Mick Bolton, Keyboardist With Mott the Hoople and Dexys, Dies

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Mott the Hoople in 1973. Bolton is at lower L

Mick Bolton, a keyboardist who played with Mott the Hoople and Dexys Midnight Runners, among others, died overnight, on January 1, 2021, in his sleep. The news was reported on various social media sites on New Year’s Day, including a post by his former Mott bandmate, Morgan Fisher. Bolton was 72. (He is not the guitarist of the same name who co-founded UFO.)

Fisher, who himself turned 71 on Jan. 1, called Bolton “one of the sweetest of men, and a fine musician.”

Bolton was born Michael Bolton in 1948, in Lancashire, U.K. He started piano lessons at age 11, learning mostly classical music but also the pop hits of the day. He attended a teacher-training college in Twickenham from 1967 to 1969. After he won a talent contest playing piano, he abandoned the teaching career to become a musician.

In 1969 he bought a Farfisa organ and joined his first band, White Myth. “We set out to be a ‘progressive blues band’ but quickly found that to get local gigs we would have to play more popular stuff,” he said. After some personnel changes, he left in 1971 to join a local blues band, Blind Eye, with support gigs for such bands as Free, Queen, Atomic Rooster, Supertramp and Slade.

Bolton responded to this ad which appeared in Melody Maker in 1973

In 1973, Bolton auditioned for Mott the Hoople as piano player. They’d had a huge hit the previous year with “All the Young Dudes” and, following the release of their 1973 album Mott and the departure of organist Verden Allen, they were about to take on a piano player and a Hammond organist to promote their new album. Bolton didn’t get the piano job, which went to Morgan Fisher. But a couple of days later the band’s manager, Stan Tippins, phoned to ask if he could play Hammond organ. Bolton got the job, joining Ian Hunter, Pete Watts, Ariel Bender, Morgan Fisher and Dale Griffin.

That July, Mott began a U.S. headlining tour with REO Speedwagon and Joe Walsh as support acts. [As Fisher noted on a social media post, the band was then supported at times by Blue Oyster Cult, the New York Dolls, and Aerosmith.] Mott the Hoople was in demand and recorded appearances on the popular syndicated music programs The Midnight Special and Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert.

A U.K. tour followed, with Queen as the opening act. The final concerts were at London’s Hammersmith Odeon and they were his last with Mott the Hoople, when Bolton departed for personal reasons. He appears on their 1974 concert album release, Live.

Watch the band perform on Top of the Pops to promote the single “Roll Away the Stone”

After a self-imposed decade out of the music business, Bolton auditioned for the job of piano player with Dexys Midnight Runners as they were preparing to record their album Don’t Stand Me Down in 1984. Though the job went to Vincent Crane, formerly of Atomic Rooster and The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, Bolton said that a month or so later Dexys’ Kevin Rowland phoned to say that they were going to re-record most of the album and that they wanted him on piano.

Watch Bolton perform “The Waltz” from that album, many years later

Related: Musicians we lost in 2020

As Bolton notes in his biography, “In 1986 I heard that Linda McCartney was looking for someone to give her keyboard lessons. What she really wanted was someone to help her gain a bit of confidence on the keyboard and encourage her to enjoy playing. So I drove my old Volkswagen Beetle down to their beautiful farm in Sussex and happily I seemed to be just what she was looking for. For the next few years I would go down to the farm a couple of times a month and we would sit at two keyboards for a couple of hours bashing out old rock and roll songs like ‘Tutti Frutti.’

“Linda was never going to be a great keyboard player but she had real enthusiasm for playing and singing and wrote some good songs. Once we were working on one of her songs, ‘Endless Days,’ and she said, ‘You know, Mick, there’s just something missing in this one. I’ll go and make a cup of tea, see if you can come up with something.’ In the time it took her to make the tea I wrote a bridge section that she liked so it became part of the song, which is on her album Wide Prairie.

“Linda became a friend to my wife Carol and myself, spending ages on the phone to Carol and sending us cards and letters when she was on tour or on holiday. She had written to say that she looked forward to working with me again not long before she died of breast cancer in 1998.”

Bolton’s website notes, “I also play in all kinds of venues and private events. So please get in touch if you have an event or venue that you’d like me to play at.”

Related: Links to 100s of current classic rock tours

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7 Comments so far

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  1. Alan in Portlandia
    #1 Alan in Portlandia 2 January, 2021, 13:24

    Nick Bolton played with the only band that Queen ever supported, not the other way around. That is enough for recognition.

    Reply this comment
  2. Boguskid
    #2 Boguskid 2 January, 2021, 22:03

    Mott was the soundtrack for my teenage years!

    Reply this comment
  3. Jambaya
    #3 Jambaya 3 January, 2021, 11:26

    It worked out for Bolton when Ian Hunter switched from piano to guitar with Ariel Bender, aka Luther Grosvenor, ( Spooky Tooth) as lead guitarist.

    Reply this comment
  4. Jim Morrison Hackett
    #4 Jim Morrison Hackett 3 January, 2021, 12:07

    Mott reminds me of being a carefree teenager, I’m 63 now. I remember seeing Joe Walsh open for Mott at the Shrine. Great show, it’s still stuck in my head!

    Reply this comment
  5. John
    #5 John 3 January, 2021, 13:31

    I saw them in New York at the Winter Garden Theatre and Queen was the opening band. I already had high expectations for the show and me and my friends were not disappointed. Queens first album was just out and I was already a big fan. They were great. Mott the Hopple came out and had a big stage show with huge puppets. It was a fantastic night of music which I still remember. I will be turning 68 on Friday. God I have missed going to concerts this year.

    Reply this comment
  6. Lucy
    #6 Lucy 4 January, 2021, 06:19

    RIP Mick Bolton. I enjoyed the live performance of Roll Away The Stone on TOTP. Shows how starting piano lessons at the age of 11 paid off.

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