Born Ian Hunter Patterson on June 3, 1939 (some sources say 1946), in Owestry, Shropshire, England; son of British Intelligence officer. Addresses: Website--Ian Hunter Official Website: http://www.ianhunter.com.
Having first risen to prominence as the lead vocalist and principal songwriter for British band Mott the Hoople, Ian Hunter embarked on a solo career in 1975 that yielded several critical and commercial successes, including the hit singles "Once Bitten Twice Shy" and "Just Another Night." Hunter departed Mott the Hoople after the band recruited former David Bowie guitarist Mick Ronson. After Ronson quit the band a short time later, the two wound up recording several albums together until Ronson's death from cancer in the early 1990s. Hunter's singing is most often compared with the vocal style of Bob Dylan, as both performers seem to half-sing, half-speak their lyrics. Musically, Hunter's songs rely on guitar-based power chords with heavy bass guitar underpinnings that ensure maximum pleasure for fans of anthemic rock-and-roll.
Hunter's father was a member of the British Intelligence Agency MI5, who moved his family on a regular basis. One reference claimed that Hunter attended 17 different schools by the time he was eleven years old. When his family settled in Shrewsbury in the late 1960s, Hunter toured Germany as the bass player for pianist Freddie "Fingers" Lee. When the band Silence---featuring guitarist Mick Ralphs, vocalist Stan Tippens, bassist Overend Pete Watts, keyboardist Verden Allen, and drummer Dale "Buffin" Griffin---was signed by producer Guy Stevens, he insisted they recruit a new vocalist and change their name to Mott the Hoople. Hunter landed the vocalist position, and went on to become the group's focal point as both sunglass-wearing singer and songwriter. The group lost their focus after the departure of Ralphs (who formed Bad Company), despite the successive recruitment of two fine replacement guitarists, Ariel Bender (a.k.a. Luther James Grosvenor from Spooky Tooth) and Mick Ronson (of David Bowie's Spiders from Mars band). The band recorded one aesthetically unsuccessful album with Bender before replacing him with Ronson. Hunter reminisced to Phonograph Record critic Ken Barnes: "Mott just busted at the seams. ... I was dragging the rest of the band along. It got to the point where they were depending on me to write the songs, arrange the albums, everything." Hunter marked his departure from the band with the single "Saturday Night Gigs," with a less-than-subtle series of spoken goodbyes at the song's end. Hunter told Musician writer Roy Trakin: "Mick Ronson had been in the band for about six weeks. We did a final European tour in November '75 [actually 1974] and he had joined for that. By that time, though, the morale was gone. I thought Ronson's presence could rejuvenate the band, but it caused a lot of trouble. The others didn't like it at all. So, I just split to New York and Ronno followed two weeks later."
When Hunter ended his career in Mott the Hoople, he began a career as a solo artist with his first album, Ian Hunter. Prior to recording the album, an exhausted Hunter was hospitalized, severed his business and legal ties to Mott the Hoople, and moved to the United States, where he bought a house and claimed residency. Ronson soon joined him, and the two recruited bassist Geoff Appleby, drummer Dennis Elliott, and pianist Pete Arnesen to record Ian Hunter, their tour-de-force of 1970s rock. Heralded by critics upon its release, the album contained Hunter's most recognizable solo hit singles, "One Bitten Twice Shy," "Who Do You Love," and "Lounge Lizard." The album also featured stadium-ready favorites "The Truth, the Whole Truth, Nuthin' but the Truth" and "It Ain't Easy When You Fall." Hunter and band successfully toured the album and disbanded afterwards. Hunter was unable to recapture the fire of his solo debut on two subsequent efforts, All American Alien Boy and Overnight Angels. Despite the support of such musicians as jazz instrumentalists Joe Zawinul, Jaco Pastorius, and Dave Sanborn on All American Alien Boy, the album failed to generate much interest. Likewise, Queen guitarist Brian May's guest spot on Overnight Angels couldn't provide the impetus to release it officially in the United States, and Hunter disowned the album.
