A Brief History

Biography of Joe Brown

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It was over half a century ago in 1958, as Lonnie Donegan was ruling the charts with ‘Rock Island Line’, that Joe joined his first band, the Spacemen Skiffle Group, at the age of 17.

Three years later he was the resident lead guitarist on producer Jack Good’s groundbreaking TV show Boy Meets Girls. He found himself backing visiting American stars like Gene Vincent, Eddie Cochran and Johnny Cash. (and that’s Joe’s rockabilly lead guitar you can hear all over Billy Fury’s classic 1960 album “The Sound Of Fury”....)

1960 was the year when the Spacemen became Joe Brown’s backing band The Bruvvers as the hits began to roll in, starting with ‘The Darktown Strutters Ball’ and reaching a crescendo in 1962/3 with ‘A Picture Of You’, ‘It Only Took A Minute’ and ‘That’s What Love Will Do’. During this time it was JOE who was headlining British tours that featured Del Shannon, Dion, the Crystals… and an up and coming band called the Beatles.

The Beatles of course changed the whole pop music landscape but Joe was already broadening his own horizons. He starred in the long-running West End musical “Charlie Girl” in 1965 and has since appeared in “Sleuth” and “Pump Boys And Dinettes” which in 1985 he directed and took on tour. And there were films “What A Crazy World”, “Three Hats For Lisa”, “Spike Milligan Meets Joe Brown” and “Mona Lisa” with Bob Hoskins. Not to mention his regular TV appearances which included three series of “The Joe Brown Show” on ITV and his Radio 2 stints either side of the new millennium including presenting “The Rock Island Line”, “Good Rockin’ Tonight”, “Let It Rock” and “Joe Brown’s Sunday Roast” which was a regular programme on BBC Berkshire.

Throughout these five decades Joe was touring regularly, playing up to 200 shows a year. In the early Seventies he formed Brown’s Home Brew which included his late wife Vicki and Joe Fagin they released two acclaimed albums and toured the UK twice. Joe has continued to headline his own tours as well co-headlining the hugely successful “Solid Gold” tours and with Marty Wilde in the nineties.

Since the new millennium Joe has been confounding people’s expectations of him on a regular basis. In 2002 he appeared at the Glastonbury Festival and endeared himself to the latest generation of rock fans. Later that year he won a brand new world-wide audience with his show-stopping appearance at “The Concert For George”, staged at London’s Royal Albert Hall in tribute to George Harrison with a stellar cast of musicians.

Joe was asked by Olivia Harrison & Eric Clapton to sing ‘Here Comes The Sun”, ‘That’s The Way It Goes’ and to close the show with ‘I’ll See You In My Dreams’, a favourite song of George’s. Joe describes the show as “the highlight of my career” and the DVD of the concert has now been certified many times Platinum in the USA whilst the film has also been shown around the world and continues to be repeated.

If Joe has any regrets, it’s that he hasn’t released enough records. Indeed between the mid Seventies and the early Nineties he scarcely released any. That changed when he took on new management and adopted a new approach in1990. He very soon had a new live album “Joe Brown Live “ released in 1990 and signed a publishing deal with Warner Chappell in Nashville in 1991 when he started going there to write songs for the country market.

That led to the release of the “Come On Joe” album in 1993, recorded at his own home studio, produced by his son Pete and featuring his touring band – guitarist Neil Gauntlett, bassist Rico Nilo and drummer Phil Capaldi. Come On Joe was followed closely by an ‘In Concert’ video and in 1997 “56 And Taller Than You Think”. His next studio album “On A Day Like This” was recorded in Nashville in 1998 and produced by Roger Cook with whom Joe would later write a musical about Skiffle which premiered in 2005. That same year Joe agreed a deal whereby his records would be released by Track Records, the first album released under this agreement being “Hittin’ The Hi Spots”. In recent years he has also released a live double album, an all instrumental album and a live performance DVD.

Next studio recording was “Down To Earth” and the next phase in Joe’s extraordinary career. As well as some strong cover recordings there were also a couple of his own that stand up tall against the illustrious covers. These also include Hoagy Carmichael’s ‘Lazybones’ that Joe learnt from George Harrison. “He loved Hoagy Carmichael. He used to play me his records all the time,” Joe says.

Meanwhile in the Autumn of 2005 Joe completed a 37 date British tour with special guest Sam Brown and a DVD of Down To Earth In The Studio was released in 2006. By Spring of 2007 Joe and the band had just finished a further 36 date solo tour with son Pete firmly in his band.

