David Wiffen

Born: March 11, 1942

David Wiffen (b. March 11, 1942, Surrey, England) discovered music at an early age. After studying piano for four years he began to perform in his first band, The Black Cat Skiffle group based in Kingston-on-Thames, Surrey. His family however, emigrated to Toronto in 1958 and Wiffen quickly immersed himself in the city's vibrant folk scene. He started performing at the Village Corner folk club in 1962, where he became close friends with several future stars including Denny Doherty (later a member of The Mamas & The Papas). Soon afterwards, he hitchhiked across Canada to Edmonton, before basing himself briefly in Calgary, where he worked as the manager of the Depression club. (While there he befriended folk singers Brent Titcomb and Donna Warner, who later invited him to join their group 3's a Crowd in April 1967.)

In late 1964, he moved to Vancouver and recorded a solo album 'David Wiffen Live At The Bunkhouse', which was released by the Universal International label in the summer of 1965. (The record features an early version of Ian Tyson's 'Four Strong Winds' and one of Wiffen's earliest tunes 'Slice of Life'.) Following the recording, he joined a local beat group The Pacers (from Surrey, BC), who were offered a recording deal in Montreal. Unfortunately, when the group arrived in the city they discovered that the offer had been a fix, just to get them to work the club scene, which was very exhausting (8 PM-3 AM seven nights a week). When the rest of the group returned home, Wiffen decided to base himself in Ottawa, after hearing about the vibrant folk scene based around the Le Hibou coffee house.

In August 1966, he made his solo debut at Toronto's Mariposa Folk Festival. He subsequently returned to Ottawa and joined poet Bill Hawkins's premier folk-rock group The Children, which at that time featured Hawkins, Sandy Crawley, Bruce Cockburn, Neville Wells and Richard Patterson. Wiffen remained with the group for the next 6 months but when Cockburn left to establish a solo career, he decided to accept an invitation from Toronto-based group 3's c Crowd.

His tenure with 3's a Crowd was more lasting and when that band split in early 1969, he returned to the folk circuit. In 1970, Wiffen travelled to California to record an album for Fantasy Records, which featured former Youngblood Jerry Corbitt among the supporting cast.

The resulting album featured a number of widely covered songs: Lost My Drivin' Wheel (Tom Rush, Roger McGuinn and later The Cowboy Junkies), More Often Than Not (Ian & Sylvia Tyson, Jerry Jeff Walker and Eric Anderson) and Mr Wiffen is Incommunicado Today (Harry Belafonte). In the US, the record appeared only in promo copies and is now extremely rare. Despite that, Cashbox magazine chose it for 'Newcomer Pick Of The Week'. In Canada, Wiffen's 'More Often Than Not' became a minor hit reaching #85 on the RPM chart in May 1971 but the album failed to chart.

Back in Canada, Wiffen won a recording deal with United Artists thanks to exposure on CTV shows 'Rolling On The River' and the 'Ian Tyson Show'. Work began with veteran producer Brian Ahern but after only one track was completed, 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 and features some of his best work, notably 'Smoke Rings' and 'Lucifer's Blues'. The record was nominated for, but failed to win, a Juno award. Sadly his career plunged done hill from there on and several years of alcoholic abuse and back problems kept him out of the recording business for over twenty years. During this time, Wiffen discovered a talent for writing poetry and painting and has had several of his pieces published and exhibited. Last year he returned to the recording studio and produced his first record in twenty-five years.

Thanks, Nick, XtremeMusician.com contributing writer.

Instruments Played / Skills:
Songwriter Vocals

Rock and Roll

Bands That David Wiffen Has Played For:
3's a Crowd

David Wiffen Has Worked With:
Ken Koblun Donna Warner Trevor Veitch Brent Titcomb Richard Patterson
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"I just go where the guitar takes me."

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