If there’s one word that describes British music veteran Ian Hunter’s entry into rock stardom and the legacy of his band Mott the Hoople, it’s “flukey.”
Hunter should’ve been washed up by rock ’n’ roll standards when he joined Mott in 1969.
“It was flukey how it happened. I was married with two kids, with a factory job, and that was going to be the end of me,” he says, calling from his home in Connecticut, where he’s lived since the ’70s. At 29, Hunter had one thing his younger peers didn’t. “Straight from school, you haven’t much to talk about. I already had 35 jobs. I was lyrically ahead of the game. Plus, I knew the alternative.”
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Forty-five years later, Hunter is still playing and still rocking on critically acclaimed solo albums like 2012’s “When I’m President.”
“No way have I mellowed,” he says.
He plays what he believes is his first-ever Charlotte concert at Neighborhood Theatre with the Rant Band Wednesday. Fellow Brit Wreckless Eric and Amy Rigby, an underground songwriting sensation in the U.S., open the show.
Now 75, the prolific songwriter, band leader and guitarist has had a long career outside of Mott. His songs “Once Bitten, Twice Shy” and “Cleveland Rocks” are oft-covered classic-rock staples, along with Mott’s “All the Young Dudes” – a song gifted by David Bowie that became the band’s first hit.
Hunter left Mott in 1974 and worked off and on with Bowie guitarist/arranger Mick Ronson. Mott recorded two more albums under that name and another two as the British Lions. But the group’s legend grew even after it disbanded in 1980, with everyone from Def Leppard to the Foo Fighters counting them as an influence in the decades that followed.
“It might’ve been the attitude more than the music,” he says. “I was doing a German festival and Noddy Holder from the band Slade said to me, ‘I saw you in Wolverhampton Civic. We formed our band after seeing you. We thought if you could do it, anybody can.’ ”
Mott reunited for a handful of shows in 2009 and 2013, when they played the 20,000-seat O2 Arena, but he doesn’t see it happening again.
“It’s lovely working with them,” he says. “They’re hilarious, fantastic. But business-wise it’s almost impossible. We’re old guys. (Guitarist) Mick (Ralphs) had a couple hips replaced. It was never that big in the first place and that’s what amazes me. When the Web started up, (fans) who were isolated met each other and that helped a lot. There was a basic traveling band of fans who would go anywhere any one of us played.”
Hunter continues to play, and he just released a live album recorded with a string section in 2010, and a box set is in the works.
“It’s all a bit flukey,” he says again. “I’ll take it. If I was walking down the street at 17 years old in Northhampton and somebody told me what my life would be like, I would’ve took it.”