He completed a sold out 40 date tour in autumn 2007 and for those dates Joe was joined by another British icon….the one and only Dave Edmunds. The man who ‘knew the bride when she used to rock n, roll’, whose swagger and guitar genius saw him signed to Led Zeppelin’s Swansong label and whose hits lit up the charts world-wide. Dave kept the rock beacon burning brightly with songs such as ‘Girls Talk’, ‘Queen Of Hearts’ and ‘I Hear You Knocking’ and still found time to work with Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Eric Clapton, Jeff Lynne and the Everly Brothers and many others.

Joe Brown and Dave Edmunds was a remarkable combination, a brilliant pairing of singer / songwriter / guitar heroes and an evening that was compulsory for anyone who calls themselves a music lover.

2008 was to be a special year – his 50th as a professional musician. The story went on and gathered momentum in a big way when Joe’s 50th Anniversary album released in February confounded certain peoples expectations by going Gold, selling over 125,000 copies in the UK and staying weeks on the chart with several weeks in the UK Top 20 and Joe was the undoubted star at the Mayor Of London’s St Patrick’s Day Concert in Trafalgar Square where with his band and three additional traditional Irish musicians he delighted an Irish crowd of several thousand braving the worst weather of the year.

In June Joe took his band and Special guest Sam Brown to Germany to perform three special concerts for several major Radio & TV stations as a result of the media interest in the Down To Earth release there, it marked his first official album release in over 40 years there. A new album Live In Germany containing performances form the radio tour was the result of that trip and was soon released. Later in 2008 his last studio album More Of The Truth was released and gathered more critical acclaim for the man from the 50’s who in 2008 was as contemporary as you could get and his 50th Anniversary Concert at The Royal Albert Hall in September 2008 was a complete sell out and featured guests such as Mark Knopfler, Jools Holland, Dennis Locorriere, Dave Edmunds, Chas ‘N’ Dave, his daughter Sam Brown and Sha Na Na founder Henry Gross whist his 50th Anniversary Autumn tour sold out tall he major theatre venues it visited here too.

This momentum on the live front continued In 2009 and in June Joe was awarded the coveted Outstanding Contribution to Music Award by MOJO Magazine which was presented to him by Mark Knopfler and two days later it was announced that he was to be awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list.

On top of the two earlier honours the USA instrument manufacturer KALA, in conjunction with Joe developed a special Joe Brown Signature Series Ukulele which is now available in stores or directly from Joe Brown Productions. They are beautiful instruments and come in various models, a very special higher end of the range series made from Koa & Spruce and a more accessibly priced Mahogany model. All models carry Joe’s signature.

Kala said when first approaching him that they could not think of a better ambassador for the Ukulele worldwide to represent their instrument and were delighted when Joe accepted and started to work with them on its development.

Latterly Joe has continued to break box office records and gain new supporters throughout 2009 and 2010 when having cropped up as a special guest on Bob Harris’ own 40th Anniversary programme for BBC Radio 2 Joe then completed his own UK tour and rounded off the year by joining fellow British institutions Status Quo in December for the arena section of their Quid Pro Quo tour. The response was terrific both at shows and on the Quo website where positive comments from their fan base ran into pages and pages for the 9 shows which Joe and the band performed with them.

Throughout 2011 Joe continued to show the way and his touring even as he moved into his 70’s would still put many a young band to shame . A show was filmed and recorded in Liverpool and the result was a DVD with bonus 2CD box set issued late last year called Live In Liverpool.

Towards Christmas 2011 Joe and the band were to be found recording a very special Ukulele based CD at British Grove, Mark Knopfler’s recording studio and then over Christmas and into January work has carried on at Joe’s own studio and this very special CD will be released in the UK in late Spring this year, 2012 will be another memorable year for Joe.

If Jools Holland’s Later and Hootenanny shows together with Glastonbury, Cropredy and Trowbridge Music Festivals all played their part in Joe’s rise and rise and a new international audience also found him via his stellar performance closing the Concert For George tribute with ‘I’ll See You In My Dreams’ then now this has gone one step further as Joe’s own original album version of I’ll See You In My Dreams recently featured worldwide in one of the hit TV CSI programmes.

Joe is, without doubt, a one off, a compelling and unique performer with a rare and singular track record, an extraordinary talent and a truly enduring Rock Legend.

Joe’s 60th Anniversary Box Set

The official Facebook page for Joe