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RIP Olde Gruff Pete

Another rock god has kicked the bucket.

Well, not quite, but I was sorry nonetheless to hear that Pete Overend Watts, bass player with Mott the Hoople, died of throat cancer earlier this week. He was 69.

Few people will know his name but his long silvery hair and thigh high platform boots were an iconic sight on Top of the Pops during the mercifully brief period that Mott embraced glam rock.

Mott split in 1974 and when the original band - which was founded in 1969 - reconvened in 2009 for five nights at Hammersmith Apollo it was said that Watts hadn't played a note for 30 years.

Unlike his fellow band member Ian Hunter, whose solo career has enjoyed a remarkable resurgence in his sixties and seventies, Watts took a very different path.

He became an antique dealer and later opened a large retro store in Hereford "selling specialist clothing, unusual antiquities, instruments and rare music".

More recently he wrote a book, The Man Who Hated Walking, published in 2013, that described "the greatest challenge of his life", walking the South West Coast National Trail, "all 650 miles of it".

What spurred me to mention his death however was a rather charming message that was posted on Facebook by Morgan Fisher.

Fisher wasn't an original member of Mott the Hoople. He joined the band shortly after their breakthrough hit 'All The Young Dudes' and played on all the subsequent hit singles.

When the band got back together in 2009 and 2013 however Fisher was overlooked. There was a logic to this (the reunion was instigated by the original keyboard player and Mott's core fan base has always been ambiguous about the more successful 'pop' period) but it makes the following all the more touching.

Fisher wrote:

My dear, darling, crazy friend Peter Overend Watts passed on today. I can't speak, am numb. All I can do is share one of the last emails he sent me, on December 6th 2016. Unedited, unexplained. His bravery, honesty, generosity, open heart and still-devastatingly witty humour during his last days utterly blow me away. He left this world as a total hero, a samurai. Love you, Pete <3.

Watts' email to Fisher, sent six weeks before he died, revealed that he had kept his illness secret for six years. It read:

Oh Yay Clifford T. Whoard!

Thanks fur your lovely message me old son. Looks like the news is finally out. But PLEASE KEEP IT UNDER YER HAT. IF POSS.

Managed to keep it quiet for more than 6 years though - so that was pretty good.If you remember I wasn't great at Hammo in 2009 - felt very grimeworthy then!

I just dread being besieged by Mott fans - all PRAYING for me, sending cards or gifts - or worse still, trying to visit me! God forbid - even tho I don't believe in him - even NOW.

Can't deal with all that crap - even tho I know they mean well. My sis got a message from Joe Elliot [Def Leppard] yesterday which made me think the game might be up. I know Jean and Buff [Mott drummer who died last year after developing Alzheimer's] were overwhelmed and were upset by it all after going public.

I think it's about 5 years too late for 2nd opinions now son. I've had every type of treatment, surgery etc - it was far worse than the illness itself! I've had enough now and am fine about going - it might be plezz up there (or down there) - an adventure, whichever way yer look at it.

I'm not in any great pain, just giddy tired and weak. To be honest I'm more worried about Ralphur [Mick Ralphs, Mott/Bad Company guitarist who had a minor stroke recently] than myself right now. I really hope he recovers so he can play again. I love the guy so much - just as I love you son.

I hated having to tell you that only the original band were doing the reunions - I know it must have hurt you a lot. One of me worst jobs ever. I wish we could've done it but it wasn't financially possble + too difficult to co-ordinate with everyone concerned.

The Hospice is great - very much like Carry On Nurse - so I 'aint complainin'! Another 3 decent years of travel would've been good but it's not to be after all - but I did a hell of a lot anyway.

Glad you shifted the skin cancer - and I hope you have a long, healthy and happy life.

I can hardly type so I may not be able to keep in touch, but i just wanted you to know that you are still the best musician I ever had the privilege to work with and a brill bloke to boot ..... but David Reid - guitarist from The Contrast 'int far behind you!!! I was gonna bloody join them on electric 6 & 12 string till this bloody disease returnrd. What a bummer that was.

Anyway, must sleep now. I refuse to say "Goodbye" (so I'll just say ........ Take care Morgo - Love you son - Olde Gruff Pete xxx

PS OH - PIES OF GRATE MEAT!! We had some great times didn't we!

How wonderful is that?

As a teenager Mott the Hoople were my favourite band. I bought all their albums but never saw them live.

Pete Watts was part of my childhood and it was a thrill in 2009 to finally see him, and the rest of the band, on stage. In the words of one reviewer:

And the rockin’ went on, unrestrainable, deafening, totally life-affirming.

Source: Mott the Hoople storm back to London for a dazzling night at the Hammersmith Apollo (Daily Telegraph).

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Reader Comments (1)

I never got to see them in their heyday either, so that reunion in 2009 was unmissable. They were absolutely brilliant the night I saw them.

Thursday, January 26, 2017 at 20:01 | Unregistered CommenterRick S

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