was looked upon by his older bandmates as a bit of a novelty.
The Apex Skiffle Group
[Alan Crawley] In the spring of 1958, I returned from Army service in Hong Kong to my old home town of Northampton. My friends said 'You must come to the Angel Hotel tonight, the Apex Group are playing there.' I went and had a great night, and met Ian for the first time, together with the rest of the band. The Apex Group lineup at that time was Frank Short (the leader and manager) on tea-chest bass; Tom 'Chopper' Dawkins on washboard; Ian Patterson (as he was then known), Colin Broom and Roy Horne on rhythm guitars; and Colin York on electric guitar. All the other guitars were acoustic at that period. The lead vocalist and local heart throb was Colin York, a very good looking guy and quite a mean guitarist by the standards of the day. He had dreams of stardom, but didn't have Ian's flair for showmanship.
I set up my own band in Northampton. We had frequent infighting and personality clashes, which was a shame as we had a loyal following and played some good stuff. Frank Short came to listen one night, and asked me to join the Apex because Ian was leaving them. I agreed, after checking with Ian, who said it was okay by him. So I joined the Apex, replacing Ian, Colin Broom and Roy Horne. I wasn't any better than the three of them, I just made more noise as I was plugged in and they were acoustic!
The first Apex single was recorded as The Apex Group in December 1961, shortly after Ian left the group, with a lineup of Frank Short on bass, Colin York on lead guitar, Alan Crawley on second guitar, and John Lever on drums. Recorded at Hugh Finnemore's studio and released on John Lever's record label, the single paired a cover of the Duke Ellington song Caravan with a Colin York number called Yorkshire Relish (also known as Colin Rides To York). In the meantime, Ian remained busy on the local music scene, and played in the house band at the Criterion pub with Alan Crawley and members of the Cadillacs.
The Apex - Caravan 45
[Alan Crawley] On our nights off, Ian and I formed a little four-piece band with Ian on piano, Brian Civil on drums, Robin Good on bass guitar, and me on lead guitar. We jammed all night, playing what we wanted to play, not what was in the charts. It was magic! I remember that time with great affection. Later I left to go into sales, and Roger Green took over as lead guitar.
Ian had several side projects around this time. The Ian Patterson Vocal Group consisted on Ian on guitar with John Thompson, Clem Donogue, and Bruce Frisby. He also gigged for a time with a local outfil called Johnny Cave and the Dwellers.
The Ian Patterson Vocal Group
[Alan Crawley] Ian did various things with other outfits. At one time he fronted a very good vocal quartet and they rehearsed in an upstairs room at the local pub, and I often went along to listen in. I cannot remember the name, I just remember that the lead singer was called John and he worked for the Northampton Town and County Building Society. I didn't know the other guys. They rehearsed upstairs at a Pub called the West End Tramcar in the St. James area of Northampton, near to where our mutual friend Derek Shortland lived with his wife Shirley and her sister Hazel.
After falling behind in his hire purchase payments in Northampton, Ian moved back to Shrewsbury to find work and settle his debts. He took a job with McGowans Fruit Company, buying produce to sell to local retailers. he also formed a harmonica duo with Tony Wardle, and began dating a girl named Diane Coles. When his financial obligations were discharged, Ian immediately returned to Northampton and The Apex. Diane followed, and the two eventually married.
But Ian soon grew weary of the relatively tame material the Apex group played, and decided to strike out on his own. In October 1963, he formed Hurricane Henry and the Shriekers along with drummer Tony Marriott (formerly of Dave Crane & The Strangers), guitarist Julian Coulter (formerly of The Jetstreams), and bass player Bob Wesley (formerly of the Johnny Dave Combo). Ian also remained with the Apex for a while, but Frank Short was understandably upset when he found that the Apex was competing for gigs with one of its own members!
Hurricane Henry and the Shriekers worked steadily in Northampton, rehearsing in an old nissen hut behind the Drill Hall on Clare Street. In November 1963, Julian left teh group to replace Jimmy Page in Neil Christian and the Crusaders, and was replaced in teh Shriekers at first by Ken Adams (ex- The Worryin' Kind) and then by Roger Green (ex- The Cadillacs). Coulter's stint with the Crusaders only lasted a few months, and he returned and replaced Roger Green who was joining The Dolphins.
