David Wiffen

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David Wiffen
Born (1942-03-11) 11 March 1942 (age 75)
Redhill, Surrey, England
Genres Folk
Occupation(s) Singer, songwriter
Instruments Vocals, guitar
Years active 1958-1980s; 1993–1999
Labels Universal International
United Artists
True North
Associated acts The Pacers
The Children
3's a Crowd

David Wiffen (born 11 March 1942, in Redhill, Surrey, England) is a folk music singer-songwriter. Two of his songs, "Driving Wheel" and "More Often Than Not", have become cover standards.


David Wiffen was born in Redhill, Surrey, in 1942. He spent his early childhood with his mother,living on an aunt's farm in Chipstead, while his father, an engineer, contributed to the war effort. Following the war, Wiffen's family relocated to London and, in 1954, to Claygate, Surrey, where Wiffen attended Hinchley Wood School.[1]

Wiffen first sang with the Kingston upon Thames-based Black Cat Skiffle group.[1] Wiffen moved with his family to Canada at age 16, and became part of the burgeoning folk music scene, initially in Toronto. In 1964, Wiffen hitchhiked to Edmonton and later managed The Depression folk club in Calgary.[1][2]

In 1965, having moved to Vancouver, Wiffen was invited to perform at The Bunkhouse club on a live ensemble album. It became Wiffen's first solo album, David Wiffen at the Bunkhouse Coffeehouse, Vancouver BC, on the Universal International label, when the other invited musicians failed to show up.[3]

Wiffen was subsequently in several bands, including The Pacers,[4] based in Prince George, British Columbia, where he was the lead vocalist, and The Children, based in Ottawa. Members of The Children included William Hawkins, Bruce Cockburn, Sneezy Waters and Richard Patterson. He subsequently joined 3's a Crowd, whose initial members included Brent Titcomb, Donna Warner, Trevor Veitch and Richard Patterson. Wiffen also cohosted a television variety series on Ottawa station CJOH with Ann Mortifee, which was produced for a period by William Hawkins.[5]

Wiffen subsequently signed to Fantasy Records as a solo artist. In 1971, he released David Wiffen, and had hit singles with "One Step" and "More Often Than Not". The album also contained his most widely covered song, "Driving Wheel".

Wiffen's second solo studio album, Coast to Coast Fever (United Artists, 1973), was produced by Bruce Cockburn, and Wiffen's musical career appeared to be quite promising.[6] He continued to perform regularly in the 1970s,[7] though found his success diminishing and a consequent source of frustration and depression, compared to the success of contemporaries Bruce Cockburn and Murray McLauchlan. Alcohol abuse compounded the difficulties he was experiencing in his musical career.[8] He eventually ceased performing, choosing to become a limousine driver and later a publicly funded driver for handicapped persons in Ottawa.[8][9] Wiffen suffered a serious back injury on the job while moving a wheelchair, which required corrective surgery[8] and impeded any return to performing.

Wiffen's third album, South of Somewhere, was released in 1999, twenty-six years after Coast to Coast Fever. At that time, Wiffen had been sober for ten years and had spent six years in preparation and development for the album's production.[8] The album contained a mix of reworkings of some of his older material, such as "Driving Wheel", plus some new songs. During this period, he returned briefly to performing,[10] but has not performed publicly since that time.[11]

In 2015, Songs From the Lost and Found, was released, containing material written and recorded between 1973 and the early 1980s, in the years after the release of Wiffen's Coast to Coast Fever album. The master tapes were thought lost for many years, but surfaced among the effects of former bandmate Richard Patterson, who died in 2011.[12]



"Driving Wheel (Lost My Driving Wheel)" has been covered by Tom Rush (1970),[15] The Byrds (1971),[16] Roger McGuinn (1973),[17] Greg Harris (1982),[18] Cowboy Junkies (1992),[19] Matt Minglewood (1999),[20] The Jayhawks (2002),[21] Ray Wylie Hubbard (2005),[22] Chris and Rich Robinson of the Black Crowes (2007),[23] the Chris Robinson Brotherhood during live performances throughout 2011 & 2012, and by British singer/songwriter Rumer, who recorded it for a BBC live session in 2011.

"More Often Than Not" has been covered by Jerry Jeff Walker (1970),[24] Ian & Sylvia (1971),[25] and Eric Andersen (1972).[26]

"Mr. Wiffen (Is Incommunicado Today)", has been covered by Harry Belafonte.[27]

"Skybound Station", from Coast to Coast Fever, has been covered by Blackie and the Rodeo Kings.[28]

"Lucifer's Blues", from Coast to Coast Fever, has been covered by members of the Skydiggers and the Cowboy Junkies in their side project band, Lee Harvey Osmond, developed by Tom Wilson[29] of Blackie and the Rodeo Kings and Junkhouse[30][31]

"I Don't Want To Drive You Away" was covered by Anne Murray, as "David's Song".[32]

"Smoke Rings" was covered by Hiss Golden Messenger on a Parallelogram LP[33] also featuring Michael Chapman (singer) by Three Lobed Recordings released in December, 2015.


