Guy Stevens was an executive with Island records, and ran the Sue label (which was a subsidiary). He was responsible for inspired band names (for example, Procol Harum which was named after his cat), and for brilliant album titles (Sticky Fingers is but one of many). His knowledge of obscure American R&B was second to none; indeed it was he who had supplied the Rolling Stones with many of their cover-versions before they finally started writing hits of their own.
In 1967 he missed out on Procol Harum's greatest success (A Whiter Shade of Pale), since he was serving a short spell in Wormwood Scrubs (a prison in west London) for a drugs-related offence. While he was there, he read a book by Willard Manus called Mott, The Hoople. He told his wife it would make a brilliant band name, but told her to keep it a secret for now.
Gradually, Stevens was forming a vision of "the perfect rock group". This would be a band that would combine a Bob Dylan vocal style, the keyboard sound of Procol Harum, and the sheer power of the Stones' rhythm section. Eventually, at Mick Ralphs' insistence, he gave Silence an audition. They seemed to be the band he was looking for, but felt the singer, Stan Tippins, "didn't look right". Stan accepted this with good grace, and he returned to Italy to pursue his solo career ("the Sinatra of beat"). He would return in 1970 to become Mott's road manager.
Stevens then placed an advert in Melody Maker: "Singer/pianist wanted. Must be image-conscious and hungry". Auditions were held at a small studio in London's Soho, and they listened to some two dozen hopefuls, but none seemed suitable. Eventually, the engineer Bill Farley said "I know a bloke...", but it took several 'phone calls to persuade Ian Hunter to come down to the audition.
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