Freddie Fingers Lee and the Shriekers
In March 1964, Ian chanced upon Freddie 'Fingers' Lee in a pub. Ian knew of Freddie, having seen him play with Screaming Lord Sutch's backing band, the Savages. Ian asked Freddie to join The Shriekers as pianist and front man, and Ian switched over to bass. The reconstituted Shriekers - Lee, Hunter, Marriott, and Coulter - played the Midlands circuit in 1964 and 1965, and also traveled regularly to Germany to play in Hamburg, Keil, and Duisburg. At some point in 1965, The Shriekers travelled to Regent Sound in London to record The Friendly Undertaker, which was credited to Freddie 'Fingers' Lee as a solo artist.
In June 1964, The Apex recorded for a second time, releasing an EP through John Lever's record label. It has been widely reported that Ian Hunter made his first recorded appearance on this disc, but it was in fact recorded after Ian left. Credited to The Apex R'n'B All Stars, the disc was recorded at Northampton Sound Recording Service, and once again released on John Lever Records. It features a lineup of Colin York, Pete Solomon, Kenny Plummer, Ted Kench and Frank Short and contained four tracks: Tall Girl, Reeling and Rocking, Down The Road Apiece, and Sugar Shack.
The Apex - Tall Girl EP
Ian left the Shriekers in autumn 1965, and joined the relatively sedate Homelanders for a three-month into early 1966. But Ian eventually realized that Northampton couldn't provide the musical opportunities that he needed, and so he and his family moved to London in the winter of 1966. Ian took a factory job, and made contact with Bill Farley at Regent Sound.
In London, Ian ran into guitarist Miller Anderson who lived a couple streets away. Anderson had just left a band called The Voice, the house band for The Process, a religious cult headed by ex-Scien tolo gists Robert and Mary Ann DeGrimston. Miller agreed to stay on with The Voice for a month while the group found a replacement, which turned out to be none other than Mick Ronson. After leaving the Voice, Miller and Voice drummer Dave Dufort stayed together as a duo, with an eye toward recruiting a bass player. Ian Hunter was eventually selected, and with the addition of keyboard player Dante Smith the group became The Scenery. After a short time Dufort was replaced by John Vernon Smith, and the group began looking for work. In addition to recording demos under their own name, The Scenery also found work backing other artists on tour, including David McWilliams, Mike Berry, and The Young Idea. (DuFort would later work with East Of Eden and Kevin Ayers before switching to NWOBHM bands like Angel Witch in the Seventies.)
At some point during 1967, The Scenery recorded some material with Bill Farley at Regent Sound. Without the band's knowledge, a couple tracks were licensed to overseas labels for release. In France, To Make a Man Cry b/w Thread of Time was issued on the Impact label, and the same tracks were also issued by Columbia in Japan. There is some debate as to whether the B side is actually the Scenery, because although Ian and Miller both remember writing and recording To Make a Man Cry, neither one remembers the flip side. Scenery drummer John Vernon Smith is pictured on the sleeve with Ian and Miller, but the drummer at the sessions was actually John Banks from The Merseybeats. Miller reckons that Johnny Gustafson may also have been at the sessions.
The Scenery - To Make A Man Cry
By early 1968, The Scenery had run its course. The Beatles' Lady Madonna had sparked a small Rock and Roll revival in the UK, and so Ian teamed up again with Freddie 'Fingers' Lee in At Last the 1958 Rock and Roll Show. They added drummer Pete Philips and guitarist Chris Mayfield, got a regular booking at The Angel in Edmonton, and drew interest from Chrysalis and NEMS.
[Chris Mayfield] We used to play all over the UK. The set was all rock and roll stuff, kinda like sped-up Jerry Lee Lewis. Freddie once broke his foot doing a somersault to play the piano upside down. He didn't see that cross-beam. Freddie had two speeds ... fast, and faster!
