Of course everybody knows about Joe Brown. Spiky hairstyle, cheeky cockney personality, distinctive voice and gifted guitarist. It is 55 years since Joe Brown first performed professionally as one of the UK's earliest truly great rock guitarists. And yet he is still on the road with one of the most talented supporting bands performing anywhere – and his appearances are filling theatres and winning new audiences. No wonder Joe's ability as a guitarist is still so highly regarded by the likes of Mark Knopfler, Jimmy Page, Albert Lee, Jeff Beck, Keith Richards, members of Status Quo and of Fairport Convention plus Eric Clapton - who told me a few years ago that he considered Joe as “one of the true greats” of rock 'n' roll. Eric also said that Joe Brown's performance with ukulele of 'I'll See You In My Dreams' at the close of the Royal Albert Hall tribute to George Harrison was one of the finest conclusions to any show he'd ever seen!

But maybe a little more background is required for some readers?

Joe, now 71, was raised in London's East End where his parents ran a pub. His grandfather had ridden in Buffalo Bill's Wild West Circus and from a young age Joe had always yearned to perform. He joined skiffle groups, taught himself to play a dozen different instruments and went on to support Gene Vincent, Eddie Cochrane and Johnny Cash on their UK tours. He worked with Billy Fury and most of the big names of sixties pop in the UK and enjoyed a string of hits like 'Picture of You', 'I'm Henry VIII' and 'That's What Love Will Do' in the early part of that decade. Indeed Joe was headlining tours that included that well known supporting band...the Beatles! Many years later Joe was to become great friends with George Harrison – they shared a love of the ukulele!

Joe is also credited with giving Hank Marvin the guitar echo unit which produced the Shadows' unique sound - and it is said that Jimi Hendrix was inspired to play his guitar behind his back after seeing Joe do this at a show in Folkestone.....it was a trick Joe had allegedly learned from his circus-performing grandfather!

Over the years Joe Brown has also appeared in West End shows (notably co-starring in 'Charlie Girl' with Dame Anna Neagle) and in numerous films – such as 'Mona Lisa' with his friend Michael Caine and Bob Hoskins. Plus he has continued performing his music with regular tours and appearances at Glastonbury, the Albert Hall and many top venues. His daughter Sam Brown has enjoyed her own successful singing career, his foster son Richard Newman is a highly acclaimed rock drummer and step-daughter Mollie Marriott is another fine singer, whilst Joe's son Pete Brown is a highly sought-after record producer and multi-instrumentalist who plays a key role in Joe's band.

So, could Joe Brown's recent performance in Basingstoke possibly live up to expectations?

It certainly did! From the moment he stepped on to the stage, Joe's warm and easy manner had the whole audience smiling. He is a master of stage craft. There followed a series of beautifully arranged (by Pete Brown) and largely acoustic, innovative versions of rock classics - like 10cc's 'I'm Not in Love', the Who's 'Pinball Wizard', ELO's 'Mr Blue Sky' which between them featured ukulele, mandolin, banjo, slide guitar and more. For Motorhead's 'Ace of Spades' Pete Brown provided a masterful guitar solo and for one U2 number Joe played fiddle with great virtuosity. Interspersed were Hawaiian love songs, traditional country ballads, a great version of 'Marrakesh Express' sung by guitarist Ben Lee and some Elvis and Ricky Nelson numbers delivered with surprising authenticity by drummer Phil Capaldi whilst Pete Brown took over percussion. Bassist Mike Nichols performed brilliantly throughout...in fact each member of the band is clearly at the top of their professional class and this really does make a difference. Pete Brown's contribution was especially impressive.

In the second half there were several of Joe's hits and a more traditional electric rock'n'roll sound predominated. All in all this was a wonderful concert which delighted Joe's audience. And, interestingly, I noticed that there were significant numbers of younger people there too – small groups of people in their early twenties all ecstatically happy with what they were seeing. So, perhaps word about this sometimes under-appreciated icon of UK rock music is now reaching a newer audience.I hope so...and I would urge anyone to grab any chance to see Joe Brown. Great experiences like this don't come along too often and should never be missed!


The photographs that accompany this article were taken by Judy Totton.











Related Links:


http://www.joebrown.co.uk/
https://twitter.com/JoeBrown_Music
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Joe-Brown/182078071926076


Commenting On: The Anvil, Basingstoke, 24/3/2013 - Joe Brown








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