In 1979 Hunter reunited with Ronson for You're Never Alone with a Schizophrenic, and the subsequent tour that yielded the live recording Welcome to the Club. You're Never Alone with a Schizophrenic marked Hunter's debut on Chrysalis Records, and the album found his creative juices flowing at full tap. Included on the album were the hits "Just Another Night" and "Cleveland Rocks." The latter song eventually was used as the theme song for the television situation comedy The Drew Carey Show. The live set that followed You're Never Alone with a Schizophrenic was received poorly by critics, who nonetheless found the studio recordings of two new songs, "Silver Needles" and "Sons and Daughters," to be worthwhile efforts. New Musical Express writer Charles Shaar Murray wrote that the latter song "is a confessional song in the grand manner, a 'shades off' tour de force that escapes sounding mawkish because of the quiet strength of Hunter's delivery and his unwillingness to blame others for the consequences of his own actions." Murray concluded that it was "shameful and ironic that these two songs should be unveiled in such poor company."
The remainder of the 1980s was a hodgepodge of production assignments for such acts as Generation X, Ellen Foley, Hanoi Rocks, and Urgent. Hunter reportedly disliked the production aspect of other people's work, however. His last works of the early 1980s were the 1981 release Short Back 'n' Sides, which was produced by the Clash's Mick Jones, and 1983's All of the Good Ones Are Taken. After a prolonged absence from touring and recording, he reunited with Ronson for the 1989 album and tour YUI Orta. Hunter then returned to seclusion for more than five years, interrupted only by appearances at charity benefits for Ronson, who died of cancer in 1992. In 1995 Hunter returned to the studio to record another strong outing, Dirty Laundry, which All Music Guide critic Doug Stone called "one of his best works. As Hunter's output lessens, every nugget dispensed from this sultan of snarl has merit, but all twelve of these tracks are quality songs, most written on-the-spot in the studio." Reinvigorated creatively, Hunter returned to the studio a year later to record The Artful Dodger, along with a 2001 follow-up, Rant. He toured in the early 2000s as a member of Ringo Starr's All-Starr lineup, and performed solo acoustic performances that were captured on the live CD and DVD Strings Attached.
Despite attaining limited commercial success during much of his solo career, Hunter is well-respected as a songwriter and performer of top-notch rock 'n' roll songs. As well as being covered by Great White and Barry Manilow, Hunter has had his songs performed by Blue Oyster Cult, Bonnie Tyler, and Def Leppard, among many others. Ironically, however, one of Hunter's best-known recordings is David Bowie's "All the Young Dudes," from his Mott the Hoople days.
by Bruce Walker
Ian Hunter's Career
Member of Mott the Hoople, 1969-74; with Mick Ronson, released debut solo effort, Ian Hunter, 1975; published autobiographical work on last days of Mott the Hoople, Diary of a Rock Star, 1977; reunited with Ronson for You're Never Alone with a Schizophrenic and tour, 1979; released Short Back N' Sides, 1981; reunited with Ronson for YUI Orta, 1989; released live compact disc, Strings Attached, 2003.
- Selected discography
- Ian Hunter Columbia, 1975.
- All American Alien Boy Columbia, 1976.
- Overnight Angels UK Sony, 1977.
- You're Never Alone with a Schizophrenic Chrysalis, 1979.
- Welcome to the Club Chrysalis, 1980.
- Short Back 'n' Sides Chrysalis, 1981.
- All the Good Ones Are Taken Columbia, 1983.
- YUI Orta Polygram, 1989.
- BBC Live in Concert Strange Fruit, 1995.
- Dirty Laundry Cleveland International, 1995.
- The Artful Dodger Polydor, 1996.
- Once Bitten Twice Shy Sony/Columbia, 2000.
- Missing in Action UK NMC, 2000.
- Rant Fuel 2000; reissued, Varese, 2001.
- Strings Attached Sanctuary, 2003.
- Creem, May 1975; July 1975; August 1975.
- Musician, October 1980.
- New Musical Express, April 5, 1980.
- Phonograph Record, May 1975; June 1975; September 1976.
- Sounds, June 1976.
- "Ian Hunter," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (August 23, 2005).
- Ian Hunter Official Web Site, http://www.ianhunter.com (August 23, 2005).