At Last The 1958 Rock 'n' Roll Show (l-r): Patterson, Philips, Lee, Mayfield
When it came time to record their single, I Can't Drive, Mayfield had been replaced by Miller Anderson. The single was recorded at CBS Studios with Grapefruit on backing vocals, and was released in the UK, Holland, Germany, Norway, and France. The group had a fan club, appeared on German TV, and played the Star Club in Hamburg.
At Last The 1958 Rock 'n' Roll Show (top-bottom): Philips, Patterson, Lee Anderson
As the short-lived Rock and Roll Revivial began to wane, At Last the 1958 Rock and Roll Show changed its name to Charlie Woolfe at the suggestion of Miller Anderson. They adopted a new look, with headbands and fringe replacing the loud colors and flares. The group recorded a final single with producer Jimmy Duncan under the Charlie Woolfe moniker, the Carter-Lewis song Dance Dance Dance, backed with a group composition called Home.
By late 1968, Miller and Ian began to grow restless. The Rock and Roll revival was on the way out, and the Blues was moving in. They split with Freddie in November, and began playing blues together at clubs and colleges.
[Miller Anderson] We made the ‘Dance, Dance, Dance’ thing, and then things started to peter out again. NEMS dropped us, so we ended up doing the old pub scene again. From there, I think we got John Vernon Smith in again, and started doing college gigs supporting people. We did a few gigs like this, I think we called ourselves The Scenery again. We played support to Rod Stewart and the Faces. I saw an advert in the Melody Maker that just said, “Singer wanted for blues band, an advantage if he could play an instrument.” I’d never been a front singer - Ian sang half and I sang half - but I went anyway. There were about forty guys around, with their guitars and various other things. They were all getting up one after another and singing, and playing sax, or whatever. Then it came my turn, and Gary Thain handed me the mike. My hands were really shaking. I said “Sorry about that, I’ve never done an audition before”. Which was true. And Gary said to me, “Well you’re doing one now, man!”
Miller's audition went well and he joined the Keef Hartley Band. Chris Mayfield went on to record and album and several singles Mayfield's Mule, featuring Sean Jenkins from Verden Allen's old band The Astrals, as well as a pre-Sweet Andy Scott. Freddie Lee continued to play out as At Last The 1958 Rock and Roll Show through 1969, with various musicians including Sean Tyla (pre-Ducks Deluxe), Mark Griffiths (pre-Cliff Richard), and Dave Holland (pre-Trapeze). Freddie would go on to a long solo career, with steady work on the Continent.
Since 1967, Ian had been recording demos of his songs at Bill Farley's Regent Sound Studios in Denmark Street. Farley had given one of Ian's songs, Season Song, to CBS A+R man Mike Smith. Actor-turned-singer Nicol Williamson recorded the song, but didn't have Ian's permission to use it and thus music publishers Francis, Day, and Hunter took Ian on as a songwriter. Dave Berry recorded another Ian Pattersion composition, And I Have Learned To Dream, and with these two successes the firm continued to pick up Ian's option.
One of the strangest periods in Ian's career came in late 1968, when it was decided to create a couple different New Yardbirds touring bands. Ian joined a group that was being put together by Mickie Most, which also featured Johnny Gilpin on vocals, Mick Strode on guitar, and Dave Dufort on drums. Although he was paid wages for about a month, the plans were eventually scrapped.
Ian continued into 1969 working with Leeds Music, a publishing company in the same building as Francis, Day, and Hunter. On June 5, 1969, Ian got a call from Bill Farley of Regent Sound Studios. Guy Stevens and his latest discovery, a Hereford group called Silence, had been auditioning pianist/singers at the studio without much success. Farley knew Ian from his demo work, and thought he might fit the bill. Hunter at first balked, but after a few calls decided to take the bus down to Denmark Street. He played Dylan's Like A Rolling Stone to an indifferent audience, with the exception of Guy Stevens. Ian told Guy that he was on salary at Leeds Music, and would need regular pay. After a few rehearsals and a name change, Mott The Hoople was born.
Sorry, 1969 is as far as I've gotten. When I have time, I'll bring the Ian Hunter biography up to date.