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Passings: Pete Overend Watts of Mott the Hoople (1947 - 2017)

by VVN Music

Pete Overend Watts, the original bassist for Mott the Hoople, has died of throat cancer at the age of 69.

Singer Ian Hunter confirmed the news, which had been rumored much of the day, by posting "Oh dear. My extremely eccentric, lovely mate - Peter Overend Watts - has left the building. Devastated."

Born near Birmingham, England, but his family moved often around the country. He originally took up the guitar but, by the time he became a professional musician, he had switched to bass.

His first group was the Soulents who, in 1966, came together with another group, The Buddies with Mick Ralphs, and formed The Doc Thomas Group. That band was signed to an Italian label and played often around central Europe but, in 1969, they returned to England and replaced their lead singer to Ian Hunter, changing their name to Mott the Hoople.

Their self titled debut album came out in November of 1969 and went to 66 in the U.K. and 185 in the U.S. Their next two albums, Mad Shadows (1970 / #48 U.K.) and Wildlife (1971 / #44 U.K.) sold comparatively well but failed to get good reviews from critics. One final album, Brain Capers (1971) failed to chart and the original version of the group considered breaking up until fan David Bowie stepped in and convinced them to continue.

While they turned down Bowie's song Suffragette City, they did take his All the Young Dudes and turned it into a major hit, going to 3 in Britain and 37 in America while the album of the same name peaked at 21 (U.K.) and 89 (U.S.).

The band's next album, Mott (1973), became their biggest hitting 7 in Britain and 35 in the U.S. and gave them two more British hits, Honaloochie Boogie (1973 / #12 U.K.) and All the Way From Memphis (1973 / #10 U.K.) while the followup, The Hoople (1974 / #11 U.K. / #28 U.S.) became their biggest in the U.S. and produced the hits Roll Away the Stone (1973 / #8 U.K.) and The Golden Age of Rock 'n' Roll (1974 / #16 U.K. / #96 U.S.).

Through the period, the band went through numerous personnel changes as the pressure of stardom got to members. Ralphs left to start Bad Company and Hunter left for a solo career. By 1975, Watts, Dale Griffin and Morgan Fisher were supplemented with Ray Major and Nigel Benjamin and changed their name to simply Mott, releasing two albums, Drive On (1975) and Shouting and Pointing (1976).

By early late-1977, Benjamin left and was replaced by former Medicine Head singer John Fiddler. Once again changing their name, this time to British Lions, they released the albums British Lions (1977) and Trouble With Women (1982), neither of which charted in the U.K. even though Lions went to 83 in the U.S.

Watts retreated to the background in the music business, becoming a producer and working on albums for bands like Hanoi Rocks. His only performances came in a five show Mott the Hoople reunion in 2009 and a short Mott tour in 2013.