  1. ^ a b c Nick Warburton, Profile of David Wiffen, 4 June 2012; www.nickwarburton.com. Retrieved 17 July 2014.
  2. ^ Peter Warren, Like...Don't Ring. Calgary Herald, October 1963. Profile of The Depression folk club. As reproduced in www.jonimitchell.com/Library. Retrieved 19 July 2014.
  3. ^ The Bunkhouse was an influential venue for folk music at that time. Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee recorded one of their best known albums there: At The Bunkhouse (Smash, 1965).
  4. ^ Pacific Northwest Bands, Profile of The Pacers. Retrieved 13 July 2014. Drummer Brian Hilton later became a member of Skylark, replacing Duris Maxwell.
  5. ^ Greg Quill, William Hawkins, Lost and Found; Songwriters Magazine, Fall, 2008.
  6. ^ According to "Nick, Xtrememusician.com contributing writer", the album was originally to be produced by Brian Ahern, but only one song was completed before "Wiffen's former colleague from 3's a Crowd, Bruce Cockburn, came in to salvage the project. The resulting album, 'Coast To Coast Fever' is arguably Wiffen's finest work...". Profile of David Wiffen; www.xtrememusician.com.
  7. ^ Including being an inaugural performer at the Vancouver Folk Music Festival in 1978; see 1978 Artist Profile; www.thefestival.bc.ca.
  8. ^ a b c d Paul Cantin, David Wiffen: Finding His Driving Wheel. No Depression Magazine November–December 1999.
  9. ^ Known as Para Transpo.
  10. ^ Principally as a weekly performer and performance host at Irene's Pub in Ottawa, Ontario.
  11. ^ As of 2008 (list accessed 27 August 2008) and through much of 2009, Wiffen was on EMI's list of "missing royaltors". In late 2009, EMI discontinued its practice of listing missing royaltors by name: see General Notice to Royaltors; retrieved 24 November 2009.
  12. ^ Lynn Saxberg, "Thanks for the memories: David Wiffen delivers a new CD of old songs from his heyday". Ottawa Citizen, January 30, 2015. Retrieved 6 February 2015. 
  13. ^ Reference to "discontinued by the manufacturer" Archived 20 May 2010 at the Wayback Machine. at www.amazon.com; search of Akarma site (www.cometrecords com; akarma is now a sublabel) 2 October 2008, reveals no David Wiffen product.
  14. ^ "David Wiffin - Songs from the Lost and Found". truenorthrecords.com. True North Records. Retrieved 6 February 2015. 
  15. ^ On Tom Rush (Columbia, 1970)
  16. ^ Recorded after the completion of Farther Along (Columbia, 1971). It is included on the 2000 CD reissue of the album. Some contend that this version is the Byrds' Roger McGuinn backed by a session band, rather than the Byrds: see Farther Along commentary.
  17. ^ On Roger McGuinn's self-titled first solo album (Columbia, 1973)
  18. ^ On Electric (Appaloosa, 1982). Harris was a member of a later (post-Chris Hillman) version of the Flying Burrito Bros. and is a respected solo performer. "Drivin Wheel" was also chosen as the title of a compilation album of Harris' Appaloosa recordings, released in 2002 as Greg Harris: Drivin Wheel. See Greg Harris Discography; www.gregharrismusic.net.
  19. ^ Initially on some import versions of the Black Eyed Man album (RCA, 1992). This studio version is also on Born to Choose (Rykodisk, 1993), a compilation benefit album. The song also appears on 200 More Miles: Live Performances 1985–1994 (RCA, 1995).
  20. ^ On Drivin' Wheel (Norton, 1999)
  21. ^ On Live From The Women's Club, Vol. 1, one of two volumes of acoustic recordings, primarily distributed at concerts; see The Jayhawks. Also known as Acoustic Trio Live.
  22. ^ Delirium Tremolos (Rounder/Philo, 2005). Hubbard, the writer of "Up Against the Wall, Redneck Mother", popularized by Jerry Jeff Walker (on his A Man Must Carry On album; MCA, 1977), is considered to be an elder statesman of Texas alt.country: see Ray Wylie Hubbard. As described in a customer review of Delirium Tremolos, "'Driving Wheel' is perhaps the most melodious song on the CD, with a killer steel guitar wailing in the background and Patty Griffin adding her voice to the choruses." (Smallchief, "A rock and roll gypsy's masterpiece", 27 January 2005.)
  23. ^ On their Brothers of a Feather: Live at the Roxy album and related DVD, both released in 2007 and being a recording of three nights of concerts by the Robinson brothers at the Roxy Theatre in New York City in 2006; see Chris Robinson.
  24. ^ On his Bein' Free album (Atco, 1970)
  25. ^ On their Ian and Sylvia album (Columbia, 1971); song is erroneously credited to Ian and Sylvia in allmusic.com detail.
  26. ^ On his Blue River album (Columbia, 1972)
  27. ^ On his Play Me album (RCA, 1973).
  28. ^ On their Kings of Love album (1999).
  29. ^ Wilson has been an admirer of David Wiffen since he first heard Wiffen at the age of seventeen, during performances at folk festivals in Wilson's home town of Hamilton, Ontario. See Kerry Corrigan, Interview with Tom Wilson, View Magazine, April 1999; www.terrapingraphics.ca.
  30. ^ On their Quiet Evil album (2009).
  31. ^ "Their rendition of the classic David Wiffen song, 'Lucifer's Blues', was particularly apt for an aggregate of musical agitators on their weary way home ('halfway through my last trip west I was makin' plans for home...')." Dennis O'Toole, Lee Harvey Osmond music impresses, The Peterborough Examiner, May 2009; www.thepeterboroughexaminer.com.
  32. ^ On her What About Me album (1968).
  33. ^ Three Lobed Recordings - Parallelogram by Hiss Golden Messenger and Michael Chapman

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