Griff Griffiths on meeting George Bush and a punch-up with Rick Astley

He describes himself as the middle son of a gypsy witch and a west London car dealer born into a close-knit family from Notting Hill.
He says he has been – among many things – a market trader, tyre fitter, professional musician, artist, entrepreneur, furniture dealer, comedian, model, sports therapist, songwriter, music producer and freemason. And he has a portfolio of anecdotes which beggars belief, mostly gained from the musical circles he found himself as a drummer, writes Yann Tear.

They include an emergency operation to avoid an arm amputation after being hit by the same car twice, a bizarre drug deal involving armed Arabs, Beatles photographer Bob Freeman and Lez Zep frontman Robert Plant in a Marrakech street market, and sexual encounters with one of Kid Creole’s coconuts after a Pet Shop Boys Hollywood party.

He claims to have been involved in business dealings with the Krays and having a fight with 1980s heart-throb Rick Astley in a Mediterranean hotel.

In a stock car race at Wimbledon, he once eliminated Phillip Schofield – as you do.

Griff Griffiths today

He also once saved (the story goes) one of the duo from rap band Salt & Pepper by pushing one of the girls out of the way of a falling studio light. He got no thanks, but it was another name-dropping opportunity he filed away.

As was meeting George Bush in a restaurant – and the time Boris Becker nearly ran over his wife.

Oh, and he is currently drumming in Status Quo and Jam tribute bands and recently featured in the South London Press as a co-producer of a punk/new wave documentary called Are They Hostile which details some of the colourful bands to have graced South London.

You are tempted to believe none of it, rather than all or any of it. Especially as it carries the claim that it is entirely true.

That is usually a warning sign. But then, that seems to be the deal with Ian ‘Griff’ Griffiths, 59 – a larger than life presence from Croydon.

He seems to have been born to seek out the outlandish. In his imagination and in real life. He certainly admits to flights of fancy.

Griff with fellow comedians Papa CJ, Henning When and Gareth Berliner in a Sunday Times magazine article about a Hackney Empire event in 2004

In a book of personal anecdotes entitled: I was the King of Spain, he reveals that he has been a lifelong mental health sufferer, who had a massive breakdown which left him suicidal in an institution, believing he was Iberian royalty.

“It’s all true,” he told the South London Press. “I’m not really Spanish, but apart from that, everything is true.

“I’ve been working on this book for ages, but when I read it back to myself the other day, I had to admit that it doesn’t seem real.”

That includes the strange tale of a shoving match on a flight of stairs with Rick Astley which ended in fisticuffs.

It resulted from Griff taking offence to one of Rick’s entourage pulling on the ponytail he had in his younger days.

1980s promotional shot.

He says it was at some music convention party which featured bands like Manfred Mann and the Thompson Twins, but can’t recall if it happened in Gibraltar or Malta. But he does remember that the peace-loving reggae band Aswad broke up the punch-up with calls for ‘no violence.’

“The thing is, my dad was walking not far behind and I was thinking: ‘I can’t lose face by losing a fight to Rick (expletive deleted) Astley.’”

Truths, half-truths or embellishments, it seems that Griff knows how to spin a good yarn and make it box office. No wonder he has done stand up at the Edinburgh Festival three times.

I Was the King of Spain is available through Olympia Publishers.


Picture:  a 1980s shot Pictures: Griff Griffiths

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